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A People Passing Rude

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Anthony Cross

9. ‘Infantine Smudges of Paint... Infantine Rudeness of Soul’: British Reception of Russian Art at the Exhibitions of the Allied Artists’ Association, 1908–1911

Louise Hardiman

Texte intégral

  • 1 Literature discussing the reception of the Ballets Russes in Britain is too extensive to list here (...)
  • 2 The only significant scholarly discussion of the topic to date is contained in two articles by Adr (...)

1The many-faceted artistic displays of the Ballets Russes, first seen in London in 1911, together with the Russian section of Roger Fry’s famed Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition of 1912, are often cited as the prime instances of when Russian art first made its mark upon the scene of British artistic modernism.1 Too little attention has been paid, however, to another important forum for the display and reception of Russian art in Britain which dates from several years earlier, namely, the exhibitions of the newly established Allied Artists’ Association (A.A.A.).2 These exhibitions, staged in London from 1908 onwards, are equally important to our understanding of the history of British-Russian cultural exchange during this period, in that they offered audiences interpretations of modern trends in Russian art which differed from those which would be showcased later by Fry, Sergei Diagilev and their respective collaborators. Moreover, these ground-breaking displays were promoted by other less well-known mediators of Russian culture in Britain: Frank Rutter, the A.A.A.’s founder, and the Russian artist and patroness Princess Mariia Tenisheva, who worked with him on a special Russian section for his inaugural exhibition. This chapter summarises the content of Russian art seen at A.A.A. exhibitions between 1908 and 1911 and briefly considers the critical reaction. Furthermore, it adds additional context to the ongoing scholarly debate as to how British responses to Russian culture were shaped by existing perceptions of Russia, in particular, as to its ‘barbarism’ or ‘primitiveness’.

  • 3 In subsequent years, the limit upon entries per artist would be reduced to three.

2When Rutter set up the A.A.A., his aim was to create a British platform for the display of modern artistic trends akin to that established by the Salon d’Automne and the Salon des Indépendants in Paris. Billed as the ‘London Salon’, the first exhibition took place in the Royal Albert Hall from 11 July to 6 August 1908 (fig. 1). Although a limit of five works per artist was imposed, there were some 4 000 entries, mostly British.3 However, signalling his modernist credentials, Rutter had also decided to include a separate display of foreign art in each annual event. For maximum impact in the opening year, he chose the little-known art of Russia. As he wrote in the catalogue:

  • 4 Frank Rutter, ‘Introduction’, in Catalogue to the First Salon of the Allied Artists’ Association ( (...)

Following the precedent of the Salon d’Automne [...] the committee of management hopes to make each year a special display of the art of some foreign country, and this year a commencement is made with a representative collection of the modern national art of Russia. This special section has been entirely organised by Princess Marie Tenicheff, who has done so much to encourage and develop the distinctive arts and crafts of her country.4

Fig. 9.1 Photograph of the 1908 Exhibition of the Allied Artists’ Association at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Illustrated London News (18 July 1908).
© Illustrated London News Ltd/Mary Evans.

  • 5 On Tenisheva and the Talashkino workshops, see A. Abramova, Talashkino (Smolensk, 1950); John A. B (...)
  • 6 C. de Danilovich, ‘Talashkino: Princess Tenisheva’s School of Russian Applied Art’, International (...)
  • 7 Frank Rutter, Since I Was Twenty-five (London, 1927), p. 182.

3The reasons as to why Rutter chose Russia and ‘Princess Marie Tenicheff’ (Mariia Klavdievna Tenisheva (1858-1928) are not documented. However, Russian entries at the Paris Salons in recent years had been particularly successful, and he may have been aware of previous events organised by Tenisheva in the French capital. Specifically, between 1907 and 1908 there had been two major exhibitions of works from the artists’ colony at Talashkino, near Smolensk, which she had founded at around the turn of the century.5 In their wake, a handful of articles on Talashkino had featured in British art publications.6 Yet, it seems unlikely that Rutter knew Tenisheva personally, as she had few links to London artistic circles at that time. Indeed, he states that he was assisted in the organisation of the foreign section by the Polish artist Jan de Holewinski, ‘who had been requested by Tenisheva to organise for her in London an exhibition of Russian arts and crafts’.7

  • 8 For a detailed account of the history of the Russian neo-national school, see Evgeniia Kirichenko, (...)

4In appointing Tenisheva as curator, Rutter was unwittingly participating in the prevailing debate in Russia about the future of Russian art and its relationship to Western art. The arrangement afforded her another opportunity to expand the international reputation of Talashkino, and, more importantly, to gain exposure for the version of modern Russian art which she wished to promote. For the Talashkino project had established Tenisheva as the latest standard-bearer for the ‘neo-national’ school, in which Russian art that principally reworked Slavic themes was favoured over that which sought to acknowledge the influence of a more European tradition.8 It was these trends which she would also showcase in London. Evidencing his ignorance of the subject, Rutter’s catalogue introduction described the section as a ‘representative collection of the modern national art of Russia’, but this was far from the case. Most tellingly, it revealed little of the avant-garde movement already well underway in Russia by 1908. Furthermore, though there were 175 Russian works, only a handful of professional artists were represented. The narrow range of the display is illustrated by the fact that, of Tenisheva’s contributors, only Ivan Bilibin (1876-1942) and Nikolai Rerikh (1874-1947) already had well-established artistic reputations by this time. Moreover, both remained for the most part outside the avant-garde camp. The selection thus displayed only one of the many co-existing strands of Russian modernism; indeed, it contrasted sharply with the more broadly constituted array of Russian art recently presented by Diagilev at the 1906-7 Salon d’Automne.

Fig. 9.2 Mariia Tenisheva, Enamelled Amaranth Chest (c.1907). Reproduced in Denis Roche, Les émaux champlevés de la princesse Marie Ténichév (Paris, 1907).

Fig. 9.3 Mariia Tenisheva, Enamelled Mirror Frame (c.1907). Reproduced in Denis Roche, Les émaux champlevés de la princesse Marie Ténichév (Paris, 1907).

Fig. 9.4 Mariia Tenisheva, Ornamental Chest (c.1907). Reproduced in Denis Roche, Les émaux champlevés de la princesse Marie Ténichév (Paris, 1907).

  • 9 Catalogue to the First Salon of the Allied Artists’ Association (London, 1908), nos. 1-44.
  • 10 Ibid., nos. 64-171.
  • 11 Salmond, p. 141.
  • 12 Catalogue to the First Salon of the Allied Artists’ Association, nos. 172-3.

5Nevertheless, it was extremely useful for Rutter’s inaugural exhibition that the ‘neo-national’ works were known to appeal to Western audiences — Tenisheva’s success in Paris had already demonstrated this. ‘Russian-ness’ was clearly highlighted, playing to Edwardian tastes for the exotic and unusual. Among the works exhibited were various of Bilibin’s illustrations for Russian folk tales, including ‘The Golden Cockerel’, ‘The King Saltan’ (Tsar Saltan) and ‘Volga’.9 Works by Rerikh comprised the majority of exhibits, with a remarkable 87 paintings and 2 sets of book illustrations including those ‘For Rouslan and Ludmila (Pushkin)’.10 As in Paris, Tenisheva placed Rerikh centre-stage, in a direct challenge to Diagilev’s relegation of the artist to the margins in his Salon d’Automne exhibition.11 Also sharing the neo-Russian style were the exhibits of her own enamel work, displayed alongside a selection of Talashkino peasant crafts12 (Figs. 9.2-9.4). Finally, there were sculptures by Konstantin Rausch von Traubenberg (1871-1935), and architectural designs by Alexei Shchusev (1873-1945) and Vladimir Pokrovskii (1871-1931).

  • 13 P.G. Konody, ‘Art Notes: Allied Artists’ Association at the Albert Hall’, The Observer (12 July 19 (...)
  • 14 P.G. Konody, ‘Art Notes: Russian Art at the Albert Hall’, The Observer (19 July 1908), p. 5.
  • 15 Ibid.

6Though the Russian works shown formed a tiny proportion of the 4 000 works displayed, they attracted considerable attention, and reviews were generally positive. A weekly columnist for The Observer thought that the Russian section was ‘the only harbour of rest’ in a sea of wildly differing works; it was, he added, ‘an engrossingly interesting display’.13 He was apparently so impressed that he devoted the most part of the following week’s column to it. Tenisheva’s enamels, he thought, had ‘more than a hint of barbaric splendour and [were] clearly derived from medieval Byzantine models’.14 As to the paintings and sculpture, ‘the strangeness of it all is certainly attractive and fascinating’; however, ‘the aesthetic code upon which this art is based is so alien to the Western spirit that it is difficult to feel much sympathy with it’.15 Though he was attracted to the ‘decorative spirit’ which he found in the art of Bilibin and Rerikh, he puzzled over the lack of evidence of any modern European artistic tradition, and saw only the hallmarks of a Byzantine legacy. The lack of an identifiably European style was also remarked upon by other commentators. One observer was also particularly struck by the art of Bilibin:

  • 16 W.R., ‘A Russian Book-Illustrator: M. Ivan Bilibin’, Athenaeum, 4218 (29 August 1908), pp. 247-8. (...)

M. Bilibin’s [books] will come as a delightful novelty. They are absolutely Russian in sentiment and feeling with an occasional trace of Oriental influence [...]. They are so unlike anything yet seen in this country.16

  • 17 Frank Rutter, Art in My Time (London, 1933), p. 136.

7Such responses provide yet another example of how Russian culture was seen by Britons not only as different, but also through an ‘orientalist’ lens. Moreover, the association with Byzantine art was one which, in due course, would be taken up by Roger Fry, when he invited the emigré mosaic artist and Byzantinist Boris Anrep to curate the Russian section of his Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition in 1912. Writing much later, Rutter seemed keen to assert that he had been one step ahead of Fry, suggesting that his first A.A.A. exhibition ‘revealed to London the continued existence of the Byzantine tradition at a time when historical schools had not yet revived interest in Byzantine art’.17 However, the claim is difficult to justify. Although Tenisheva, in her enamels, was to some extent reworking ideas from the Byzantine tradition, the art of Bilibin and Rerikh frequently dealt with Slavic, pre-historic or highly national themes in which this influence is non-existent or barely discernible — Rerikh’s images of pagan Rus’, to cite one example.

  • 18 See Glew, ‘Every work of art’, p. 40. Yet, the 1909 catalogue does not list Tenisheva as a committ (...)
  • 19 On the ethnographical aspects of Kandinskii’s art and his interest in pre-history, see Peg Weiss, (...)

8In subsequent years, Rutter did not repeat the concept of a dedicated foreign section; a Polish exhibition was mooted for 1909, but never materialised. Nevertheless, the display of Russian art in 1908 set a precedent for subsequent years, and, significantly, the exhibitions of 1909 and 1910 heralded the first British appearances of the art of Vasilii Kandinskii. Adrian Glew has suggested that Kandinskii might have been introduced to the A.A.A. by Tenisheva, who, he claims, was a member of the Selection Committee in 1909.18 The contact was more likely to have been Rerikh, whose ethnographic interests and predilection for Slavic pre-historical themes in his art were shared by Kandinskii.19 However, Kandinskii himself may have taken the initiative — he was now based in Munich and had already exhibited elsewhere in Europe. By 1909, the artist had progressed from the neo-impressionistic style characterising his earlier works, in which historical Russian motifs were clearly discernible, to what were now highly abstract canvases. His works of this period can be seen as bridging both the neo-national movement and the emergent avant-garde, and their appearance in London signalled a decisive shift in the style and content of Russian art on display at the A.A.A. Salon. This shift was confirmed by the participation of the modernists Il’ia Mashkov (1881-1944) and Petr Konchalovskii (1876-1956) in the exhibition of 1911. Moreover, the critical response to these later exhibitions also made clear that another version of Russian art was now being seen, one quite different from the ‘engrossingly interesting’ display curated by Tenisheva.

  • 20 Frank Rutter, Art in My Time, p. 137.
  • 21 Catalogue to the Second Salon of the Allied Artists’ Association (London, 1909), nos. 1068-9 and 1 (...)
  • 22 Hans K. Roethel and Jean K. Benjamin, Kandinsky: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, I: 1900- (...)
  • 23 Catalogue to the Third Salon of the Allied Artists’ Association (London, 1910), nos. 961-3.
  • 24 Jelena Hahl-Koch, Kandinsky (London, 1993) (trans. Karin Brown et al.), p. 166.
  • 25 Ibid., p. 163, citing a letter from Kandinskii to Gabriele Münter of 5 November 1910.

9Rutter later recalled that the first British showing of Kandinskii’s art excited ‘a large amount of interest and heated controversy’.20 That year, the artist entered 3 works: Jaune et Rose and Paysage in the paintings section, and Frame with 12 Engravings in the etchings section.21 Identifying them, in order to assess why they were so controversial, is difficult — the catalogue was not illustrated and the titles referenced do not clearly correspond with Catalogue Raisonné entries for the relevant dates.22 By contrast, the works Kandinskii entered for the 1910 Salon — Composition No. 1, Improvisation No. 6 and Landscape — are easier to identify (albeit tentatively, as, again, there were no catalogue illustrations), and thus provide a more useful case study on reception.23 Composition No. 1 (1910) is a known work among the artist’s extensive series of Compositions.24 It seems likely that Landscape was the second Composition, as one scholar has mentioned that Kandinskii also referred to this as ‘Paysage (Landscape)’.25 Unfortunately, the first 3 Compositions were destroyed during WWII, but there are extant sketches for both the exhibited works: Sketch for Composition No. 1 (Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris), showing the central motif, and Sketch for Composition No. 2 (1910) (Solomon Guggenheim Museum, New York). The third work, Improvisation No. 6 (1910) is one of the series of Improvisations which date from 1909 onwards.

Fig. 9.5 Vasilii Kandinskii, Improvisation No. 6 (‘Afrikanisches’) (1910).
Oil on canvas, 107 x 95.5cm.
© Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau München.

  • 26 Rutter, Art in My Time, p. 143.

10Rutter described all three works as ‘abstract’ and, in further confirmation of the theory that Paysage was Composition No. 2, specifically mentions a ‘so-called landscape, nearly as non-representative as the other two’.26

11Some evidence of the reception in the British press illustrates the degree of shock among the critical community upon first seeing these non-representational artworks. For one reviewer, the paintings clearly were not worthy of exhibition:

  • 27 Wilfred H. Myers in The Onlooker (22 July 1910), cited in ‘Press Opinions on the 3rd London Salon (...)

Wassily Kandinsky offends from malice aforethought. Shapeless patches of garish colours, strung together in meaningless juxtaposition by bold, black lines, are dignified by the names of ‘Composition No. 1’, ‘Improvisation No. 6’, and, save the mark! ‘Landscape’. These atrocities are really only suitable for the badge of the Wagner Society.27

12Another commentator merely conveys his bafflement as to how he might interpret a work of abstract art:

  • 28 ‘How it Strikes a Contemporary’, The Art News (4 August 1910), p. 255.

In the case of Kandinsky [...] I entirely failed to unearth his secret. [...] [T] hough I laid my hand upon the motive, which I held to be candles, crowned by flames of a supremely decorative yellow, yet that did not help the clouds to break [...]. I was unable to understand anything except that I was confronted by an apparently promiscuous medley of colour; colour pure and strong and fervid; wherein I could detect the adumbrations of strange forms, reminiscent of the nursery [...].28

  • 29 ‘Art Notes: The London Salon’, The Observer (10 July 1910), p. 9.

13Yet another resorted to the nursery analogy, describing one of the works as ‘three archaic wooden dolls on hobby horses, whilst the blue cabbage on a winding red snake may possibly be intended for a tree’.29 Thus, in their different ways, each of these writers allude to the primitivism of the works, the prioritisation of colour, and the absence of realism.

  • 30 Catalogue to the Fourth Salon of the Allied Artists’ Association (London, 1911), no. 1201. These w (...)

14In 1911, Kandinskii contributed a set of works called ‘Six Woodcuts and an Album with Text’ and, again, these exhibits evidenced his continued explorations into new artistic territory.30 However, it was the other Russians who participated that year who attracted the larger share of the critical opprobrium. Kandinskii had very likely encouraged his compatriots, Il’ia Mashkov (1881-1944) and Petr Konchalovskii (1876-1956) to enter the Salon. Both were founder members of the ‘Bubnovyi valet’ (‘Knave of Diamonds’) artists’ group recently established in Moscow and had already exhibited at the Paris Salons. Rutter had certainly seen Mashkov’s work; he had written a favourable review of the artist’s ‘heroic still-life’ paintings seen at the Salon des Indépendants:

  • 31 Frank Rutter, ‘Salon d’Automne’, The Art News (15 October 1910).

His grapes are the size of plums, his plums the size of apples, and his apples the size of cannonballs. Not only is their size enlarged, but their colour is also intensified. These ‘fruits of the Gods’ (pace Wells) are summarily expressed with undeniable power, and are not without a certain barbaric splendour as decorations.31

15Even Rutter, it seems, erstwhile champion of Russian art, was not immune from making racially motivated judgments, with his reference to ‘barbaric splendour’.

Fig. 9.6 Petr Konchalovskii, Les oliviers (1910). Oil on canvas, 70.5 x 90.2cm.
Private Collection. Reproduced by permission of Sotheby’s.

  • 32 Catalogue to the Fourth Salon of the Allied Artists’ Association (London, 1911), nos. 46, 47 and 9 (...)
  • 33 Ibid., nos. 48-50.

16The Mashkov entries in 1911 (listed under ‘Ilia Machkoff’) were ‘Portrait’ and two ‘Nature Mortes’, one in the paintings section, and another in ‘Large Paintings and Decorative Works’.32 Konchalovskii (listed under ‘Pierre Kantchalovsky’) entered three works: Amateur de Courses de Taureaux, Les Oliviers and Nature Morte.33

  • 34 Malcolm C. Drummond, ‘Another Member’s View’, The Art News (15 July 1911), pp. 76-7.

17The critical response was mixed. One writer commented enthusiastically that the Mashkov and Konchalovskii works, which were hung side by side, were ‘examples of a very interesting and growing school of painting, upon which few in this city are qualified to form a critical opinion’.34 He added that:

  • 35 Ibid.

In the arena we have an opportunity of seeing M. Machkoff’s ‘Nature Morte’ […], such as could be enjoyed in no other gallery in London, from across the Hall the amazing qualities of the picture can be seen to full advantage. In strength of colour and ‘carrying power’ it has no rival among its present company [...].35

18The comment that the Mashkov work had ‘carrying power’ suggests that this still-life was of a similar kind to those ‘larger than life’ paintings in Paris which Rutter had reviewed. This commentator does not appear to base his remarks upon any notions of ‘Russian-ness’ in the paintings, but in singling them out it was clear that he had found something distinctive and novel about these works compared to the surrounding entries.

  • 36 ‘Art and Artists: The London Salon’, The Observer (9 July 1911), p. 4.
  • 37 Ibid.

19Not all reviewers responded so positively. For one, Mashkov’s ‘Portrait’ was ‘a Byzantine vision of a monstrously deformed human being’, while a ‘Nature Morte’ was less ‘morte’ than ‘vivante’: ‘alive with an uncanny, unnatural vitality [...] and testif[ying] to a frenziedly passionate colour sense’.36 Yet again, these comments raise similar themes: Byzantine and primitive. This reviewer also singled out Konchalovskii’s Amateur de Courses de Taureaux (Fan of the Bullfight) for attack, calling it ‘revolting’ and chiding the artist’s ‘contempt of the imitation of nature’.37 But the most extreme reaction came from Arthur Lynch, a Member of Parliament and evidently a fierce and conservative critic. Calling his piece ‘Artistic Rebels’, he seems initially to praise the artists’ novelty, referring to: ‘audacity, intensity of feeling, high, impetuous spirit’. But his attack on the Russians was blunt:

  • 38 Arthur Lynch, MP, ‘Artistic Rebels: A Souvenir of the Allied Artists’ Association’, The Art News ( (...)

The ‘Amateur de Courses’ was by Mr Pierre Kantchalovsky and the Slav was not tamed there. [...] I am not quite sure […] whether Pierre Kantchalovsky is an incorrigible humourist poking fun at the public, or whether he is the austere apostle of a new movement in art. His ‘Amateur de Courses’ sits in my mind when many excellent things are forgotten — sits in its infantine simplicity, sits in its infantine smudges of paint, sits in its infantine rudeness of soul.38

  • 39 ‘Amateur de Courses de Taureaux’ would appear to correspond with a work of 1910 (‘Liubitel’ boiia (...)

20Amateur was one of an extensive series of paintings of matadors, the bullfighting ring and other genre scenes painted by Konchalovskii during a long sojourn in Spain. As with his other works of this period, the style is Fauvist — bright swathes of colour, primitive black outlining of motifs and an obvious disregard for realism.39 Yet, in its Western subject-matter and its apparent adoption of French modernist trends, arguably this work was not so obviously Russian. Lynch clearly linked its primitivism with the artist’s nationality, for not only does he scorn its ‘infantine simplicity’ and ‘infantine smudges of paint’, this work, he decrees, ‘sits in its infantine rudeness of soul’. On the surface it is the comment of a conservative on the rebellious outlook of the modernist artist and his perceived lack of refinement. However, the additional layer of patronising xenophobia is made clear by the suggestion of ‘taming’ the ‘Slav’ in the bullring. That an MP, presumed to be well-off and well-educated, was making such observations confirms that prejudiced attitudes toward Russians were held at all levels of society. Indeed, Lynch was not the only commentator to reveal racial prejudice. Another lamented that:

  • 40 C. Lewis-Hind, The Daily Chronicle (24 July 1911), cited in The Art News (15 August 1911).

It is useless for English gentlemen painters to tell these Russians that they must not do it, they must conform to English nice ideas of beauty. You might just as well tell Niagara to behave more like Virginia Water and not to make such a splash.40

21The quirky comparison of the Russian temperament to a mighty, unstoppable waterfall could perhaps be seen positively as a reference to Russia’s expanse. Nevertheless, it repeats the idea that the Russians lacked refinement, were not gentlemen, and, in essence, were barbaric.

  • 41 Catalogue to the Fifth Salon of the Allied Artists’ Association (London, 1912), nos. 746-8.
  • 42 Catalogue to the Sixth Salon of the Allied Artists’ Association (London, 1913), nos. 285-7.

22In subsequent A.A.A. exhibitions, the number of Russian paintings entered was overtaken by the number of Russian sculptures. Konchalovskii did not participate after 1911, but Mashkov entered three more works in 1912 (Nature–Morte de la Paque, Nature-Morte, and Le Modele Vivante).41 The 1912 catalogue also lists Kandinskii as a contributor, though no titles are listed. He made a more significant contribution in 1913, showing three major works (Improvisation (No. 29), Improvisation (No. 30), and Landscape with River Pappeln).42 Discussion of these later exhibitions is outside the scope of this chapter. Nevertheless, Russian participation was to be, in the end, short-lived, as no Russian artists entered works after 1913.

23In conclusion, the mixed response to the Russian works displayed in these early years of the A.A.A. Salons suggests, as would be expected, that the British artistic and critical community was divided into conservatives and modernists. The conservatives tended to invoke traditionally negative reactions to Russia and Russians, using terms such as ‘simplicity’, ‘barbaric’, and, most damning of all, ‘infantine rudeness of soul’. Yet, even the so-called modernists, such as Rutter and Fry, who admired recent developments in Russian art for their innovation, still revealed their prejudices and preoccupations about Russia: Fry’s focus on the Byzantine tradition, for example, and Rutter’s remarks as to ‘barbaric splendour’. Nevertheless, through Rutter’s initiative, the summer of 1908, rather than the arrival of the Ballets Russes almost exactly three years later, can be seen as the turning point after which Russian art gained a considerably greater prominence in Britain. The A.A.A. Salons provided a forum for its display in a wide range of different media, and thus a showcase for its considerable diversity in content and style. Between Tenisheva’s extensive Russian section of 1908 and Kandinskii’s final participation in 1913, the varied exhibits of paintings were supplemented by book illustrations, works of applied art, Talashkino artefacts, woodcuts, and in the latter years, sculpture. However, although these shows highlighted the contrast between the neo-national school of modernism favoured by Tenisheva and the art of the emerging avant-garde artists Kandinskii, Mashkov and Konchalovskii, the brief examples of reception discussed in this chapter indicate that British audiences made little distinction between these competing versions of Russian modernism. To them, all of these artists were Russians, thereby invoking stereotyped responses based on their nationality.

  • 43 On the links of Kandinskii to British modernism, see: Glew, ‘Blue Spiritual Sounds’; Gruetzner-Rob (...)
  • 44 Salmond, p. 142.

24Yet, at the same time, Kandinskii’s frequent participation at the A.A.A. provided a channel for British artists to be exposed to his pioneering forays into abstraction.43 His ideas were taken up enthusiastically by the Vorticists and other British modernist groups, and, arguably, were so influential that his art has since come to define Russian art in British eyes for the entire century to follow. On the other hand, Tenisheva’s Russian section at the inaugural London Salon has long since disappeared from the historical picture. Yet, her role should not be overlooked. If 1908 was indeed a turning point for British attitudes to Russian art, establishing a momentum that would be so capably exploited by the Ballets Russes in the years to follow, then, in Britain at least, it was she, rather than Diagilev, who was initially more influential in what Wendy Salmond has termed their ‘bitter competition [...] to determine the true nature of Russian art in the European imagination’.44 The early A.A.A. exhibitions provide an extremely important case-study in the display and reception of Russian art in Britain, and, more importantly, one which adds weight to an overarching hypothesis that British cultural engagement with modernist trends in Russian art began earlier in the 20th century than has generally been acknowledged.

Notes

1 Literature discussing the reception of the Ballets Russes in Britain is too extensive to list here. However, for a concise account, see Lynn Garafola, Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes (New York; Oxford, 1989), pp. 300-29. On Fry’s exhibition, see Catalogue of the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition (exhibition catalogue, London, Goupil Galleries, 1912), and, in particular, Boris Anrep, ‘The Russian Group’ in the catalogue introduction; Anna Gruetzner-Robins, Modern Art in Britain 1910-1914 (London, 1997), pp. 105-7; Boris Anrep, ‘Po povodu londonskoi vystavki s uchastiem russkikh khudozhnikov’, Apollon, II (1913), p. 47.

2 The only significant scholarly discussion of the topic to date is contained in two articles by Adrian Glew. See Adrian Glew, ‘Every Work of Art is the Child of its Time, Often it Is the Mother of our Emotions’, Tate Etc, VII (Summer 2006), pp. 39-43 and ‘Blue Spiritual Sounds: Kandinsky and the Sadlers, 1911-16’, The Burlington Magazine, CXXXIX, no. 1134 (September 1997), pp. 600-15. It should also be mentioned, however, that there was some brief critical discussion of the inaugural A.A.A. exhibition in Russian journals of the period. See, for example, I. Kirillov, ‘Khudozhestvennye vesti’, Rech’, 1/14, No. 155 (July 1908), p. 5.

3 In subsequent years, the limit upon entries per artist would be reduced to three.

4 Frank Rutter, ‘Introduction’, in Catalogue to the First Salon of the Allied Artists’ Association (London, 1908).

5 On Tenisheva and the Talashkino workshops, see A. Abramova, Talashkino (Smolensk, 1950); John A. Bowlt, ‘Two Maecenases: Savva Mamontov and Princess Tenisheva’, Apollo (December 1973), pp. 444-53 and John A. Bowlt, The Silver Age: Russian Art of the Early Twentieth Century and the ‘World of Art’ Group (Newtonville, Massachusetts, 1979), pp. 39-46; and Wendy R. Salmond, Arts and Crafts in Late Imperial Russia: Reviving the Kustar Art Industries, 1870-1917 (Cambridge, 1996), pp. 115-43. Tenisheva’s two Paris exhibitions of this period were held at the Musée des Arts décoratifs at the Louvre and the Galerie des Artistes modernes. For the catalogues, see Objets d’art russes anciens, faisants parties des collections de la Princesse Marie Tenichef exposés au Musée des Arts Décoratifs du 10 mai au 10 octobre 1907 (exhibition catalogue, Paris, 1907) and Exposition d’art russe moderne (exhibition catalogue, Paris, 1907).

6 C. de Danilovich, ‘Talashkino: Princess Tenisheva’s School of Russian Applied Art’, International Studio, XXXII, No. 126 (August 1907), pp. 135-9; ‘Talashkino’, Studio, XXXII (October 1907), pp. 328-30.

7 Frank Rutter, Since I Was Twenty-five (London, 1927), p. 182.

8 For a detailed account of the history of the Russian neo-national school, see Evgeniia Kirichenko, Russian Design and the Fine Arts 1750-1917 (New York, 1991), pp. 135-273.

9 Catalogue to the First Salon of the Allied Artists’ Association (London, 1908), nos. 1-44.

10 Ibid., nos. 64-171.

11 Salmond, p. 141.

12 Catalogue to the First Salon of the Allied Artists’ Association, nos. 172-3.

13 P.G. Konody, ‘Art Notes: Allied Artists’ Association at the Albert Hall’, The Observer (12 July 1908), p. 12.

14 P.G. Konody, ‘Art Notes: Russian Art at the Albert Hall’, The Observer (19 July 1908), p. 5.

15 Ibid.

16 W.R., ‘A Russian Book-Illustrator: M. Ivan Bilibin’, Athenaeum, 4218 (29 August 1908), pp. 247-8. More recent scholarship suggests the possibility that, contrary to this reviewer’s assertion, Bilibin may have been influenced by the work of English artists such as William Morris and Walter Crane. See Anna Bronovitskaya, ‘An Accidental Similarity?: British Art and Russian Artists in the late 19th and early 20th Century’, Pinakotheke, 18-19 (2004), pp. 104-10 (p. 107).

17 Frank Rutter, Art in My Time (London, 1933), p. 136.

18 See Glew, ‘Every work of art’, p. 40. Yet, the 1909 catalogue does not list Tenisheva as a committee member, and my research thus far has found no evidence of her involvement in the second Salon. Moreover, Kandinskii was not a member of the Talashkino circle nor it is clear that he ever visited there. Neither Salmond, Zhuraleva nor Tenisheva herself mention any relationship between the two (See Salmond; M.K. Tenisheva, Vpechatleniia moei zhizni (Paris, 1933); L. Zhuravleva, Kniaginia Mariia Tenisheva (Smolensk, 1994)).

19 On the ethnographical aspects of Kandinskii’s art and his interest in pre-history, see Peg Weiss, Kandinsky and Old Russia: The Artist as Ethnographer and Shaman (New Haven and London, 1995).

20 Frank Rutter, Art in My Time, p. 137.

21 Catalogue to the Second Salon of the Allied Artists’ Association (London, 1909), nos. 1068-9 and 1923.

22 Hans K. Roethel and Jean K. Benjamin, Kandinsky: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, I: 1900-1915 (London, 1982).

23 Catalogue to the Third Salon of the Allied Artists’ Association (London, 1910), nos. 961-3.

24 Jelena Hahl-Koch, Kandinsky (London, 1993) (trans. Karin Brown et al.), p. 166.

25 Ibid., p. 163, citing a letter from Kandinskii to Gabriele Münter of 5 November 1910.

26 Rutter, Art in My Time, p. 143.

27 Wilfred H. Myers in The Onlooker (22 July 1910), cited in ‘Press Opinions on the 3rd London Salon 1910’, The Art News (4 August 1910), p. 258. The reference to the Wagner Society picks up on the already well-established reputation of the German composer Richard Wagner as a modernist.

28 ‘How it Strikes a Contemporary’, The Art News (4 August 1910), p. 255.

29 ‘Art Notes: The London Salon’, The Observer (10 July 1910), p. 9.

30 Catalogue to the Fourth Salon of the Allied Artists’ Association (London, 1911), no. 1201. These were the first of Kandinskii’s works to be sold to a British collector, and their buyer, Michael Sadler, would go on to build a substantial collection of the artist’s work (Glew, ‘Blue Spiritual Sounds’, p. 603, note 30).

31 Frank Rutter, ‘Salon d’Automne’, The Art News (15 October 1910).

32 Catalogue to the Fourth Salon of the Allied Artists’ Association (London, 1911), nos. 46, 47 and 951.

33 Ibid., nos. 48-50.

34 Malcolm C. Drummond, ‘Another Member’s View’, The Art News (15 July 1911), pp. 76-7.

35 Ibid.

36 ‘Art and Artists: The London Salon’, The Observer (9 July 1911), p. 4.

37 Ibid.

38 Arthur Lynch, MP, ‘Artistic Rebels: A Souvenir of the Allied Artists’ Association’, The Art News (15 December 1911).

39 ‘Amateur de Courses de Taureaux’ would appear to correspond with a work of 1910 (‘Liubitel’ boiia bykov’) listed in the catalogue of works in the monograph by V.A. Nikolskii (see V.A. Nikolskii, Petr Petrovich Konchalovskii (Moscow, 1936)). In addition, a work entitled ‘Fan of Bullfight’ (1910) is reproduced in the catalogue on the website of the Petr Konchalovsky Foundation (see www.pkonchalovsky.com). Other works from the Spanish period are illustrated in the monographs of Nikolskii and Neiman, such as ‘Boi bykov’, ‘Matador Manuel’ Garta’, and ‘Ispanskaia komnata’ (all 1910) (see Nikolskii, and M. L. Neiman, P. P. Konchalovskii (Moscow, 1967)). Nikolskii also lists a 1910 work with the title ‘Olivkoyve derev’ia’, which appears to correspond with the other work exhibited in London, ‘Les Oliviers’. ‘Les Oliviers’ was auctioned by Sothebys in 2006 (see http://www.artfact.com/auction-lot/petr-petrovich-konchalovsky-1-c-vxa0sq4x7c [accessed 15.10.2012]). It has not been possible to identify the third work, as both Russian monographs list numerous still life works of 1910-11. Interestingly, Neiman mentions that a 1912 work, ‘Natiormort–Samovar’, was in a London collection at the time of his publication, which could indicate that the exhibition led to a purchase the following year.

40 C. Lewis-Hind, The Daily Chronicle (24 July 1911), cited in The Art News (15 August 1911).

41 Catalogue to the Fifth Salon of the Allied Artists’ Association (London, 1912), nos. 746-8.

42 Catalogue to the Sixth Salon of the Allied Artists’ Association (London, 1913), nos. 285-7.

43 On the links of Kandinskii to British modernism, see: Glew, ‘Blue Spiritual Sounds’; Gruetzner-Robins, pp. 130-4; Paul Edwards (ed.), Blast: Vorticism 1914-1918 (Burlington, 2000), p. 114; Norbert Lynton, The Story of Modern Art (Oxford, 1980), p. 44.

44 Salmond, p. 142.

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 9.1 Photograph of the 1908 Exhibition of the Allied Artists’ Association at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Illustrated London News (18 July 1908).© Illustrated London News Ltd/Mary Evans.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1575/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 164k
Légende Fig. 9.2 Mariia Tenisheva, Enamelled Amaranth Chest (c.1907). Reproduced in Denis Roche, Les émaux champlevés de la princesse Marie Ténichév (Paris, 1907).
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1575/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 26k
Légende Fig. 9.3 Mariia Tenisheva, Enamelled Mirror Frame (c.1907). Reproduced in Denis Roche, Les émaux champlevés de la princesse Marie Ténichév (Paris, 1907).
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1575/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 37k
Légende Fig. 9.4 Mariia Tenisheva, Ornamental Chest (c.1907). Reproduced in Denis Roche, Les émaux champlevés de la princesse Marie Ténichév (Paris, 1907).
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1575/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 51k
Légende Fig. 9.5 Vasilii Kandinskii, Improvisation No. 6 (‘Afrikanisches’) (1910).Oil on canvas, 107 x 95.5cm.© Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau München.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1575/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 13k
Légende Fig. 9.6 Petr Konchalovskii, Les oliviers (1910). Oil on canvas, 70.5 x 90.2cm.Private Collection. Reproduced by permission of Sotheby’s.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1575/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 206k

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