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Modernism and the Spiritual in Russian Art

 | 
Louise Hardiman
, 
Nicola Kozicharow

3. ‘The Loving Labourer through Space and Time’: Aleksandra Pogosskaia, Theosophy, and Russian Arts and Crafts, c. 1900–19171

Louise Hardiman

Texte intégral

  • 1 I would like to express my thanks to Sarah Victoria Turner for her comments on an earlier draft of (...)
  • 2 Nicholas Roerich, ‘Toward Nature’ (1901), in N. K. Rerikh, Sobranie sochinenii (Moscow: Sytin, 191 (...)

Artists of the present time heatedly strive to communicate the essence of nature… [because] everything in us impels us toward nature: our spiritual consciousness, the demands of our aesthetic sensibilities, even our very bodies.
Nicholas Roerich2

  • 3 The epithet ‘Silver Age’ was given to the period from the late 1890s until the late 1910s (see Joh (...)
  • 4 Bowlt has written extensively on this phenomenon. See, for example: John E. Bowlt, ‘Esoteric Cultu (...)
  • 5 For a detailed account of the neo-national (and kustar) movements in English, see Chapter 4, ‘The (...)

1A fascination with esoteric spirituality and the occult among artistic communities of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was a worldwide phenomenon, which resonated strongly within the outward-looking, innovative cultural milieu of the Russian Silver Age3. Though ‘modernising’ forces in Russian art began with the resignation of fourteen students from the Imperial Academy of Arts in 1863, the shift towards finding spiritual inspiration beyond the conventions of Orthodoxy only made itself felt some three decades later, as the century drew to a close. It was evident in the turn towards Symbolism in the 1890s, a movement in which notions of spirituality became more abstract: this was a quest for life’s intangible essence, an exploration of the immaterial, as opposed to material, world. For the avant-garde artists who followed, the growing interest in non-mainstream spirituality became ever more influential.4 Yet, within this evolving redefinition of the spiritual, the so-called ‘neo-national’ movement – a late nineteenth-century movement in art, craft, and music that played a central role in the history of modernism – has been less explored. The point of departure for this chapter is the Talashkino artists’colony founded by Princess Maria Tenisheva (1858–1928) (fig. 3.1), where the influence of unconventional spirituality began to emerge in the early 1900s. The arrival of Nicholas Roerich [Nikolai Rerikh] (1874–1947) (fig. 3.2), an artist who would become one of Tenisheva’s closest collaborators, heralded a shift from exploring a national, pagan past to seeking a universal mysticism.5

  • 6 I use the western art-historical term ‘Arts and Crafts’ here as a descriptive term for neo-nationa (...)

2A little-known figure linking Roerich, Tenisheva, and unconventional religion within the neo-national movement is the Russian émigré, Aleksandra Loginovna Pogosskaia (1848–1931). This chapter explores Pogosskaia’s campaign to place the development and production of Arts and Crafts (primarily, but not only, Russian) within the cultures of Theosophy.6

  • 7 See, for example, Rosalind P. Blakesley, The Arts and Crafts Movement (London: Phaidon, 2006). The (...)

3There is some logic to this seemingly unusual pairing. Fundamentally, both movements had universalist aims and aspirations; both had global reach and sought to alter public opinion, fighting an ever increasing shift towards materialism and a growing spiritual deficit. Practically and intellectually there were many synergies. Thus my aim here is not only to extend debate on the spiritual dimensions of Russian artistic modernism but also to bring fresh insight to the neo-national movement and, specifically, its international reach. The cross-cultural and supra-national aspects of modernism, as well as cosmopolitanism within the Arts and Crafts movement, have received much scholarly attention in recent years; this chapter engages with the question of how esoteric spirituality was a route for cross-cultural artistic interchange in the modernist and Arts and Crafts contexts.7

3.1 Ilia Repin, Portrait of Maria Tenisheva (1898). Charcoal on canvas. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. Photograph in the public domain. Wikimedia, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Maria_Tenisheva_by_I.Repin_(1898,_GTG).jpg

3.2 Boris Kustodiev, Portrait of Nicholas Roerich (1913). Pastel on cardboard, 60 x 52.5 cm. State Russian Museum, St Petersburg. Photograph in the public domain. Wikimedia, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:N.Roerich_by_B.Kustodiev_(1913).jpg

Unconventional Spirituality and the Neo-National Movement

  • 8 Camilla Gray, The Russian Experiment in Art, 1863–1922 (second edition, revised and enlarged by Ma (...)
  • 9 Peter Stupples, ‘Abramtsevo: Resisting and Accepting Cultural Translation’, New Zealand Slavonic J (...)
  • 10 See Oleg Tarasov, Framing Russian Art: From Early Icons to Malevich, trans. by Robin Milner-Gullan (...)

4The career of Pogosskaia and her turn to Theosophy set her apart from the trends of the broader neo-national movement, especially in its earlier years. As has been well documented, the movement was characterised by a return to national traditions in subject-matter and style in the arts; its starting point was the artists’circle established by Savva Mamontov and his wife Elizaveta in the early 1870s at Abramtsevo, their picturesque country estate in the northern environs of Moscow. With its members’interest in such modernist concerns as form, idea, and medium, Abramtsevo has gained a reputation as the ‘cradle’ of the Russian avant-garde.8 However, with regard to spiritual influences, it was conservative. Underpinning the tension between the modern, the national, and the spiritual were the site’s Slavophile and Orthodox associations, which, before its acquisition by Mamontov, had been the home of the Aksakov family from the early 1840s. As a result, subsequent artistic developments were deeply imbued with these traditions; in the words of Peter Stupples, this was a space that was not only “uniquely positioned within the heartland of Russian Orthodoxy”, but one which, under Mamontov, became an “Orthodox and Slavic structural social space”.9 Members of the circle were inspired by the ancient church architecture of Novgorod and Yaroslavl for their most important collaborative venture – the design and building of a new church on the estate (Church of the Saviour Not Made by Hands (1881–82)) (fig. 1.3). Though artists took liberties with Orthodox norms (such as the rearrangement of the iconostasis, as Oleg Tarasov has examined in detail) and with style (for example, Ilia Repin’s starkly realistic depiction of Christ in his icon of the Saviour), their approach was largely conventional in its approach to iconography.10 In short, to find signs of a shift beyond mainstream spiritual traditions in the neo-national movement we must move to Talashkino, the second of its principal sites.

  • 11 See Salmond, Arts and Crafts.

5Founded by Tenisheva in the late 1890s, the colony at Talashkino was a centre for the revival of national art, whose aims – like those of the group at Abramtsevo – resonate with those of the international Arts and Crafts movement. The country estate near Smolensk hosted visiting artists and encouraged artistic communality and creative enterprise, with a focus not only on painting but also sculpture, decorative art, and architecture. Local peasant communities were trained to produce decorative art to the designs of professional artists (the revived ‘kustar industries’, which Wendy Salmond has documented in detail).11 These were philanthropic initiatives, designed to give economic support to declining cottage industries with the help of professionally trained artists.

  • 12 For a biography of Roerich, see Alexandre Andreyev, The Myth of the Masters Revived: The Occult Li (...)
  • 13 Anita Stasulane, Theosophy and Culture: Nicholas Rerikh (Rome: Editrice Ponteficia, Universita Gre (...)
  • 14 Ibid. Blavatsky put forward the theory that all peoples stemmed from seven ‘root’ nations, the mos (...)

6Like their Abramtsevo counterparts, Talashkino artists concerned themselves with the exploration of traditions drawn from folk art, and themes drawn from myth and legend featured heavily in their art. But the colony’s spiritual direction was largely driven by Tenisheva herself, and for several years of its activity her closest colleague was the spiritually experimental Roerich. Whether Tenisheva shifted towards a more esoteric approach due to his arrival on the scene, or vice versa, is unclear. His unconventional spirituality has been well documented, as by Soviet times it became thoroughly idiosyncratic and he eventually founded his own sect.12 Yet Tenisheva is thought to have sparked his interest in the past roots of ornamental traditions and the migration of peoples, rather than the other way around.13 These ideas certainly appear consistent with Theosophical teachings: for example, the idea of a historical lineage of symbols and signs concurs with the principle advocated by Helena Blavatsky (1831–91) in The Secret Doctrine, of ‘accumulated Wisdom of the Ages’; moreover, Blavatsky and some other theosophists believed in the migration of peoples over generations from the two ancient (mythic) continents of Atlantis and Lemuria.14 Thus Tenisheva may have been an early influence upon Roerich’s spiritual path – and perhaps an adherent of Theosophy herself – though there is no firm evidence as yet. A potentially important figure here is Princess Sviatopolk-Chetvertinskaia, the previous owner of the Talashkino estate who became a lifelong friend and companion to Tenisheva – allegedly Sviatopolk-Chetvertinskaia was a Theosophist.

  • 15 L. S. Zhuravleva, Talashkino: Ocherk-putevoditel′ (Moscow: Izobrazitel′ noe iskusstvo, 1989), p. 1 (...)
  • 16 N. K. Rerikh, ‘Pamiati M. K. Tenishevoi’, first published in M. K. Tenisheva, Emal′ i inkrustatsii (...)
  • 17 M. K. Tenisheva, ‘Sviatye minuty’ in Rerikh v Rossii (Moscow: Mezhdunarodnyi tsentr Rerikhov, 1993 (...)

7What is clear is that Tenisheva and Roerich had a shared vision that the true source of artistic inspiration lay in antiquity, and their interests were developing over a similar period. Roerich first visited Tenisheva in 1903, and they saw one another for the last time in 1914.15 Each revered the other: in a flattering tribute in Tenisheva’s publication Enamel and Inlaid Work (Emal′ i inkrustatsiia), Roerich wrote of the princess’s “tireless activity, fearlessness, thirst for knowledge, tolerance, and capacity for inspired creativity”.16 Likewise, Tenisheva eulogised in her memoirs that: “of all the Russian artists I met in my life, [Roerich] was the only one with whom I could talk […]. Our relationship is brotherhood”.17 Interesting here is her use of the word ‘brotherhood’, with its connotations of shared belief systems and of fraternity – ideas which were common to both the Arts and Crafts and Theosophist projects.

  • 18 For more on the significance of ‘antiquity’ at Talashkino, see Katia Dianina, ‘An Island of Antiqu (...)
  • 19 On the history of the Museum of Russian Antiquity, see V. I. Skleenova, Istoriia Muzeia Russkaia S (...)

8Tenisheva’s belief that antiquity was of the greatest importance for contemporary artistic practice led her to build a substantial collection of pre-Christian art and artefacts, and she also incorporated ideas and symbols drawn from ancient traditions in her own art and crafts.18 Her collection was later donated to the Moscow Archaeological Society, though it remained in the city of Smolensk in the ‘Museum of Russian Antiquity’ (fig. 3.3) which she had commissioned, using her own funds, to house it (Muzei ‘Russkaia Starina’, opened in 1905).19

  • 20 Zhuravleva, Talashkino, p. 148.
  • 21 “[…] проблемы наследия искусства, выраженные в традициях и орнаментах далекого Востока.” (Rerikh, (...)

9Whether Tenisheva’s interest in pagan art was simply for ‘art’s sake’or revealed something about her spirituality is difficult to discern. Though Roerich’s philosophical exploration of esoteric belief systems is clearly evident from his writings, the source most likely to reveal Tenisheva’s stance – her memoirs – gives no clues. If something akin to Roerich’s unconventionality can be detected, it is in the strange, emblem-like symbols and hints of eastern ornamental tradition in some of her embroidery designs, an observation that supports Larisa Zhuravleva’s claim that Tenisheva was fascinated by the east.20 Zhuravleva’s source may have been a comment from Roerich himself, who wrote that Tenisheva had been occupied with “the problems of artistic legacies, expressed in the traditions and ornaments of the Far East”.21 But such assessments are also consistent with an interest in antiquity and the roots of ornament; concerns which are again common to both Arts and Crafts and Theosophy.

3.3 Collection of Maria Tenisheva in the Museum of Russian Antiquity in Smolensk (Muzei ‘Russkaia Starina’). Photograph. Photograph in the public domain. Wikimedia, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Princess_Tenisheva_Museum_in_Smolensk.jpg

3.4 The Church of the Holy Spirit, Flenovo. Designed by Nicholas Roerich. c. 1907. Photograph © Smolensk State Museum-Reserve, all rights reserved.

  • 22 On Tenisheva’s exhibitions in Paris and London, see Louise Hardiman, ‘“Infantine Smudges of Paint… (...)
  • 23 Zhuravleva, Talashkino, pp. 20, 147. The architectural design was drawn from Sergei Maliutin’s ske (...)

10Tenisheva strongly approved of Roerich’s art, giving pride of place to his paintings in the displays of art and artefacts from Talashkino that she curated for prominent venues in Paris (1907) and London (1908).22 When, in 1908, Tenisheva returned to Talashkino, it was Roerich that she appointed to design the interior decoration of the church on the Flenovo estate (fig. 3.4). Construction had begun in 1900, the result of a joint project between Ivan Barshchevsky, Sergei Maliutin, and Tenisheva (fig. 3.5), but had been put on hold when Tenisheva fled to Europe as a result of insurrection at the colony.23

  • 24 Ibid.“Мы решили назвать этот храм – Храмом Духа. Причем центральное место в нем должно было занима (...)
  • 25 For images of the church, see: M. K. Tenisheva, Khram Sviatogo Dukha v Talashkine (Paris: Russkoe (...)
  • 26 Andreyev, The Myth of the Masters Revived, p. 29. Andreyev also comments that during the pre-War p (...)

11After the initiative was handed over to Roerich, Tenisheva and he were sole collaborators. Roerich recalls that they agreed jointly upon the name and also the iconography for the interior: “[We] decided to call this the Church of the Spirit [Khram dukha]. Moreover, a central place had to be given to the image of the Mother of the World”.24 These decisions indicate the unconventional nature of the designs. For the exterior, Roerich adapted Maliutin’s original idea for a large mosaic of the head of Christ above the main entrance. His scheme for the interior was more radical: a large fresco for the dome and wall above the altar space inside which he called ‘The Queen of Heaven at the River of Life’ (‘Tsaritsa nebesnaia na beregu reki Zhizni’) (fig. 3.6). The subject was esoteric, apparently drawn from theosophical texts, though the inclusion of haloed seraphim and cherubim surrounding the Queen incorporated elements of Christian iconography (figs. 3.7 and 3.8).25 The Queen herself, according to a comment by the artist’s wife, Elena Roerich, was modelled on the Indian goddess Kali, a female counterpart of Shiva.26

3.5 Sergei Maliutin, ‘Project for a Church at Flenovo’ (1901). Watercolour, whitening and pencil on carton. Photograph © Smolensk State Museum-Reserve, all rights reserved.

3.6 Nicholas Roerich, The Queen of Heaven at the River of Life. Fresco. Church of the Holy Spirit, Flenovo. Reproduced in Iskusstvo, 1911. Photograph in the public domain. The New York Public Library Digital Collections, http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/​items/​510d47df-97c5-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

3.7 Nicholas Roerich, Sacred Wives. Seraphim. Sketch for the altar design of the Church of the Holy Spirit at Flenovo, 1909–10. Paper on cardboard, tempera. 105 x 49 cm. Photograph © Smolensk State Museum-Reserve, all rights reserved.

3.8 Nicholas Roerich, Throne of the Invisible God. Sketch for the altar design of the Church of the Holy Spirit at Flenovo, 1909. Paper on cardboard, tempera.
58 x 91 cm. Photograph © Smolensk State Museum-Reserve, all rights reserved.

  • 27 Rerikh, ‘Pamiati’. “Все мысли о синтезе всех иконографических представлений доставляли М. К. [Teni (...)

12Unfortunately a detailed examination of the paintings is now limited to what can be discerned from photographs, as the interiors were damaged during the Second World War (the church itself still stands, and has recently benefited from a new roof). The fresco was intended, according to Roerich, to be a “synthesis of all iconographic representations”, which he said had brought Tenisheva “lively joy”, seemingly confirming that this had been a joint idea.27 The designs were sufficiently distinct from Orthodox convention to result in the church never being consecrated.

Pogosskaia: A Brief Biography

  • 28 See Jesco Oser, ‘“Rodnik”: A Source of Inspiration’, Experiment: A Journal of Russian Culture, 18, (...)
  • 29 Mariia K. Tenisheva, Vpechatleniia moei zhizni (Paris: Russkoe Istorikogenealogicheskoe obshchestv (...)

13The part which Pogosskaia played in Tenisheva’s enterprise dates from the earlier period of Talashkino’s history, before Roerich’s sustained involvement; in around 1902 she was appointed to the post of commercial manager for an outlet in Moscow called ‘The Source’ (Rodnik), selling Talashkino artefacts in Russia and abroad.28 As the Princess found out at their first meeting, Pogosskaia already had an established career in Britain and the United States promoting Russian arts and crafts, and offered a deep knowledge of peasant culture as well as overseas experience. Her daughter, Anna, was also hired by Tenisheva, to run a dyeing workshop sited in the striking teremok building designed by the colony’s artistic director Maliutin. Here, Anna shaped the production of the colony’s textiles and embroideries, but an allegation of fraud concerning the two Pogosskaias led to a dispute with the Princess and their swift departure from the colony after only a few months.29

  • 30 See A. L. Pogosky, ‘The Significance of Embroidery’, The Path. A Theosophical Monthly, 3 (December (...)

14It is not known whether Pogosskaia played any part in shaping the spiritual interests of Tenisheva; this seems unlikely. She herself became a member of the Theosophical Society only in 1909, some six years after her association with Talashkino. Perhaps something can be made of Pogosskaia’s appreciation of the symbolism in embroidery or her promotion of vegetable dyes as the source of the truest forms of colour – aspects of the ancient traditions of peasant art which not only interested Pogosskaia but would become influential in the later writings of Kandinsky and others (Pogosskaia too would emphasise these in writings of the 1910s, when, in later life, she sought to document her knowledge and experience).30 However, there is no suggestion that, at this stage, she gave these practices spiritual, or for that matter Theosophical, significance.

  • 31 Pogosskaia has been briefly discussed in the literature, though she was referred to as ‘Anna’. Thi (...)
  • 32 One of her brothers was Aleksandr Linev, an associate of the ‘Land and Freedom’ movement (Zeml′ ia (...)
  • 33 For more on Pogosskaia, see ‘Exotica for the Edwardians: Aleksandra Pogosskaia and the Russian Pea (...)
  • 34 ‘No. 593, Stool in Burnt Wood by Mrs A. L. Korvin Pogosky’, Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society: Ca (...)

15Beyond her links to Talashkino, the role of Pogosskaia in the neo-national movement has not yet been documented. However, as both a practitioner and a promoter of Russian arts and crafts, working mainly abroad, she did much to foster western interest in Russian decorative art of the fin de siècle.31 In her own practice, she specialised in embroidery, book binding, and poker work (‘pyrography’) – a form of burnt decoration on wood that she had learned from village communities during her youth. According to one brief published account of Pogosskaia’s life, her emigration to the United States, and later to Britain and Ireland, was initially sparked by the revolutionary connections of her brothers.32 She was ceaselessly itinerant – the patchy historical traces of her movements show that from the early 1880s she moved between Florida, New York, London, and Belfast.33 She claimed to have befriended William Morris while in London, and, although no concrete proof of a relationship has yet been traced, her work was shown at the second exhibition of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society in 1889, and she may have met Morris in this context.34 She was certainly, at the very least, a spectator at Morris’s lectures and a disciple of his teachings, as comments she made in 1913 suggest:

  • 35 A. L. Pogosky, Fellowship in Work (London: C. W. Daniel, 1913), p. 86.

The inspiring words of W Morris […] still rang in my ears, still spurred me to activity and made me hopeful and convinced that the beauty I seek for my satisfaction will serve all who are on the way to progress, however unfavourable the present circumstances may appear.35

  • 36 Fibre and Fabric: A Record of American Textile Industries in the Cotton and Woollen Trade, 20 (189 (...)
  • 37 Pogosskaia describes her business in detail in A. L. Pogosky, Revival of Village Industries in Rus (...)
  • 38 ‘The Russian Peasant Industries’, John Johnson Collection: An Archive of Printed Ephemera (ProQues (...)
  • 39 An Exhibition of Russian Arts and Crafts at the Whitechapel Galleries (exh. cat., The Whitechapel (...)

16Long before her role at Rodnik, Pogosskaia’s first experience of selling Russian handicrafts was in New York in the early 1890s. She was shop manager for a retail outlet founded by Princess Maria N. Shakhovskaia on 130 East 23rd Street – the ‘Russian Cottage Industries’. Set up to capitalise on interest in Russian arts and crafts after the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, the store mainly sold embroideries and laces.36 Pogosskaia moved to Britain a few years later, to found her own business upon similar principles, and a near-identical name – ‘Russian Peasant Industries’. Initially, she based herself in Edinburgh, having had a studio there a decade or so earlier. By 1900, she had a successful import-export business selling kustar art and artefacts, including embroideries, textiles, furniture, toys, and illustrated books of Russian folk tales. Besides her retail outlets, she organised exhibition and sale events, travelling around the towns of England and Scotland.37 A surviving publicity brochure shows an older woman, probably Pogosskaia (on the left of the photograph), and a younger woman (on the right), probably her daughter Helena who ran the business with her.38 With the help of Pogosskaia’s children, Russian Peasant Industries continued in business until at least 1921, when Pogosskaia’s son Logan exhibited at the Exhibition of Russian Arts and Crafts at the Whitechapel Gallery.39 By then, Pogosskaia had spent several years in Adyar in pursuit of her Theosophical interests; in her final years she returned to Russia, where she died at a Theosophical commune in Kaluga.

Theosophy and Russian Arts and Crafts

  • 40 Maria Carlson, ‘Fashionable Occultism: Spiritualism, Theosophy, Freemasonry and Hermetism in Fin-d (...)

17Over the decades of the Russian Peasant Industries’existence, Pogosskaia’s commercial success enabled her to establish stores in the most fashionable of London locations; her most prominent shop front was on Bond Street, not far from the renowned Fabergé depot. However, by the pre-War years, her Ruskinian ideal of promoting beauty in manual labour and tenacious approach to commerce shifted to a broader, spiritually-oriented philosophy that found its natural home within the Theosophical movement. Founded in the United States in 1875 by Blavatsky, Henry Olcott, and William Judge, the Theosophical Society gained a considerable following in Britain and Europe in the late nineteenth century, especially among artists and writers. As Maria Carlson writes, Theosophy – ‘divine wisdom’ (Greek: theos, sophia) – was “the most intellectually important of the fashionable occult trends of the late nineteenth century”.40 Drawing upon such other esoteric belief systems as Alchemy, Rosicrucianism, and Kabbalism, Theosophists regard themselves as part of an inner circle (‘esoteric’) of initiates possessing secret knowledge or hidden (‘occult’) truths. Like Madame Blavatsky – as she came to be known – initiates claim true knowledge of the divine and natural worlds, and, in particular, all that is ‘unexplained’. Though theosophical ideas had appeared in philosophical texts over centuries past, the launch of the Society was, in modern parlance, a ‘rebranding’, accompanied by Blavatsky’s own publications. This was not a religion, she maintained, but simply ‘divine knowledge’, an idea that was encapsulated in her motto: “there is no religion higher than truth”.

  • 41 The timing is a matter for speculation – for example, Besant and Pogosskaia may also have met at t (...)
  • 42 Crispian Villeneuve, Rudolf Steiner in Britain: A Documentation of His Ten Visits, Vol. 1 (London: (...)
  • 43 Charles William Leadbeater, Spiritualism and Theosophy (Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1928 (...)
  • 44 P. D. Ouspensky, The Symbolism of the Tarot: The Philosophy of the Occult in Pictures and Numbers,(...)

18Pogosskaia may have been introduced to the movement by Annie Besant (1847–1933), leader of the Theosophical Society in Britain after Blavatsky’s death – the two women shared the connection with Morris and Victorian socialist circles.41 In moving from socialism to Theosophy, Pogosskaia’s desire for social change became not only ‘universalist’, but spiritualist and esoteric. She joined the movement after attending the Theosophical Summer School in Norfolk in the summer of 1909; it was reported that she “spoke of remarkable paintings she had seen executed by an artist possessing clairvoyant vision” and that she “brought […] the spirit of Russia – a link with H. P. B. [Helena Petrovna Blavatsky]”.42 This suggests that Pogosskaia had a strong interest in spiritualism even before she joined the movement, and this would remain central to her engagement with Theosophy. Charles William Leadbetter, the famed spiritualist and Theosophist, recounted an occasion in which she had joined a group exploring psychic presences of the deceased in photographs along with Dr James Coates, an authority on the subject.43 More importantly, Pogosskaia was to make a unique contribution to occult literature in 1912, publishing a translation of P. D. Ouspensky’s The Symbolism of the Tarot: The Philosophy of the Occult in Pictures and Numbers (1912). It remains the definitive edition.44

  • 45 On Kandinsky and esotericism, see: Sixten Ringbom, ‘Art in “The Epoch of the Great Spiritual”: Occ (...)
  • 46 Linda J. Ivanits, Russian Folk Belief (New York: M. E. Sharpe Inc., 1989), p. 83.

19Like Roerich and Kandinsky, the initial motive for Pogosskaia to explore esoteric spirituality may have been an interest in peasant culture and the ancient pagan belief systems of the peasantry.45 She later wrote of her many years of experience of village life, and would certainly have known the dvoeverie (the double belief system held by peasants, reflecting both pre-Christian traditions and Orthodox Christianity). Sorcery and other forms of magic assumed high importance in Russian folk belief; as Linda Ivanits notes in her seminal study of the subject: “no body of superstitions […] exerted a greater influence on the psyche of the Russian peasant than that surrounding sorcery”.46 In this light, Pogosskaia’s interest in magic and the occult seem a natural consequence of a deep understanding of folk culture.

  • 47 P. D. Ouspensky, The Symbolism of the Tarot: Philosophy of Occultism in Pictures and Numbers, tran (...)
  • 48 A. L. Pogosky, The International Union of Arts and Crafts. Part 1 (Adyar Pamphlets, 79. Reprinted (...)

20Still, the connection between Pogosskaia’s artistic interests, her Theosophy, and her occultism merits closer examination. Despite its modern day associations with astrology and fortune telling, the text of The Symbolism of the Tarot is laden with pagan and pantheistic imagery, signifying its deeper cultural resonances. The occult tradition lay very much within the framework of Theosophical teaching, and Pogosskaia’s writings after joining the movement show an acceptance of the concepts of masters and initiates, ancient truths, esoteric texts, and symbols. From the 1910s onwards she used Theosophy as a means to support her international campaign to promote Russian Arts and Crafts, making use of pantheistic imagery in her publications. In her translation of The Symbolism of the Tarot, we read, for example, of the Goddess: “I felt the breath of the Spring […]. Rivulets murmured, the grasses whispered, innumerable birds sang in choruses and bees hummed; everywhere I felt the breathing of a joyful, living nature”.47 In 1911, she used similar language in her article proposing an ‘International Union of Arts and Crafts’. Here, a description of the peasant home, in a text aimed at celebrating peasant values, became a paean to a universal life force: “man was surrounded by symbols of Isis; he read a meaning into the lofty trees and the mysterious flowers […]; he heard from his cradle of unseen forces of Nature, of mysterious beings […]”.48

  • 49 A. L. Pogosky, The International Union of Arts and Crafts. Part 1. Presumably here Pogosskaia is r (...)
  • 50 V. S. Voronov, Krest′ ianskoe iskusstvo (reprint, ed. by T. M. Razina and L. I. S ′ iontkovskaia-V (...)

21In her writings on Arts and Crafts Pogosskaia invoked the idea that ancient wisdom and myth were both precursor to, and a still-living tradition for, peasant communities and their folk art and culture; she claimed, for example, that there “was a constant union and intermixing of real life with legends of ancient time; it was the Russian Frost born from the prehistoric eastern cradle”.49 The emphasis in these texts was on the omnipotence of the natural world, the evocation of a pantheistic belief system consistent with the paganism of Russian folk belief. The notion of ‘Ancient Wisdom’ – that which underpins all religions – was central to Theosophy. For Pogosskaia, peasant textiles and embroidery were the source of symbols with long-held meanings; as scholars of Russian folk art have since acknowledged, a greater number of ornamental motifs found in carving and textile designs are derived from ancient pagan symbols, for example, the ‘tree of life’ and representations of goddesses in embroidered ritual cloths.50 As Mary B. Kelly has identified, such images have transcendental meanings, drawn from concepts of esoteric spirituality:

  • 51 Mary B. Kelly has written extensively on the use of pre-Christian imagery in embroidery. See, for (...)

When a goddess [in embroidery] is holding a tree, she is identified with the journey to the spirit world or to the world of the sky deities. The tree, its roots in the earth but its topmost branches in the heavens is the link between heaven and earth. […] The figure of the goddess has similar meaning; her feet planted firmly on earth, while her head and arms reach to the sky. Both symbols transcend worlds.51

  • 52 In a circular of 1878, the mission of the Theosophical Society was distilled into three key tenets (...)
  • 53 Villeneuve, Rudolf Steiner, p. 284. According to one scholar, the President of the Fellowship was (...)
  • 54 Ibid.

22The other key tenet of the Theosophical movement which appears to have attracted Pogosskaia was its mission to form a “universal brotherhood of humanity”, an idea which she applied directly to the context of Arts and Crafts practice.52 At heart a socialist and a humanitarian, she saw communal artistic activity as the means for peasants to become self-supporting and thus alleviate some of the hardships caused by the famines of recent years. Under the auspices of the Theosophical movement, she founded a new organisation, ‘The International Fellowship of Workers’, which she launched at the International Theosophical Summer School held by Rudolf Steiner at Swanwick, Derbyshire, in August 1911.53 As if to illustrate by example the productive potential of the craft industries, she also staged an exhibition of “national and traditional handicrafts, chiefly Russian” for the benefit of attendees.54

  • 55 A. L. Pogosky, Fellowship in Work (London: C. W. Daniel, 1913) and A. L. Pogosskaia, Idealy truda (...)

23In joining the Theosophical Society, it would seem that Pogosskaia found a community of like-minded ideologues and a new philosophy of life. In 1913, she set out the principles of her new arts and crafts organisation in a polemical tract, Fellowship in Work (also published in Russian under the title Idealy truda kak osnova shchastlivoi zhizni’ – ‘The Ideals of Labour as the Basis for a Happy Life’).55 It opens with a short manifesto:

  • 56 Ibid., p. 38 (cited and translated by Salmond, p. 243, note 60).

This Fellowship declares that all true work is an expression of Love, and therefore seeks:
1st. To bring about a recognition of this fact, and to develop by every means all work that promotes a perfect, harmonious human life.
2nd. To encourage and support each country’s national and traditional handicrafts by stimulating and reviving the inherent skill of the workers themselves.
3rd. To afford opportunities, by exhibitions, conferences, literature, and other suitable means, for bringing together from all countries of the world examples of work which are impressed with the identity of the worker and are a true expression of beauty.56

  • 57 ‘Leaves of Grass’ was the title poem in the collection of the same name published in 1855 and repu (...)

24Pogosskaia uses a citation from Walt Whitman’s poem cycle, Leaves of Grass,57 as the epigraph to begin Fellowship in Work:

Ah, little recks the labourer,
How near his work is holding him to God,
The loving Labourer through space and time

  • 58 Pogosky, ‘Fellowship in Work’.

After all, not to create only, or to found only,
But to bring, perhaps from afar, what is already founded,
To give it our own identity, average, limitless, free,
To fill the gross, the torpid bulk, with vital religious fire […].58

  • 59 It was later applied to the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition.
  • 60 On the avant-garde and the fourth dimension, see Linda Dalrymple Henderson, The Fourth Dimension a (...)

25The chosen lines are from ‘Song of the Exposition’, first recited by Whitman at the opening of an industrial fair in New York City in September 1870.59 With its emphasis on the superiority of labour and its divine nature, the text was a perfect fit for Pogosskaia to illustrate her philosophy. These words also seemed uncannily to reflect her own journey through the art world of the long nineteenth century, for she was well-versed in the international exhibition circuit both as exhibitor and promoter. Whitman’s celebration of the worker is consistent with Arts and Crafts ideology, and couched in spiritual terms: not only in his reference to the ‘God-liness’ of work that harks back to John Ruskin, spiritual father of the English movement, but also in the reference to universal space and time. Prescient of the concerns of artists of the early twentieth century, the poetic notion of the “loving labourer through space and time” resonates with pagan beliefs, occult religion, and the turn to multi-dimensionality that would soon come in Einsteinian physics.60

26Pogosskaia’s well-established business exporting Russian peasant craft resonated with the poet’s exhortation “to bring from afar, what is already founded”, and her spiritually motivated approach certainly brought the idea of “vital religious fire”. But this was also about the ideal model for the spiritually inspired Arts and Crafts worker, which Pogosskaia identified in the Russian peasant. The Fellowship encouraged the international production of “examples of work which are impressed with the identity of the worker and are a true expression of beauty”. The idea falls across several strands of late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century thought. Protecting the interests of peasant workers using such socialist concepts as the collective strength of workers through union had long been evident in Pogosskaia’s work before she found Theosophy – in the 1890s she had led an organisation in St Petersburg called the ‘Society in Aid of Manual Labour’.

  • 61 The Peasant Arts Fellowship also had a depot in London to sell the handicrafts they produced from (...)
  • 62 The Peasant Art Society (Haslemere and London: n. p; n. d.). This leaflet was published to coincide (...)
  • 63 The Peasant Arts Fellowship also had a depot in London to sell the craft works they produced from (...)
  • 64 ‘On Fellowship’. The Fellowship of the New Crusade (Pamphlet) (London, 1901).

27Moreover, there are numerous examples of similar initiatives by others involved in the English Arts and Crafts movement, not least in the various guilds and societies founded to harness the collective power of craft workers. For example, similar-sounding aims to those of Pogosskaia’s Fellowship and Union were set out by the Peasant Arts Society founded in Haslemere in 1894.61 Its stated mission repeated a fundamental tenet of the Arts and Crafts movement: “the real revival of Art depends to some extent on making a great many things by hand, which at present are made by machines”.62 But, as with Pogosskaia’s organisation, there was also a spiritual component: its successor, the ‘Peasant Arts Fellowship’ (launched in 1911) championed “the spiritual […] necessity for the restoration of simple country life and crafts”.63 Its founder, Godfrey Blount, continued with the ‘New Crusade’, with pamphlets containing such strident adhortations as to “faithfully carry our Standard of the Spirit into the fight against materialism”.64 Yet, with her stated goal of achieving a worldwide workers community, Pogosskaia’s principles were more universalist, and her grand ambitions made her English antecedents sound rather parochial.

  • 65 On Vera Pavlovna’s dressmaking shop, see Chto delat’, pp. 188–99.
  • 66 Michael R. Katz and William G. Wagner, ‘Introduction’ in N. G. Chernyshevsky, What is to be Done?,(...)

28It is possible that the value that Pogosskaia placed in shared labour reflected a feminine sense of collaborative endeavour, based on principles she had seen in village communities; her international experience, such as her participation in the Woman’s Building at the Chicago Universal Exposition in 1893, must have strengthened her perception of the benefits to be gained from female networks, for sharing ideas and also as a means of production. This was, perhaps, a ‘sisterhood’, an intentional reworking of the brotherhood ideals she knew from the Arts and Crafts movement. Yet another lens through which to view her project is that of socialism. Though invoking the concept of the guild, Pogosskaia’s ideas on groups of collective workers, as set out in a chapter on industrial colonies, bear closer resemblance to the ‘commune’. In the Russian context, the idea of a group of craft workers working for mutual benefit harks back to the utopianism of Nikolai Chernyshevsky (1828–89), and closely mirrors the plotlines of his seminal allegory of 1863, What is to be Done? (Chto delat’?), in which a group of needleworkers become self-supporting.65 Pogosskaia’s comment that work should be “an expression of love” evoked the philosophy of Chernyshevsky, who had maintained that love and labour were complementary.66 Moreover, her approach seems consistent with the Chernyshevskyian model of the “new woman”. If the role of the educated Russian of the 1860s had been to engineer social change – in the manner of Chernyshevsky’s “new people” – Pogosskaia was acting as an ideal citizen in the new society, informing others of her utopian philosophy. Indeed, by 1913, when her Fellowship was announced, the reshaping of the labour force along cooperative principles was established communist theory. In sum, it seems that Pogosskaia’s prior history of association with Russian revolutionaries and British socialists continued to shape her approach.

  • 67 A. L. Pogosky, ‘The Significance of Embroidery’, The Path. A Theosophical Monthly, 3 (December 191 (...)
  • 68 See A. L. Pogosky, The International Union of Arts and Crafts. Part 1, and A. L. Pogosky, The Inte (...)
  • 69 A report in The Glasgow Herald mentions an exhibition of some 293 works of ‘arts and crafts’ in Lo (...)

29Pogosskaia wrote articles for Theosophical publications with themes such as ‘The Significance of Embroidery’ (foreshadowing Soviet scholarship on the ancient Russian symbolism embodied in folk art), ‘On Crafts’, ‘Work is Love’, ‘The Reconstruction of Russian Handicrafts’, and ‘Russian Peasant Industries’.67 The contents of these texts frequently overlapped, reprising concepts which Pogosskaia had explained in Fellowship in Work. In two articles of 1917, Pogosskaia relaunched her society as The International Union of Arts and Crafts, describing it as a centre for the international exchange of ideas about crafts, and a ‘source of inspiration and study’.68 Published as they mostly were, as Theosophical pamphlets, the audience for these schemes was necessarily limited, and, as a result, they seem to have been of minor influence. The International Union continued to exist for some years after Pogosskaia’s death in 1921, under a new name: ‘The International Fellowship of Arts and Crafts’; however, little is known about its later history. Suffice it to mention only that the project appears to have been accorded an important status within the Theosophical movement, for during this period the presidency of the Fellowship was held by two of the movement’s most senior figures: Charles Webster Leadbetter (1921–23) and C. Jinarājadasā (1923–27).69

Conclusion

  • 70 Kandinsky’s links to Theosophy have long been a subject of debate. See, for example, Peg Weiss, Ka (...)
  • 71 Pogosky, Revival of Village Industries, p. 2; Moiret, p. 7.

30Within the Theosophical movement, Pogosskaia saw her promotion of peasant art as part of a wider religious campaign – one seeking to integrate human artistic endeavour with spiritualist philosophy. However, consistent with the international reach and universalist aspirations of the Theosophists, her aims were more ambitious than those of comparable English movements. Pogosskaia was not alone in incorporating the esoteric theories of Theosophy into her artistic credo; the works of Ouspensky – especially those related to the ‘fourth dimension’ – were popular among Russian avant-garde artists, including Kazimir Malevich and Natalia Goncharova, and explorations into the ‘non-material’ world were common. Indeed, though a more detailed discussion is beyond the scope of this chapter, the key figure in this group is Vasily Kandinsky, not only for the role played by Theosophy in relation to his landmark text On the Spiritual in Art (1910–12), but also for the presence of Theosophical content in his works.70 Pogosskaia herself once remarked that she was seen as a “crank”; however, as one reviewer of her business activities insightfully commented: “hers is the work of no sentimental visionary: you cannot keep a shop in Bond Street for long without a sound business basis”.71 She had used the ‘exhibition and sale’ event promoted by the Home Arts and Industries and other groups associated with the wider nineteenth-century craft revival to great commercial effect. In short, her search for meaning perhaps was more a reflection of the anxieties of her time – the loss of the pre-industrial age. Thus the campaign to promote Russian arts and crafts was not only about marketing products that showcased national identity so as to increase exports. It was about collective endeavour for the benefit of humanity, and a fight against materialism. Though she was successful, her call for others to act similarly had no lasting influence, and her proselytising literature faded into history. Her humanitarian project ended up as a religious crusade to promote art as the product of a unifying life force. However, like Roerich, her visionary and mystic compatriot who was once nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, Pogosskaia’s goal went beyond her aesthetic agenda – it was to bring nations together in the search for common human and spiritual understanding.

Notes

1 I would like to express my thanks to Sarah Victoria Turner for her comments on an earlier draft of this chapter.

2 Nicholas Roerich, ‘Toward Nature’ (1901), in N. K. Rerikh, Sobranie sochinenii (Moscow: Sytin, 1914), trans. by John McCannon, https://isfp.co.uk/russian_thinkers/nikolay_roerich.html

3 The epithet ‘Silver Age’ was given to the period from the late 1890s until the late 1910s (see John E. Bowlt, Moscow and St Petersburg in Russia’s Silver Age (London: Thames & Hudson, 2008), p. 9). At the time of writing, the history of the dialogue between esoteric movements (unconventional religions) and artistic modernism is the subject of considerable scholarly attention. For example, the international research project ‘Enchanted Modernities: Theosophy, Modernism and the Arts, c. 1875–1960’ aims to foster research and networking specifically with regard to the influence of the Theosophical movement (https://www.york.ac.uk/history-of-art/enchanted-modernities/). Recent publications on the subject of esotericism and its cultural ramifications during the rise of modernism include: The Ashgate Research Companion to Nineteenth-Century Spiritualism and the Occult, ed. by Tatiana Kontou and Sarah Willburn (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2012); Jenny McFarlane, Concerning the Spiritual: The Influence of the Theosophical Society on Australian Artists, 1890–1934 (Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publ., 2012); Caroline Maclean, The Vogue for Russia: Modernism and the Unseen in Britain, 1900–1930 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015). In relation to Russia and the former Soviet Union, publications on this subject include: The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture, ed. by Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997) and The New Age of Russia: Occult and Esoteric Dimension, ed. by Birgit Menzel, Michael Hagemeister, and Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal (Munich: Verlag Otto Sagner, 2012).

4 Bowlt has written extensively on this phenomenon. See, for example: John E. Bowlt, ‘Esoteric Culture and Russian Society’, in The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890–1985, ed. by Maurice Tuchman (exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA: Abbeville Press, 1986), pp. 165–82; John E. Bowlt, ‘Russkoe obshchestvo i ezoterism’, in Malevich. Klassicheskii avangard, ed. by T. Kotovish, Vol. 3 (1997), 69–73; John E. Bowlt, ‘V. Kandinsky i teosofiia’, in Mnogogrannyi mir Kandinskogo, ed. by N. Avtonomova, et al. (Moscow: Nauka, 1998), pp. 30–42. Groundbreaking exhibitions on the subject of the spiritual in art also drew greater attention to this topic; see, for example: Tuchman, The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890–1985; Okkultismus und Avantgarde: von Munch bis Mondrian, 1900–1915, ed. by Veit Loers (Frankfurt: Edition Tertium, 1998).

5 For a detailed account of the neo-national (and kustar) movements in English, see Chapter 4, ‘The Neo-Russian Style’, in Evgenia Kirichenko, Russian Design and the Fine Arts: 1750–1917 (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1991), pp. 135–273, and Wendy R. Salmond, Arts and Crafts in Late Imperial Russia: Reviving the Kustar Art Industries (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

6 I use the western art-historical term ‘Arts and Crafts’ here as a descriptive term for neo-national art and the revival of peasant industries (‘kustar’ art) in Russia. Certainly, the Russian neo-national movement can be positioned as an analogue to other so-called ‘Arts and Crafts’ movements around the world, as many scholars have noted; yet there are numerous differences – indeed, it was not described as such by Russian scholars until very recently (Soviet and earlier Russian scholarship has tended to focus on broader notions of ‘national romanticism’ and ‘art nouveau’).

7 See, for example, Rosalind P. Blakesley, The Arts and Crafts Movement (London: Phaidon, 2006). The international research network ‘Internationalism and Cultural Exchange, 1870–1920’ has also explored a number of these themes: https://iceresearchnetwork.wordpress.com

8 Camilla Gray, The Russian Experiment in Art, 1863–1922 (second edition, revised and enlarged by Marian Burleigh-Motley) (London: Thames & Hudson, 1986), p. 9. However, in her prescient comments in a journal article published at around the fin de siècle, the British art journalist Netta Peacock wrote of the “new movement”, the future of which “lies in the fact that it deals more with colour than it does with line, and, with rare exceptions, deals with simple subjects, simply treated” (Netta Peacock, ‘The New Movement in Decorative Art’, International Studio, 13 (May 1901), 268–76 (p. 268)).

9 Peter Stupples, ‘Abramtsevo: Resisting and Accepting Cultural Translation’, New Zealand Slavonic Journal, 45, 1 (2011), 71–90 (p. 76). For a detailed examination of the spiritual dimensions of the Abramtsevo circle, see Inge Wierda, ‘Abramtsevo: Multiple Cultural Expressions of a Russian Folk and Religious Identity’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of Leeds, 2008).

10 See Oleg Tarasov, Framing Russian Art: From Early Icons to Malevich, trans. by Robin Milner-Gulland and Antony Wood (London: Reaktion Books, 2011), pp. 105–24.

11 See Salmond, Arts and Crafts.

12 For a biography of Roerich, see Alexandre Andreyev, The Myth of the Masters Revived: The Occult Lives of Nikolai and Elena Rerikh, Eurasian Studies library, Vol. 4 (Leiden: Brill, 2014).

13 Anita Stasulane, Theosophy and Culture: Nicholas Rerikh (Rome: Editrice Ponteficia, Universita Gregoriana, 2005), pp. 156–57.

14 Ibid. Blavatsky put forward the theory that all peoples stemmed from seven ‘root’ nations, the most well-known (now notorious) of which was the ‘Aryan’ (Indo-European) race.

15 L. S. Zhuravleva, Talashkino: Ocherk-putevoditel′ (Moscow: Izobrazitel′ noe iskusstvo, 1989), p. 138.

16 N. K. Rerikh, ‘Pamiati M. K. Tenishevoi’, first published in M. K. Tenisheva, Emal′ i inkrustatsiia (Prague, 1930), in N. K. Rerikh, Iz literaturnogo naslediia (Moscow: Izobrazitel′ noe iskusstvo, 1974)), http://lib.icr.su/node/599. “Неутомимость, бесстрашие, жажда знания, терпимость и способность к озаренному труду – вот качества этих искателей правды.”

17 M. K. Tenisheva, ‘Sviatye minuty’ in Rerikh v Rossii (Moscow: Mezhdunarodnyi tsentr Rerikhov, 1993), p. 69, cited in Stasulane, p. 11. (The translation here is Stasulane’s).

18 For more on the significance of ‘antiquity’ at Talashkino, see Katia Dianina, ‘An Island of Antiquity: The Double Life of Talashkino in Russia and Beyond’, in Rites of Place: Public Commemoration in Russia and Eastern Europe, ed. by Julie Buckler and Emily D. Johnson (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2013), pp. 133–56.

19 On the history of the Museum of Russian Antiquity, see V. I. Skleenova, Istoriia Muzeia Russkaia Starina (Smolensk: Svitok, 2012).

20 Zhuravleva, Talashkino, p. 148.

21 “[…] проблемы наследия искусства, выраженные в традициях и орнаментах далекого Востока.” (Rerikh, ‘Pamiati’).

22 On Tenisheva’s exhibitions in Paris and London, see Louise Hardiman, ‘“Infantine Smudges of Paint… Infantine Rudeness of Soul”: British Reception of Russian Art at the Exhibitions of the Allied Artists’ Association, 1908–1911’in A People Passing Rude: British Responses to Russian Culture, ed. by Anthony G. Cross (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2012), pp. 133–47, https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0022

23 Zhuravleva, Talashkino, pp. 20, 147. The architectural design was drawn from Sergei Maliutin’s sketches.

24 Ibid.“Мы решили назвать этот храм – Храмом Духа. Причем центральное место в нем должно было занимать изображение Матери Мира.”

25 For images of the church, see: M. K. Tenisheva, Khram Sviatogo Dukha v Talashkine (Paris: Russkoe Istorikogenealogicheskoe obshchestvo vo Frantsii, 1938). For Roerich’s description of the fresco, see N. K. Rerikh, ‘Tsaritsa Nebesnaia’, in his Sobranie sochenenii. Kniga pervaia (Moscow: Izd-vo. I. D. Sytin, 1914). An image can also be viewed online: Nikolai Rerikh [Nicholas Roerich], ‘Tsaritsa Nebesnaia’ in O Vechnom… (Moscow: Izdatel’stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1991), http://n-k-roerich.ru/books/item/f00/s00/z0000004/st152.shtml.

26 Andreyev, The Myth of the Masters Revived, p. 29. Andreyev also comments that during the pre-War period, Roerich and his wife Elena became increasingly interested in Theosophy and were exploring eastern religions too (p. 26). At this time, Roerich also worked on interior designs for a Buddhist temple in St Petersburg commissioned by a Buryat Lama, Agvan Dorzhiev (on the temple, see Alexandre Andreyev, Khram buddy v Severnoi stolitse, second edition (St Petersburg: Nartang, 2012). The extent of Elena Roerich’s influence upon the spiritual turn of her husband’s art has been the subject of debate. The couple met in 1899, a few years before Roerich met Tenisheva, and Elena accompanied Roerich on his archaeological expeditions in the early 1900s. From around the 1910s the couple developed a shared interest in esoteric spirituality in its various guises, but it is not known whether Elena directly influenced Roerich’s ideas for the Talashkino church. After moving to London in 1919 both Elena and Nikolai would become members of the Theosophical Society, and both would publish esoteric texts (for example, in the 1930s Elena translated two volumes of Helena Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine into Russian). The spiritual sect, Agni Yoga, founded in 1920, was their joint project.

27 Rerikh, ‘Pamiati’. “Все мысли о синтезе всех иконографических представлений доставляли М. К. [Tenisheva] живейшую радость.”

28 See Jesco Oser, ‘“Rodnik”: A Source of Inspiration’, Experiment: A Journal of Russian Culture, 18, 1 (2012), 61–88, https://doi.org/10.1163/221173012X643053

29 Mariia K. Tenisheva, Vpechatleniia moei zhizni (Paris: Russkoe Istorikogenealogicheskoe obshchestvo vo Frantsii, 1933), pp. 255–56 and 340–42.

30 See A. L. Pogosky, ‘The Significance of Embroidery’, The Path. A Theosophical Monthly, 3 (December 1912), 221–28; A. L. Pogosky, ‘Crafts’, The Path. A Theosophical Monthly, 3 (December 1912), 375–78.

31 Pogosskaia has been briefly discussed in the literature, though she was referred to as ‘Anna’. This may have been a nickname, or there may have been some confusion in earlier accounts between Aleksandra and Anna, her daughter, who was also involved in Arts and Crafts projects (most notably, Talashkino). See Rosalind P. Blakesley, ‘The Venerable Artist’ s Fiery Speeches Ringing in my Soul: The Artistic Impact of William Morris and his Circle in Nineteenth-Century Russia’, in Internationalism and the Arts in Britain and Europe at the Fin de Siècle, ed. by Grace Brockington (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2009), pp. 79–105; Wendy R. Salmond, Arts and Crafts.

32 One of her brothers was Aleksandr Linev, an associate of the ‘Land and Freedom’ movement (Zeml′ ia i Vol′ ia), who emigrated to the United States; another perished in exile in Siberia. See also: K. Pissarev, ‘Alexandra Pogosky: A Biographical Sketch and an Appreciation’, The Theosophist, XLVI (1925), 660–67, http://www.iapsop.com/archive/materials/theosophist/theosophist_v46_n1-n12_oct_1924-sep_1925.pdf

33 For more on Pogosskaia, see ‘Exotica for the Edwardians: Aleksandra Pogosskaia and the Russian Peasant Industries’ in Louise Hardiman, ‘The Firebird’s Flight: Russian Arts and Crafts in Britain, 1870–1917’ (unpublished PhD thesis, 2014), pp. 143–84.

34 ‘No. 593, Stool in Burnt Wood by Mrs A. L. Korvin Pogosky’, Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society: Catalogue of the Second Exhibition (London: Chiswick Press, 1889).

35 A. L. Pogosky, Fellowship in Work (London: C. W. Daniel, 1913), p. 86.

36 Fibre and Fabric: A Record of American Textile Industries in the Cotton and Woollen Trade, 20 (1894), 1240. Shakhovskaia is known in western sources as ‘Princess Marie Schahovskoy’.

37 Pogosskaia describes her business in detail in A. L. Pogosky, Revival of Village Industries in Russia (London and Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1918).

38 ‘The Russian Peasant Industries’, John Johnson Collection: An Archive of Printed Ephemera (ProQuest), The Bodleian Library, Oxford.

39 An Exhibition of Russian Arts and Crafts at the Whitechapel Galleries (exh. cat., The Whitechapel Galleries, London, 1921).

40 Maria Carlson, ‘Fashionable Occultism: Spiritualism, Theosophy, Freemasonry and Hermetism in Fin-de-siècle Russia’ in Rosenthal, The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture, pp. 135–52 (p. 136). For a history of the theosophical movement in Russia, see Maria Carlson, “No Religion Higher than Truth”: A History of the Theosophical Movement in Russia, 1875–1922 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993). For its influence on fin-de-siècle Russian art, see Maria Carlson, ‘Fashionable Occultism: The Theosophical World of Silver Age Russia’, Quest; Journal of the Theosophical Society in America, 99, 2 (Spring 2011), 50–57, https://www.theosophical.org/publications/quest-magazine/2301

41 The timing is a matter for speculation – for example, Besant and Pogosskaia may also have met at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, where Pogosskaia exhibited her handicrafts and Besant was also present, as the Theosophical Society’s representative.

42 Crispian Villeneuve, Rudolf Steiner in Britain: A Documentation of His Ten Visits, Vol. 1 (London: Temple Lodge Publishing, 2011), p. 214.

43 Charles William Leadbeater, Spiritualism and Theosophy (Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1928), http://www.anandgholap.net/CWL_Spiritualism_And_Theosophy.htm

44 P. D. Ouspensky, The Symbolism of the Tarot: The Philosophy of the Occult in Pictures and Numbers, trans. by A. L. Pogossky (St. Petersburg: Trood Printing and Publishing Co, 1913).

45 On Kandinsky and esotericism, see: Sixten Ringbom, ‘Art in “The Epoch of the Great Spiritual”: Occult Elements in the Early Theory of Abstract Painting’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 29 (1966), 386–418, https://doi.org/10.2307/750725, and Sixten Ringbom, The Sounding Cosmos. A Study in the Spiritualism of Kandinsky and the Genesis of Abstract Paintings (Åbo: Åbo Akademi, 1970); Rose-Carol Washton, ‘Vasily Kandinsky, 1909–1913: Painting and Theory’ (unpublished PhD thesis, Yale University, 1968); Rose-Carol Washton Long, Kandinsky: The Development of an Abstract Style (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980); John Bowlt and Rose-Carol Washton Long, The Life of Vasily Kandinsky in Russian Art: A Study of ‘On the Spiritual in Art’ (Newtonville, MA: Oriental Research Partners, 1980). On Roerich, see: Alexandre Andreev, The Myth of the Masters Revived: The Occult Lives of Nikolai and Elena Rerikh, Eurasian Studies Library, Vol. 4 (Leiden: Brill, 2014); Rerikhi: Mify i fakty. Sbornik statei, ed. by Aleksandr I. Andreev and Dany Savelli (St Petersburg: Nestor-Istoria Publishers, 2011); Jacqueline Decter, Nicholas Rerikh: The Life and Art of a Russian Master (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 1989); Stasulane, Theosophy and Culture: Nicholas Rerikh.

46 Linda J. Ivanits, Russian Folk Belief (New York: M. E. Sharpe Inc., 1989), p. 83.

47 P. D. Ouspensky, The Symbolism of the Tarot: Philosophy of Occultism in Pictures and Numbers, trans. by A. L. Pogossky (St Petersburg: The Trood Printing and Publishing Co., 1913), p. 31.

48 A. L. Pogosky, The International Union of Arts and Crafts. Part 1 (Adyar Pamphlets, 79. Reprinted from The Theosophist, Vol. 32 (1911)) (Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1917), https://www.levir.com.br/theosophy/ArtsCrafts1.htm

49 A. L. Pogosky, The International Union of Arts and Crafts. Part 1. Presumably here Pogosskaia is referring to the legendary figure of ‘Father Frost’ (ded moroz) from Russian folklore.

50 V. S. Voronov, Krest′ ianskoe iskusstvo (reprint, ed. by T. M. Razina and L. I. S ′ iontkovskaia-Voronova) (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo, 1924); V. V. Stasov, Russkii narodnyi ornament. Vypusk pervyi. Shit′ e, tkani, kruzheva (St Petersburg: Obshchestvennaia pol′ za, 1872); also see Anthony Netting, ‘Images and Ideas in Russian Peasant Art’, Slavic Review, 35, 1 (March 1976), 48–68, https://doi.org/10.2307/2494820

51 Mary B. Kelly has written extensively on the use of pre-Christian imagery in embroidery. See, for example, Mary B. Kelly, ‘Käspaikka – esihistoriallisen symboliperinnon kantaja’ (‘Käspaikka: A treasured legacy of symbols from pre-history’), in Käspaikka Muistiliina, Käspaikka–Memory Cloths, ed. by Leena Säppi and Lauri Oino (Helsinki: Maahenki Oy, 2010), 9–37, and Mary B. Kelly, ‘The Ritual Fabrics of Russian Village Women’ in Russia–Women–Culture, ed. by Helena Goscilo and Beth Holmgren (Bloomington, IA: Indiana University Press, 1996), pp. 152–76.

52 In a circular of 1878, the mission of the Theosophical Society was distilled into three key tenets, of which this was one. Mary K. Neff, Personal Memoirs of H. P. Blavatsky (London: Rider, 1937), pp. 260–61, cited in Helena Blavatsky, ed. by Charles Goodrick-Clarke (Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2004), p. 11 (note 22).

53 Villeneuve, Rudolf Steiner, p. 284. According to one scholar, the President of the Fellowship was Walter Crane (see Mark Bevir, ‘Annie Besant’s Quest for Truth: Christianity, Secularism and New Age Thought’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 50 (1999), 215–39)). Bevir writes: “numerous socialists joined the International Fellowship of Workers, an organisation affiliated to the Theosophical Society, with Walter Crane as its president”. This adds weight to the theory that Pogosskaia’s connections to leading figures of the English Arts and Crafts and Socialist movements had endured over a long period, from the 1880s, when she met Morris, to the 1910s. However, I have found no other evidence of Crane’s involvement in Pogosskaia’s organisation, and more research is needed to establish whether such influential links as these existed between Theosophical and Arts and Crafts circles.

54 Ibid.

55 A. L. Pogosky, Fellowship in Work (London: C. W. Daniel, 1913) and A. L. Pogosskaia, Idealy truda kak osnova shchastlivoi zhizni (Kaluga: Lotos, 1913).

56 Ibid., p. 38 (cited and translated by Salmond, p. 243, note 60).

57 ‘Leaves of Grass’ was the title poem in the collection of the same name published in 1855 and republished on several occasions up to a final edition, of 1891–92.

58 Pogosky, ‘Fellowship in Work’.

59 It was later applied to the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition.

60 On the avant-garde and the fourth dimension, see Linda Dalrymple Henderson, The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983; second edition, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013).

61 The Peasant Arts Fellowship also had a depot in London to sell the handicrafts they produced from cottage industries such as weaving and tapestry making. They also sold other handicrafts, including for example, “Russian pillow lace” (though there is no evidence of their source for this).

62 The Peasant Art Society (Haslemere and London: n. p; n. d.). This leaflet was published to coincide with the opening of the depot.

63 The Peasant Arts Fellowship also had a depot in London to sell the craft works they produced from cottage industries such as weaving and tapestry making. Among the handmade items, the fellowship sold ‘Russian pillow lace’ (though there is no evidence of the source for this).

64 ‘On Fellowship’. The Fellowship of the New Crusade (Pamphlet) (London, 1901).

65 On Vera Pavlovna’s dressmaking shop, see Chto delat’, pp. 188–99.

66 Michael R. Katz and William G. Wagner, ‘Introduction’ in N. G. Chernyshevsky, What is to be Done?, ed. by William G. Wagner, trans. by Michael R. Katz (Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1989), pp. 1–36 (p. 24). A. L. Pogosky, ‘Work is Love’, The Theosophist, 23, 9 (June 1912), 364–80, http://www.iapsop.com/archive/materials/theosophist/theosophist_v33_n1-n12_oct_1911-sep_1912.pdf

67 A. L. Pogosky, ‘The Significance of Embroidery’, The Path. A Theosophical Monthly, 3 (December 1912), 221–28; A. L. Pogosky, ‘Crafts’, The Path. A Theosophical Monthly, 3 (December 1912), 375–78; A. L. Pogosky, ‘Brotherhood: The Reconstruction of Russian Handicrafts’, The Theosophist, 39 (April 1918), 9–23, http://www.iapsop.com/archive/materials/theosophist/theosophist_v39_n1-n12_oct_1917-sep_1918.pdf

68 See A. L. Pogosky, The International Union of Arts and Crafts. Part 1, and A. L. Pogosky, The International Union of Arts and Crafts. Part 2 (Adyar Pamphlets, 80) (Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1917), https://www.levir.com.br/theosophy/ArtsCrafts2.htm

69 A report in The Glasgow Herald mentions an exhibition of some 293 works of ‘arts and crafts’ in London, organised under the auspices of the ‘International Fellowship of Arts and Crafts’ and ‘the first exhibition of its kind organised by the Fellowship’; the year coincides with Jinarājadasā’s tenure but the organiser is not mentioned (see ‘Arts and Crafts Exhibition’, The Glasgow Herald (1 June 1925)). C. Jinarājadasā was later elected president of the Theosophical Society.

70 Kandinsky’s links to Theosophy have long been a subject of debate. See, for example, Peg Weiss, Kandinsky and Old Russia: The Artist as Ethnographer and Shaman (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press) and Marian Burleigh-Motley, ‘Kandinsky’ s Sketch for “Composition II,” 1909–1910: A Theosophical Reading’, in From Realism to the Silver Age: New Studies in Russian Artistic Culture. Essays in Honor of Elizabeth Kridl Valkenier, ed. by Rosalind P. Blakesley and Margaret Samu (De Kalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2014), pp. 189–200.

71 Pogosky, Revival of Village Industries, p. 2; Moiret, p. 7.

Table des illustrations

Légende 3.1 Ilia Repin, Portrait of Maria Tenisheva (1898). Charcoal on canvas. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. Photograph in the public domain. Wikimedia, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Maria_Tenisheva_by_I.Repin_(1898,_GTG).jpg
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/4647/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 214k
Légende 3.2 Boris Kustodiev, Portrait of Nicholas Roerich (1913). Pastel on cardboard, 60 x 52.5 cm. State Russian Museum, St Petersburg. Photograph in the public domain. Wikimedia, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:N.Roerich_by_B.Kustodiev_(1913).jpg
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/4647/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 131k
Légende 3.3 Collection of Maria Tenisheva in the Museum of Russian Antiquity in Smolensk (Muzei ‘Russkaia Starina’). Photograph. Photograph in the public domain. Wikimedia, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Princess_Tenisheva_Museum_in_Smolensk.jpg
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/4647/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 305k
Légende 3.4 The Church of the Holy Spirit, Flenovo. Designed by Nicholas Roerich. c. 1907. Photograph © Smolensk State Museum-Reserve, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/4647/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 220k
Légende 3.5 Sergei Maliutin, ‘Project for a Church at Flenovo’ (1901). Watercolour, whitening and pencil on carton. Photograph © Smolensk State Museum-Reserve, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/4647/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 292k
Légende 3.6 Nicholas Roerich, The Queen of Heaven at the River of Life. Fresco. Church of the Holy Spirit, Flenovo. Reproduced in Iskusstvo, 1911. Photograph in the public domain. The New York Public Library Digital Collections, http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/​items/​510d47df-97c5-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/4647/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 152k
Légende 3.7 Nicholas Roerich, Sacred Wives. Seraphim. Sketch for the altar design of the Church of the Holy Spirit at Flenovo, 1909–10. Paper on cardboard, tempera. 105 x 49 cm. Photograph © Smolensk State Museum-Reserve, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/4647/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 500k
Légende 3.8 Nicholas Roerich, Throne of the Invisible God. Sketch for the altar design of the Church of the Holy Spirit at Flenovo, 1909. Paper on cardboard, tempera.58 x 91 cm. Photograph © Smolensk State Museum-Reserve, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/4647/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 285k

Auteur

Art historian specialising in nineteenth-and twentieth-century Russian art. She is a graduate of the universities of Oxford, London, and Cambridge, where she completed a PhD on the history of Russian Arts and Crafts in late Victorian and Edwardian Britain. Her primary research concerns the history of the ‘neo-national’ movement and Anglo-Russian cultural exchange. She was consultant and catalogue contributor for the exhibition A Russian Fairy Tale: The Art and Craft of Elena Polenova (Watts Gallery, Guildford, 2014–15), and is the editor of Elena Polenova, Why the Bear Has no Tail and other Russian Folk Tales (London: Fontanka, 2014) and The Story of Synko-Filipko and other Russian Folk Tales (London: Fontanka, forthcoming). In 2016–17 she held a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art to work on her book The Firebird’s Flight: Russian Art in Britain, 1851–1917.

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