The Brooklyn Museum celebrates for the first time in over eighty years its renowned collection of modern Russian paintings with its newest installation, Russian Modern. From its first modern Russian art acquisition in 1906—Vasily Vereshchagin’s raw depictions of the Russo-Turkish War, recently restored and now on view—through solo exhibitions of the art of Boris Anisfeld and Aleksandr Yakovlev and the country’s first major survey of contemporary Russian art in the 1920s, the Museum has been a pioneering institution in the promotion of Russian avant-garde art in America.
In 1926, following this series of successful Russian exhibitions, Brooklyn embarked on its most ambitious representation of international (including Russian) modern art to date. International Exhibition of Modern Art, organized by the Société Anonyme and headed by Katherine S. Dreier, Marcel Duchamp, and Wassily Kandinsky, was the U.S.’s first significant show of western modernism since the 1913 Armory Show; among the highlights was Marcel Duchamp’s recently completed The Large Glass, 1915-23 (today Philadelphia Museum of Art). By devoting an entire section of the exhibition to the Russian avant-garde, the curators demonstrated Russia’s integral role in the development of modern art across the globe. Today Russian Modern, which opens fittingly in the Museum’s European gallery, builds on Brooklyn’s proud history of showcasing modern Russian art in a broad international context.
Russian Modern will feature thirteen paintings (twelve from the Museum’s permanent collection and one from the collection of Jurii Maniichuk and Rose Brady) spanning one hundred years of modern Russian art history. Among the avant-garde painters represented are Vasily Vereshchagin, Boris Anisfeld, Abraham Manievich, Chaim Soutine, Max Weber, Aleksandr Yakovlev, Boris Grigoriev, and Wassily Kandinsky. The paintings range in scale and subject-matter from small cabinet pictures of Russian peasant life to large-scale pacifist paintings of imperial Russian warfare, from abstracted landscapes of Crimea and the Ukraine to classicizing, “return to order” portraits from the years following the first World War.
All thirteen paintings are accompanied by wall texts written in both English and Russian. They will remain on long-term view in the Museum’s third-floor European gallery as testaments to our commitment to presenting avant-garde Russian art as a major force in the development of international modernism.
Stay tuned for a post on my collection review of Brooklyn’s Russian holdings, which led to this installation as well as the deaccession of a painting from the permanent collection.