Modernism Without a Manifest. The Roman Babichev collection. Part 2. Leningrad
Modernism Without a Manifest. The collection of Roman Babichev. Part 2. Leningrad
General Director
Zurab Tsereteli
Executive Director
Vasili Tsereteli
First Deputy Director
Manana Popova
Deputy Directors
Liudmila Andreeva
Alexey Novoselov
Georgy Patashuri
Roman Babichev
Nadia Plungian
Alexandra Strukova
Olga Davydova
Maria Silina

Architect of the exposition:
Alexey Podkidyshev
Implicit Modernism: Leningrad. The Roman Babichev Collection
Formed during the interwar decades Leningrad culture represents one of the most complex, pregnant and bright bodies of Soviet art. Amalgamated in it were the influences of the Academy of Arts and the "World of Art" ("Mir Iskusstva") group, the legacy of Symbolism and Art Nouveau, the latest leftist movements (who drew on the avant-garde and figurative painting created before 1932) and the intense influx of European painting.

This epoch is characterized by active interaction between influential modernist schools. The first generation of Soviet artists had an opportunity to compare methods of such masters as Kazimir Malevich, Pavel Filonov, Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, Mikhail Matushin, Elizaveta Kruglikova and Alexander Matveev. Characteristic of the Leningrad artists was versatility, which allowed them to produce equally elaborate output in the media of textiles, lithography, glass, porcelain and book design. Art went hand in hand with expertise. Many of the Leningrad artists such as Vsevolod Voinov, Georgy Vereisky and Vladimir Konashevich were collectors and invested their efforts in preserving artworks and reorganizing museums. Maintaining strong connections to tradition, the Leningrad art scene remained independent which allowed it to continue experimenting.

At the same time it was the Leningrad art scene where the state's campaign against "formalism" and "naturalism" was launched. In 1926 a Filonov exhibition which was due to be held in the Russian Museum was dismantled and never opened. In 1930 Malevich was arrested on charges of espionage. In 1934 following the arrest of its key members, the allegedly anti-Soviet association "Group of Painterly-Plastic Realism" ceased to exist, three years earlier the "Union of Real Art" (OBERIU) group suffered the same fate. In the winter of 1936 the "Pravda" newspaper published deprecatory articles such as "Cacophony instead of Music", "Ballet out of Tune" and "On Artists as Smearers" that attacked Dmitry Shostakovich, the work of the Leningrad branch of the Detgiz publishing house and Vladimir Lebedev's Graphic School.

The notorious anti-formalist campaign of the 1930s later re-emerged under the banner of the fight against modernism during the Cold War. In tens of monographs from this period, Soviet art critics used the notion of modernism as a negative label. While the notion itself was described as a "dehumanized" territory of "anti-art", artists' "idea-less" interest in formal aspects was interpreted as a form of subversion instigated by the West against the "socially meaningful" art of Socialist Realism. The party was considered the only guiding force behind Soviet art. However the remarkable intensity and strength of the connections within the Leningrad artistic community provides us with a basis for criticizing this approach and revealing the continuity between various movements of Soviet art in the course of the 20th century.

Conventionally, the chronology of the Leningrad School is anchored to significant political events such as the revolution of 1905, the February revolution, the October revolution, the First and Second World Wars and the years of the Siege of Leningrad. This exhibition offers an alternative perspective showing the political and civil identity of Leningrad through the history of independent artistic associations. Nadia Plungian
Art Nouveau – on the Way to Modernism
The aura of Russian art in the late 1900s – early 1920s was marked by the increasing complexity of emotional undercurrents and formal and conceptual journeys. Flourishing avant-garde movements developed in parallel with a growing presentiment of radical transformations which enthused artists by offering opportunities for freedom promised by non-representational art (a freedom which in large part turned out to be illusory). At the same time the period witnessed the imminent waning of Art Nouveau and the world of suggestive imagery that marked the turn of the 20th century. This imagery characterized by a form of sophistication and lyricism, embodied the culmination of romantic symbolist ideals fed by the spiritual currents of European culture's preceding centuries.

Encapsulating both rise and fall and thus possessing a dualistic artistic nature, the 1910s not only symbolized the aesthetic maturity of Art Nouveau but also addressed the collapse of the prerevolutionary way of life of the Russian Empire. This multitude of emotional impulses underpins the imagery presented in the exhibition. Here the accent is shifted from the interconnections between Art Nouveau and early avant-garde movements (which were analyzed in the first part of the exhibition) to the continuity of lyric moods between various movements of Soviet art expressed through distinct artistic visions.

Both "World of Art" ("Mir Iskusstva") of its second period (1910–1924; the first "Diaghilev" period was 1898–1904, 1906) and the "Union of Russian Artists" ("Soyuz Russkikh Khudozhnikov", SRKh, 1903–1924) extended their standing as the most influential artistic organizations from the early 20th century to the 1910s.

During this time these groups' aesthetics grew eclectic – the individuality of the "World of Art" core members' output characterized by retrospective lyricism and a corresponding formal style came to blend with Neoclassical, Neo-Academic, Realist and Neo-Impressionist tendencies. This eclectic aesthetics was developed in the work of the plein air artists of the "Union of Russian Artists". The selection of works presented in this hall accounts for the above-described democratization of the language.

In the bohemian circles of the Art Nouveau epoch, a natural cross-border lifestyle – hinted at in Petrov-Vodkin's masterful drawing "Model Standing by Clothes Laid on Stool. In Académie Colarossi" (1906) – coexisted with an intimate domestic atmosphere depicted in Vereisky's "Interior" (1917). A threat to the contemplative tranquility of such domesticity is invoked by a glimpse of officers' daily routines portrayed in "In the Headquarters" (1916) by Rudolf Frents. A sense of coherence and wholeness, stemming from the lyric motifs of Art Nouveau, is in evidence in female portrayals by Konstantin Somov, Alexander Savinov, and Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin. Predicated on the cult of poetry and eternal femininity as well as Art Nouveau's tendency to appropriate the past and creatively combine it with the current reality, the works of these artists reintroduce these themes to the art of the 1900s-1910s, interpreting them from various perspectives – from the sensuous alluring motifs of antiquity in Petrov-Vodkin's "Bacchant" (1910) and Savinov's "Bather" (1909–1911) to somnambulistic languor in the spirit of Quattrocento, poeticized by Symbolists in Somov's "Head of Model with her Eyes Closed" (1915) and serene, contemplative moods characteristic of elegant female contemporaries of the artists (depicted in Somov's graphic sketch and Savinov's painted portraits).

To conclude this introduction to "Art Nouveau – on the Way to Modernism", we would like to reiterate that it is designed to reveal the lyrical impulses in the art of the period from the 1900s to the early 1920s, the vivacity of which continued in the work of later Soviet artists. Olga Davydova
"Circle of Artists" (1926-1931) and Projects of "Thematic Painting"
Masters of high modernism – Kazimir Malevich, Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, and Pavel Filonov – channeled their efforts into creating proper artistic schools, which after the revolutions, in a way became order systems for a new art. The formation of their disciples took place in a totally different environment characterized by governmental control of culture. Searching for the common ground in Suprematism, Cezannism and Constructivism they were obliged to reconcile these means with the ideological demands of the time.

In 1926 eighteen alumni from Petrov-Vodkin's workshop, led by Vyacheslav Pakulin and Alexander Pakhomov, established a group titled "Circle of Artists". The group's aims and ambitions were close to those of Moscow's "Association of Easel Painters" (1925-1931). These two associations shared an interest in monumental art and a commitment to lay new foundations for contemporary painting.

The members of "Circle of Artists" considered the creation of the style of their time a dynamic and conflictual process – the artists regularly gathered together to dispute and criticize each other's work. This in large part allowed them to preserve the diversity of styles within the group. Drawing on St Petersburg's Neoclassicism following Vodkin, they at the same time ventured into various trends available to them, including Renaissance and Russian icon painting. In the late 1920s the group's head Vyacheslav Pakulin espoused Cubo-Futurism and the Neo-Archaic Style proclaiming "heroic realism" to be the most recent and pathbreaking art movement. This is exemplified in Alexander Pakhomov's "Rising Woman" (1928): a symbol of freedom from oppression is embodied in a solid and concise form.

Typical of the group's early output is Tatiana Kupervasser's "On the Street. Tramway" (1925-1926). A Leningrad worker wearing a blue blouse is shown against an upended cityscape which is reminiscent of an Expressionist setting. The doleful face of the model and the nuanced translucent and cool color palette indicate the influence of Art Nouveau. In opposition to this is the example of Petr Osolodkov's "Young Woman" (1920-30s). The broad vivid handling of paint contrasts with the strenuous pose of the model who is depicted deep in thought – the artist appears to have attained a balance between sketch and finished piece. The same vacillation coupled with an interest in decorativeness is manifested in "Construction of Tract" (1930) – Victor Proshkin and Victoria Belakovskaya's series of small-format works, approaching the esthetic of Post-Suprematism.

Having endured allegations of formalism, in the early 1930s Pakulin turned to Neo- Romanticism. His "In a Foundry" (1929–1932) features the figures of workers glimmering with rose- and gold-tinted light. This work was shown at the first exhibition of the Leningrad artists, held in 1935 in the Russian Museum, but remains little understood: in the 1930s it was criticized for excessive lyricism in the depiction of labor and in the 1970s for the ideological bias of its theme. Nadia Plungian

New Leningrad: Thirties Heroes in the Cityscape
By 1932, artistic associations in the USSR were banned. They were replaced by the party-controlled Union of Artists which was created as a platform for developing Socialist Realism. Amongst novelties introduced by the Union was the practice of sending artists on "educational creative trips" during which they were required to portray socialist construction. The canvases resulting from these trips were meant not only to depict territorial development and expanding production but also to illustrate "socialist reality". The disputes around what this "reality" should look like were also resolved by the party.

In the art of the 1930s the city was one of the central subjects through which "Soviet reality" was portrayed. At the time when the first five-year plan was completed and the second was about to be implemented the Leningrad style acquired its characteristic recognizable features. The stern silhouette of the Petersburg of the 1900s and the rebellious Petrograd of the revolutions and the First World War, inhabited by the figures of the New Economic Policy, were a thing of the past. Leningrad's flair reveals itself in the depiction of public spaces – parks, boating stations, industrial landscapes, views of railways, factories and waste lands. Recurring motifs included new types of buildings, factory-kitchens and house-communes. An interior is featured in Petr Lvov's "Factory-kitchen of Kirovsky District" (1930s).

Most works presented in this hall were created in the early-mid 1930s by the former members of "Circle of Artists". Despite the diversity of styles they share a vividness of perception and lyricism – features uncommon for conventional ostentatious displays of cityscape. In Vladimir Grinberg, Alexander Rusakov and Alexey Pochtenny's small-format paintings rendered in a sketchy manner, the pulsation of the social realities of that time can be sensed, and in Pelagia Shuriga's sculptural portraits the solemnness of form is unexpectedly combined with intimacy. Nadia Plungian

Legacy of Suprematism and "Group of Painterly-Plastic Realism"
In 1919 the Museum of Artistic Culture was founded in Petrograd by the decree of the Council of People's Commissars. Later it was transformed into the State Institute of Artistic Culture. Led by Malevich, several departments of the institute studied issues related to art methodology. One of the institute's pioneering directions was analysis of the structure of modernist painting which consisted of identifying the "additional element" in painting and a corresponding characteristic color palette for each of the modernist movements. The institute was also attended by representatives of other movements such as members of "Circle of Artists" Fedor Zaryanov and Victor Proshkin, a future artist of the Detgiz publishing house Yury Vasnetsov, and landscape painter Nikolay Emelyanov.

Eventually the regime came to consider the independence of the institute politically threatening. In 1926, following a critical article titled "Publicly Funded Monastery", the institute was disbanded and merged with the Leningrad Institute of Art History as part of which it functioned until 1930 when Malevich was arrested on charges of espionage and relieved of his duties. Some of the former members of the institute formed the "Group of Painterly-Plastic Realism" association. Trying to keep a low profile and avoiding declaring their intentions publicly they gathered at the apartment of Vera Ermolaeva, who along with Malevich was one the leaders of the organization UNOVIS (Creators of the New Art). Following Kirov's murder (1934) the group members were prosecuted on fabricated charges of anti-Soviet activity and subsequently arrested. Vera Ermolaeva was executed by firing squad; many of the group members abandoned painting.

In their work the group endeavored to anticipate the next phase of the development of formal means in the art of the 20th century by amalgamating the "new realisms" of the 1930s with Suprematist handling of form. Their quest had much in common with numerous versions of European modernism from Italian metaphysical painting to Surrealism. In Vera Ermolaeva's work of the 1930s, the geometric rigidness of the world of objects characteristic of the previous decade gave way to the biomorphic blurriness of contours. Drawing on Fauvist findings, Maria Kazanskaya was working towards an open composition by articulating the subject with color strokes and lines in a light-filled sea. In contrast, Rozhdestvensky modeled form by dense patches and smears of intense colors. Krimmer and Emelyanov adhered to Suprematist form while enriching it with a masterfully orchestrated symphony of bright colors, thus making the surface appear a matter of interest in its own right. The artists from Ermolaeva's orbit are distinguished by the multitude of interpretations embedded in their works – in each piece the problem of form is given various turns, each yielding unexpected results. Nadia Plungian
"Masters of Analytical Art" and Post-Suprematism. Graphic Arts
In parallel with the work of the association led by Ermolaeva, Pavel Filonov held meetings of a group of his disciples named "Masters of Analytical Art" in his workshop in Leningrad. Filonov kept a diary of their work. The group persisted until Folonov's death in 1941 despite having endured an internal split and severe pressure from the authorities – both sons of Filonov's wife Ekaterina Serebryakova were arrested and executed by firing squad; a bright member of the group Vasily Kuptsov committed suicide; the workshop of sculptor Innokenty Suvorov was wrecked.

Against all odds some of Filonov's disciples such as Pavel Zaltsman and Praskovya Vazhnova continued to work in the vein of the Analytical Art until the 1970s. They persistently followed the main principles of constructing form introduced by Filonov – painting with minute dots on areas of varying scale, compressed and timeless narration, the specificity of details and the irreality of compositions – which were predicated on Filonov's observations of form and perspective. These observations are similar to the ideas of non-Euclidian space that were popular among Russian artists in the early 20th century and appear for example in Petrov-Vodkin's theory of "spherical perspective" or Matushin's approach of "extended viewing".

In this hall Filonov's works are presented alongside late works of employees of the State Institute of Artistic Culture. Amongst them are Konstantin Rozhdestvensky's variations on still lifes produced as a member of Ermolaeva's group and examples of Efim Royak's painting-collages from improvised materials – a vein he persistently developed throughout his career. For both Post-Suprematists and Filonovists, graphic art remained a platform for learning and experimentation, which they used for elaborating on various phases of a formal approach or testing the principles of modeling form.

Despite the fact that the output of the prewar modernists produced in the late Soviet period is not conventionally considered unofficial art, the drawings from the 1960s to the 1980s presented in his hall were created for experimental purposes, were not designed for exhibitions and at times were not even shown to close friends. Filonov's and Malevich's disciples took shelter in the politically-safe niche of decorative applied arts. Praskovia Vazhnova produced textile designs. Pavel Zaltsman worked as an art director at the Kazakhfilm film studio. Konstantin Rozhdestvensky garnered an outstanding reputation as an exhibition designer. Efim Royak worked as an architect and glass designer creating lamps for the Moscow metro. Nadia Plungian
Images of Youth Turning to "Triumphal Aesthetics"
By the mid-1920s the theme of childhood and youth was subjected to the "rigorous control of the party". In 1924, following the establishment of the All-Union Pioneer Organization, the 8th Congress of the Party approved a resolution aimed at developing children's literature of a truly Soviet type and the State Publishing House (Gosizdat) set up its children's publishing arms in both Moscow and Leningrad. The Leningrad arm was headed by Samuil Marshak and Vladimir Lebedev. They launched a novel strand of children's "technical books" or "books about things", based on the principles of visual informativeness, functionality, and synthesis of text and image. These books had a clear social function which consisted in forming the worldview of Soviet children, treating them as full members of the new society.

The Detgiz output familiarized children with the realities of the contemporary city, the industrial world, science, history and the policies of the party, which by the early 1930s increasingly encroached on people's lives. Formal experiments were superseded by ideological education. Children's books and magazines acquainted its readers with the goals of the international pioneer movement, the fight against capitalism and frequently featured articles about Stalin, Lenin and Kirov. In 1936 the "Pravda" newspaper published a deprecatory article titled "On Artists as Smearers", which criticized Lebedev and Konashevich and heralded the repressive campaign against the Leningrad arm of Detgiz. From this point on, a grand totalitarian style came to dominate children's literature. The genre of documentary story, where the child was represented as a self-contained active hero, gave way to the moralistic novel. This is where the generalized figure of the Soviet school-child came in – a symbol of innocence, a tabula rasa, no more than an ornamental element in the pantheon of Stalin's heroes which also included such figures as the member of Komsomol (the Young Communist League), the mother-hero, or the soldier.

An attempt to preserve the traditions of Lebedev's school in the new environment was made by Alexander Samokhvalov and Alexey Pakhomov, who during their time in "Circle of Artists" showed an interest in the monumental image. From the early 1930s Pakhomov worked intensively on the theme of the children's ensemble and created several series of drawings and lithographs based on his trips to Crimea and the Artek pioneer camps. Their rigid, rhythmical structure and tendency towards uniting separate figures into one form are reminiscent of fresco. His next step was a panel, "Children of the Soviet Nation", for the Soviet pavilion at the International Exhibition in Paris (1937). In this hall Pakhomov's graphic works are presented alongside a late sculpture by Alexander Samokhvalov which is based on his famous painting "Girl in a Soccer Shirt" (1932), produced during his time in "Circle of Artists". These were united by the endeavor to turn something vivid and moving into a frozen monumental form, which resonated with the increasing interest in antiquity and Neoclassicism witnessed in European modernism in the 1930-40s. Nadia Plungian
"Four Arts" – away from Industrialization

"Four Arts" (1924–1931) was, if not the largest, the most tightly-knit artistic group of the prewar period. Amongst its leaders were the founders of "Blue Rose" and its title was to reflect a monumental synthesis of painting, sculpture, architecture and music – the notion of cross-form synthesis already considered important in the epoch of Art Nouveau.

"Four Arts" operated as an independent platform which brought together the best artists from Moscow and Leningrad. In 1928 the association held an exhibition in the Russian Museum featuring Alexey Karyov, Vladimir Lebedev, Petr Lvov, Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin and Nikolay Tyrsa. In response to the party's demand for a form of realism that would portray "Soviet reality", "Four Arts" stated in their declaration of 1929 that "the subject is a mere pretext for transforming material into an artistic form". Unsurprisingly, this statement incited allegations of formalism, bourgeois tendencies and social inertia. In 1931 the group declared its voluntary dissolution.

Whereas the Moscow members of "Four Arts" channeled their efforts into monumental art which included decorating city façades and interiors and painting ceiling lamps, their Leningrad counterparts turned to easel painting, drawing and printing arts. Following the members of "World of Art", they were drawn to intimate daily-life scenes and cherished aesthetics devoid of Soviet tropes. At the same time, delicate, lyrical painting by Nikolay Tyrsa and Vladimir Lebedev emerged as a modernist synthesis of several historical styles fusing features of the Salon painting of the late 19th century with late Impressionism marked by bold colors characteristic of Matisse and Duffy.

The last echoes of St Petersburg's early 20th century aestheticism can be discovered in the Soviet art of the 1940s-1950s. Nikolay Dormidontov's drawing, "Leningrad after Breaking the Blockade", is reminiscent of Piranesi's ruins, particularly in terms of its sculpture-like depiction of people. Yury Vasnetsov's fairy-tale paintings bear similarity to decorative panels of the Art Nouveau and Symbolist epoch. Nadia Plungian
Leningrad Landscape School
The 1930s saw a group of artists working outside the confines of Socialist Realism whose output can be brought together under the umbrella of the Leningrad Landscape School. What unites them is a stylistic affinity between their works, their communication within a circle of like-minded people which resulted in mutual influence, the genre of landscape painting, and Leningrad as a common subject. The influence of French art on the group can be inferred from its naming after a place (it reminds us of Ecole de Fontainebleau, the School of Paris, not to mention the Barbizon School). Adhering to the principles of the art of the 1930s with its tendency to draw on tradition, the artists showed obstinacy in their very choice of which models to follow. Despite the fact that in 1934, masters of Soviet art jubilantly welcomed Albert Marquet during his three weeks travelling across the USSR (Vladimir Grinberg was his guide in Leningrad), "idea-less landscapes" similar to Marquet's were frequently subject to criticism in publications and during creative discussions. Today, intimate small-format cityscapes by Nikolay Lapshin, Alexander Vedernikov, Vladimir Grinberg as well as by other school members such as Alexey Uspensky and Nikolay Tyrsa appear as silent opposition to the state's appeal to artists to illuminate the achievements of five-year plans for the development of the national economy of the USSR. Within the Leningrad Landscape School individual voices can be discerned – Grinberg is distinguished by his interest in Primitivism, Lapshin by introducing modern compositional methods used in photography and video into painting, whereas characteristic of Vedernikov are compositions dominated by large fields of color and underpinned by the influence of Art Nouveau. Alexander Rusakov, Alexey Pochtenny, Victor Proshkin and Nikolay Emelyanov are considered late representatives of the school who matured as artists in the 1920s under the influence of Alexey Karyov, who previously taught in the Academy of Arts, and their more experienced colleagues.

It was the "Spring exhibition" held in the Russian Museum in 1935 that drew critics' attention to the Leningrad Landscape School which was then described as a "distinctive group of painters" whose work stood out among Soviet painting akin to "poetry among other genres of literature". However amid the turmoil of the time the school acquired only limited recognition due to the absence of opportunities to show their works to wider audiences. This was mentioned with bitterness by Nikolay Punin who discovered Grinberg only in 1946 at his solo exhibition which was organized posthumously. The death of the majority of the school's masters during the Siege of Leningrad and the fight against cosmopolitanism and formal experiments in the following years led to the gradual waning of the school. However its influence can be traced in the output of such groups as the "Order of Begging Artists" and "Mitki", and artists including Vladimir Vetrogonsky and Alexander Shevchenko. Alexandra Strukova
Alexander Rusakov
Although Alexander Isaakovich Rusakov (1898-1952) is closely identified with "Circle of Artists" and the Leningrad Landscape School his painting aspirations expanded much further beyond these orbits. The development of the Leningrad artists in the 1930s-1950s is usually described in terms of their evolution from grand narrative painting on socially significant themes to a more intimate genre of landscape. Rusakov progressed in the opposite direction. Although in "Circle of Artists" he pioneered a novel strand of narrative painting, these works had little in common with the genre of "Soviet fresco" – Rusakov deliberately rendered them in a sketchy manner. At the same time, he handled the intimate genres of still life and landscape in the spirit of the Grand Style or panel painting. He achieved lightness and expressiveness while keeping technical devices to a minimum. In a similar vein to the Symbolists of the 1900s he would articulate form by combining the line with shaded expanses of color. In these works a sea of paint of complex, intense colors infuses the painting's simplified perspective and the straightened lines that form the outline of the subject's geometric frame.

Following his studies at E.N. Zvantseva's school as a teenager, Rusakov enrolled in VKhUTEIN where his teachers were masters of the late 19th century – Osip Braz and Dmitry Kardovsky. Subjected to these influences Rusakov's first efforts in art involved comprehending Academism, Art Nouveau, and Neo-Classicism and adapting them to his own ends, which distinguished him from the majority of the "Circle of Artists" members who adopted an accomplished approach learned from Petrov-Vodkin's workshop. Preserving independence from the government, Rusakov almost never exhibited his painting and, engrossed in work, led the life of a recluse. Rusakov's studio, which also served as a source of inspiration for the artist, was set up in an apartment on Bolshoy Prospect of Petrograd Side. In these spacious rooms of the Art Nouveau epoch, which had belonged to his family since before the revolution, Rusakov lived together with his wife, the artist Tatiana Kupervasser, through the reallocation of living space and the Siege of Leningrad. In the 1920s, meetings of "Circle of Artists" were held there and in the following years it served as a gathering place for the members of the Leningrad Landscape School. Parts of his home's interior and the view from the window, which remain almost unchanged to this day, are featured in many of his paintings that were created in the period from the 1930s to the 1950s and have since become part of modernist myth, much in the same way as settings that recur in Matisse's and Duncan Grant's interior paintings have done.

Unlike other members of "Circle of Artists" Rusakov didn't leave any memoires or theoretical texts. Drawn to technical aspects of painting, he developed his own compositions of primer which prevented colors from growing faint over time. His work process can be reconstructed through sketches of landscapes in notebooks and photo-sketches. Although most of Rusakov's works were painted on the spot there were some he would paint from memory rendering impressions from what he saw in the past. Rusakov preferred to work in series and frequently painted views of the Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure, Sestroretsk and Petrograd Side en plein air or from memory, showing almost no interest in classic Petersburg views. In the 1930s – 1940s he created a series of portraits of his close friends, Leningrad artists, which preserved for history the faces of unofficial art. These included Boris Ermolaev, Alexander Vedernikov, and Nikolay Emelyanov – a "marquist" (as Albert Marque's followers were jokingly called as opposed to the similar-sounding "Marxist") who was executed by firing squad, portrayed in glasses wearing a second-hand half-length fur coat.

In the mid-1920s within the orbit of "Circle of Artists" there were many artistic couples – Victor Proshkin and Victoria Belakovskaya, Valentin Kurdov and Gerta Nemenova, Alexander Matveev and Zoya Matveeva-Mostova, Vladimir and Sarra Lebedev. The couple of Alexander Rusakov and Tatiana Kupervasser was also that of creative equals. Sharing with Rusakov's output an embeddedness in Symbolism, Kupervasser's work features much less of the geometric, showing a more overt affinity to Art Deco. Her large-format works, for example the "Religion – Opium for the Masses" series (1920s), reveal an interest in archaic aesthetics – dynamic figures appear as compact solid volumes. Nadia Plungian
Alexander Vedernikov
Alexander Semenovich Vedernikov (1898–1975) considered the source of his artistic impulse to lie in his childhood, which he spent among the craftsmen of the village of Gorodets in the Novgorod Province on the Volga. His training with numerous tutors (a common practice in the 1920s) including A. Kuprin, A Fonvisin at the Nizhegorod art secondary school and O. Braz and A. Karyov in VKhUTEIN (Leningrad Higher Art and Technical Institute, former Academy of Arts) as well as his participation in Pavel Filonov's group "Masters of Analytical Art" made Vedernikov an advocate of considered formal compositions, but he was no imitative epigone of his tutors.

Far more important was his acquaintance with Nikolay Lapshin who not only introduced Vedernikov to a circle of artists and friends in the early 1930s, but also reinforced Vedernikov's interest in landscape painting and drew him to Albert Marquet's work. Vedernikov's distinctive style revealed itself in full force in his Leningrad landscapes of the 1930s. Characteristic of these works are lyricism and contemplativeness, the effect of a frozen image, and a love for depiction of static water and reflections in it – features that indicate an affinity to the Saratov school. The immediacy and freshness of Vedernikov's expressive and considered compositions inspired his colleagues and became a point of reference for the Leningrad Landscape School. Vedernikov's paintings and sculptures, produced following his stay in native Gorodets where he was evacuated after surviving the Siege of Leningrad, display a more overt fusion of French tendencies with the folk art of Nizhny Novgorod, anticipating the interest of artists of the 1960s in Dymkovo toys, Gorodets painting and other folk arts. From the late 1940s he worked in the lithograph workshop of the Leningrad Union of Soviet Artists, where he produced more than 500 graphic pieces. In the spirit of Soviet modernism, Vedernikov turned with fresh vigor to the legacy of the idols of his youth – Picasso, Matisse and Miró. Alexandra Strukova
Vladimir Grinberg
Vladimir Arievich Grinberg (1896–1942) started working as an artist in Rostov-on-Don. He absorbed a variety of stylistic influences – from Peredvizhniks and Academicism to the then-fashionable style of Art Nouveau – with which he acquainted himself through exhibitions organized by the Rostov-Nakhichevansky-on-Don Association of Fine Arts as well as magazine articles. Having moved to Petrograd in 1915 he studied in the "New Workshop" established by Princess M.D. Gagarina. Despite the fact that amongst the workshop's tutors were members of the "World of Art" group, it was Alexander Yakovlev who had a formative influence on Grinberg. Yakovlev taught the principles of drawing that he learned from Dmitry Kardovsky and that go back to Anton Ažbe's school in Munich. Preliminary analysis of the subject, the ability to determine the overall form of the whole and consideration of material became the three bases not only for Grinberg's numerous charcoal and sanguine drawings rendered in Neo-Academic style in the second half of the 1910s but also for all his subsequent work. Nikolay Punin referred to him as an "artist of intelligence" (at a memorial evening to Grinberg in 1946) alluding to his penchant for analysis and his ability to apply the expressive means of painting in the most appropriate way. While working on his series of still lifes from the 1920s and early 1930s, Grinberg was studying the output of old masters, including Chardin, in the Hermitage. The artist was drawn to the possibilities of black color. Following experiments with asphalt he made frequent use of a dark-colored undercoat and at times would paint on black buckram instead of canvas. Dark primer is characteristic of folk crafts produced in cities, such as signs and outdoor advertisements, and the output of Naïve artists, for example Nikolay Pirosmanishvili, whose exhibition held in 1930 in the Russian Museum produced a tremendous impression on the Leningrad artists. The interest in Naïve art with its brute yet expressive visual language marked Grinberg's landscapes and genre scenes of the early 1930s. As opposed to the members of the Moscow group NOZh, he was focused purely on painting tools and showed little interest in stylization or describing the life of the petty bourgeoisie with a clunky language adopted from folk artists.

In 1934 Grinberg created a series dedicated to a new phase of the construction of Leningrad featuring constructivist factory-kitchens, schools, residential areas, and the paving of streets. The light color palette characteristic of his painting from the 1930s was replaced by dusky night scenes. Maintaining his thoughtful approach, in these works he plays down certain elements in order to bring out others. The simplification of form (attained for example by the depiction of houses as cubes) allows for a certain distinctness and clarity of space in his landscapes. His agitated sketchy brushstrokes deftly define the subject, bringing out the intensity and rhythm of the brushwork. Although figures in landscapes and genre scenes are sketchy they display all the necessary qualities – shown incorporated in the picture plane they appear to be moving, with their silhouettes suggesting the look of the archetypal 1930s man.

The quest for a pure form was continued in a series of portrait-formulas on which he worked in parallel with painting individual portraits of artists, architects, writers, his wife Vera Wolf, and himself. His contemporaries mentioned that models in his works could be instantly recognizable even from a great distance. The portraits of Daniil Kharms and Lapshin (both in the collection of the State Museum of the History of St Petersburg) as well as that of Vedernikov (State Tretyakov Gallery) were created in peacetime not long before Grinberg's death during the Siege of Leningrad. They conclude the history of the artistic community, the loss of which, as well as the loss of the "intimacy of artistic life", Nikolay Lapshin lamented in his memoires of 1941. Alexandra Strukova
Experimental Printing Workshop of the Leningrad Union of Soviet Artists
1933 saw the opening of the Experimental Printing Workshop, initially dubbed "graphic laboratory", at the graphic department of the Leningrad Union of Soviet Artists. The initiative aimed to familiarize artists with modern printing processes which would allow them to control their output at each stage: from a drawing on a plate to the resultant impression. The in-depth study of printing techniques gradually led to the flourishing of lithography. The possibility of combining painting and graphic methods and creating mass-produced artworks available for everyone attracted Nikolay Tyrsa, who became not only a practitioner in this area but also wrote theoretical papers on lithography. His novel wash technique which allowed watercolor effects in lithography was widely spread among artists of the younger generation. The light-infused "Katusha" by Lidya Timoshenko and David Zagoskin's "Rink", where the image appears as though wrapped in colored gauzy haze, were rendered with the use of this technique.

After the war the output of the workshop began receiving attention again and was acknowledged as a separate artistic movement in its own right thanks to Eric Estorick, the founder of Grosvenor Gallery. In 1961 an exhibition titled "Lithographs of 27 Soviet Artists", successfully held by Estorick in New York and London, placed the output of the Leningrad artists in the context of European modernism. Estorick's interest in these artists was hardly accidental. Although it is commonly accepted that the revival of printing arts in Europe occurred after the war when it was taken up by Mark Chagall, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and others, it is in England where a distinct school of experimental lithography developed before the war had started. Bearing similarity to the Leningrad Experimental Printing Workshop it featured such artists as Eric Ravilious, Paul Nash, and John Piper.

The Leningrad workshop brought together outstanding graphic artists who embraced new techniques with craftsmanship and creativity. One cannot help but be dazzled by Vladimir Konashevich's ornamental fantasies, linear, crisp sketches by Georgy Vereisky who sometimes would draw from life directly onto stone, Ermolaev's light-filled street scenes with grotesque undertones and Alexander Vedernikov's bold modernist works in the style of popular prints. Special mention should be made of Yury Vasnetsov's late lithograph "Composition with Checkerboard" (1972) which interprets the counter-reliefs of the 1920s. Nadia Plungian
Leningrad Modernism. Graphic Arts
Petersburg-Petrograd-Leningrad's reputation as the center of Russian graphic arts traces back to a two-century-long tradition of the Academy of Arts. From the early 20th century private arts schools such as Princess M.D. Gagarina's drawing school, E. N. Zvantseva's school, and the Baron Alexander von Stieglitz's School of Technical Drawing operated along with the Academy. The new phase of the Leningrad style took shape in the works of the "World of Art" masters, who developed an array of printing techniques straddling both modernist and Symbolist traditions.

The revision of Academia's methods caused techniques in drawing to flourish. The period of the 1900s – 1920s encapsulated a variety of movements from Neo-Classicism and Historicism featured in works of artists within the orbit of Vasily Shukhaev and Alexander Yakovlev to contemporary forms of decorative Cubism, Neo-Romanticism, documentary and satirical graphic art.

Ten years after the revolution most graphic genres such as book covers, illustration, ex libris, posters and industrial graphic arts were institutionalized through regular exhibitions and a publishing program organized and supported by the government. During this period two generations of artists were actively involved in cultural production. Many of the former "World of Art" members held key positions in this system. Elizaveta Kruglikova headed the school of monotype that she established earlier. Dmitry Mitrokhin, Vladimir Voinov and Georgy Vereisky invested their efforts in disseminating the techniques of dry point, wood engraving and lithography. During this time representatives of modernist movements – artists of the Detgiz publishing house within Vladimir Lebedev's orbit, the "Masters of Analytical Art" group, disciples of Malevich and Ermolaeva, members of "Circle of Artists" and the Leningrad Landscape School – were also based in Leningrad. Within Leningrad culture free variations of Art Deco by members of the Moscow group of graphic artists "13" and amateur artists – actress Olga Gildebrandt and writer Yury Yurkun, deserve special mention. In 1933 the Experimental Printing Workshop of the Leningrad Union of Soviet Artists was opened.

Overshadowed by "Thematic Painting", Soviet graphic art operated for years as a platform for experimentation under the radar of the government, where many of the discoveries of the early 20th century persisted and developed. The present succinct selection demonstrates the development of the graphic art of Leningrad modernism arranged in its own improvised chronological order which is indirectly consonant with the logic of the other exhibition halls. Nadia Plungian