Russian Art and Architecture

The course of Russian art and architecture reflects the country’s contacts with, and isolation from, other traditions and cultures. Initially, when political life was centered around Kiev, BYZANTINE ART AND ARCHITECTURE provided the norms, but this tie was disrupted by the Mongol (Tatar) invasion (c.1240-1480).

Liberation from Mongol rule by the theocratic and semi-Asiatic rulers who resided in the KREMLIN palace in Moscow did not bring with it any close foreign connections, and Russia never experienced the European Renaissance. Beginning with the enforced Westernization under PETER I (r. 1682-1725), however, Russian artists and architects were strongly influenced by the European mainstream, going through periods of apprenticeship, lively participation, and withdrawal and making, often, seminal contributions.

Among the distinctive traits of Russian artistic expression have been exuberant color, rich ornamentation, asymmetry of form, and a taste for both literal representation and abstraction. Religious art, which reached its peak during the 1400s, predominated until the late 17th century.

The 19th-century realist movement developed into an inward-looking Russian nationalist school, consciously challenging Western style and content. This introspection, however, nurtured the creative outburst of the early 20th century, when the Russian avant-garde made pioneering contributions to modern Western art and architecture.

During the 1930s the Stalinization of culture imposed isolation, and the Russian realism of the preceding century served as the model for the obligatory official Soviet style, enforced through an elaborate network of state controls. The collapse of the Communist system and the disintegration of the USSR in 1991 gave Russian artists and architects new freedom of expression, association, and untrammeled contacts with the rest of the world.

Beginnings of Russian Art

Religious art began to flourish in Kievan Rus’ with the official conversion to Christianity in 988 . Because the new Orthodox faith came from Constantinople (now Istanbul), the capital of Eastern Christianity, the distinctive art of Byzantium–with its theocentric world view–served as the model.

The Cathedral of Saint Sophia (1018-37) in Kiev illustrates the initial pervasive influence. The original five-aisled rectangular brick church was topped by 13 squat domes. The cathedral was enormously enlarged in the 17th century to a nine-aisled church, with the exterior in Ukrainian baroque.

The interior of the original church remains, however; it was decorated by artists from Constantinople with superb mosaics that follow the customary Byzantine iconographic scheme. The most venerated painting in Russia, predating the Tatar invasion, was the icon The Virgin of Vladimir (late 11th to early 12th centuries; Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow), painted in Constantinople. The tender pose of the Madonna and Child set the model for countless Russian versions of the subject.

Religious art began to flourish in Kievan Rus’ with the official conversion to Christianity in 988 . Because the new Orthodox faith came from Constantinople (now Istanbul), the capital of Eastern Christianity, the distinctive art of Byzantium–with its theocentric world view–served as the model. The Cathedral of Saint Sophia (1018-37) in Kiev illustrates the initial pervasive influence.

The original five-aisled rectangular brick church was topped by 13 squat domes. The cathedral was enormously enlarged in the 17th century to a nine-aisled church, with the exterior in Ukrainian baroque.

The interior of the original church remains, however; it was decorated by artists from Constantinople with superb mosaics that follow the customary Byzantine iconographic scheme. The most venerated painting in Russia, predating the Tatar invasion, was the icon The Virgin of Vladimir (late 11th to early 12th centuries; Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow), painted in Constantinople. The tender pose of the Madonna and Child set the model for countless Russian versions of the subject.

Emergence of Russian Styles

Distinctive national traits evolved before the Mongol invasion in centers that were farther removed from Byzantine influence. The Cathedral of Saint Sophia (c.1045-62) in Novgorod is notable for the marked perpendicular elevation of its white stucco walls and the elongation of the five dome drums.

Inside, less costly frescoes replaced mosaic decoration. Height became even more pronounced in the cubical stone churches of the city of Vladimir, such as the Assumption (or Dormition) Cathedral (1185-89) and the Cathedral of Saint Dmitry (1193-97), the white stone facade of which is covered with rich floral and animal carvings.

Mongol rule put an end even to limited contacts with Byzantium, and local schools of icon painting, distinguished by the use of pure, bright colors, emerged in the northern cities of Novgorod and Pskov. Similarly the wooden architecture of the north contributed multifaceted surfaces and a multiplicity of gables and drums, as well as conical towers and characteristic onion-shaped domes.

Both of these forms were disseminated to Eastern and Central Europe, as far west as Bavaria. Exuberance of form and decoration, culminating in the fantastical multi-towered and polychromed Cathedral of Saint Basil in Moscow (1555-60), replaced the severity typical of earlier structures and predominated in Muscovite architecture through the 17th century.

The ICONOSTASIS–a tall altar screen composed of hierarchically ranged rows of icons–appeared in the 15th century. These screens added great splendor to church interiors, as did the large jeweled frames, developed in the 16th century, that often covered all but the faces of the icons. In painting the somber hues and static poses of the original Byzantine models evolved into luminous colors and graceful poses.

These features distinguish the work of three medieval masters: THEOPHANES THE GREEK, Andrei RUBLEV, and Dionysius (c.1440-c.1505). Icon painting declined after 1551, when a church council banned free composition and prescribed adherence to consecrated models. The 17th century is known for the mannered icons of Simon Ushakov (1626-86) and the intricate works of the Stroganov school–elaborately decorated icons for private worship.

Distinctive national traits evolved before the Mongol invasion in centers that were farther removed from Byzantine influence. The Cathedral of Saint Sophia (c.1045-62) in Novgorod is notable for the marked perpendicular elevation of its white stucco walls and the elongation of the five dome drums. Inside, less costly frescoes replaced mosaic decoration.

Height became even more pronounced in the cubical stone churches of the city of Vladimir, such as the Assumption (or Dormition) Cathedral (1185-89) and the Cathedral of Saint Dmitry (1193-97), the white stone facade of which is covered with rich floral and animal carvings.

Mongol rule put an end even to limited contacts with Byzantium, and local schools of icon painting, distinguished by the use of pure, bright colors, emerged in the northern cities of Novgorod and Pskov. Similarly the wooden architecture of the north contributed multifaceted surfaces and a multiplicity of gables and drums, as well as conical towers and characteristic onion-shaped domes.

Both of these forms were disseminated to Eastern and Central Europe, as far west as Bavaria. Exuberance of form and decoration, culminating in the fantastical multi-towered and polychromed Cathedral of Saint Basil in Moscow (1555-60), replaced the severity typical of earlier structures and predominated in Muscovite architecture through the 17th century.

The ICONOSTASIS–a tall altar screen composed of hierarchically ranged rows of icons–appeared in the 15th century. These screens added great splendor to church interiors, as did the large jeweled frames, developed in the 16th century, that often covered all but the faces of the icons.

In painting the somber hues and static poses of the original Byzantine models evolved into luminous colors and graceful poses. These features distinguish the work of three medieval masters: THEOPHANES THE GREEK, Andrei RUBLEV, and Dionysius (c.1440-c.1505).

Icon painting declined after 1551, when a church council banned free composition and prescribed adherence to consecrated models. The 17th century is known for the mannered icons of Simon Ushakov (1626-86) and the intricate works of the Stroganov school–elaborately decorated icons for private worship.

Westernization of Russian Culture

Peter the Great’s program of Westernization rapidly secularized Russian culture and forcefully suppressed the traditional Muscovite forms in art and architecture. At the start foreign masters and teachers transplanted Western models; in 1757 the founding of the Imperial Academy of Arts systematized the state’s approach to training, patronage, and officially favored modes of expression.

Unfamiliar forms first flourished in the construction of the new capital of Saint Petersburg (begun 1703), a spacious, grandiose city with an elaborate, carefully symmetrical plan that contrasts sharply with the crowded, chaotic, and spontaneous sprawl of Moscow. Under the Empress Elizabeth I (r. 1741-62), Peter’s restrained northern European baroque was replaced with an exuberant rococo.

The Italian architect Bartolommeo RASTRELLI was its primary proponent as designer of Saint Petersburg’s WINTER PALACE (1754-62), the palace (1749-56) at Tsarskoe Selo (now Pushkin), and the Smolny Cathedral (1748-55). Neoclassicism in the style of Robert ADAM came to dominate under Catherine the Great (r. 1762-96), after being introduced by the Scottish architect Charles CAMERON, in remodelings at Tsarskoe Selo (1780-85) and in the country palace (1782-86) at Pavlovsk.

The huge ensembles planned by Karl Rossi (1775-1849), the Winter Palace Square (1819-29), and the Aleksandr Theatre (1827-32), gave Saint Petersburg a neoclassical homogeneity. From the mid-18th century onward Russian architects became prominent: Matvei Kazakov (1733-1812) in his designs for the Kremlin Senate (1776-87) and Moscow University (1786-93); Vasili Bazhenov (1737-99) for the Pashkov House (1784-86) in Moscow; Ivan Starov (c.1743-1808) for the Tauride Palace (1783-88) in Saint Petersburg; and Andrei Voronikhin (1760-1814) for that city’s Kazan Cathedral (1801-11).

In painting, national talent also emerged in the mid-18th century. The work of Dmitry Levitsky (1735-1822) and Vladimir Borovikovsky (1757-1825), whose portraits mark the first achievements of Russia’s new art, shows full mastery of Western technique and conventions yet retains a local flavor.

Whether they painted royalty, as in Borovikovsky’s Portrait of Catherine the Great Walking in the Park at Tsarskoe Selo (1794; Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg), or young girls, as in Levitsky’s famous series of seven paintings (1773-76) of students at the Smolny Institute, their works radiate freshness and informality.

Peter the Great’s program of Westernization rapidly secularized Russian culture and forcefully suppressed the traditional Muscovite forms in art and architecture. At the start foreign masters and teachers transplanted Western models; in 1757 the founding of the Imperial Academy of Arts systematized the state’s approach to training, patronage, and officially favored modes of expression.

Unfamiliar forms first flourished in the construction of the new capital of Saint Petersburg (begun 1703), a spacious, grandiose city with an elaborate, carefully symmetrical plan that contrasts sharply with the crowded, chaotic, and spontaneous sprawl of Moscow. Under the Empress Elizabeth I (r. 1741-62), Peter’s restrained northern European baroque was replaced with an exuberant rococo.

The Italian architect Bartolommeo RASTRELLI was its primary proponent as designer of Saint Petersburg’s WINTER PALACE (1754-62), the palace (1749-56) at Tsarskoe Selo (now Pushkin), and the Smolny Cathedral (1748-55). Neoclassicism in the style of Robert ADAM came to dominate under Catherine the Great (r. 1762-96), after being introduced by the Scottish architect Charles CAMERON, in remodelings at Tsarskoe Selo (1780-85) and in the country palace (1782-86) at Pavlovsk.

The huge ensembles planned by Karl Rossi (1775-1849), the Winter Palace Square (1819-29), and the Aleksandr Theatre (1827-32), gave Saint Petersburg a neoclassical homogeneity. From the mid-18th century onward Russian architects became prominent: Matvei Kazakov (1733-1812) in his designs for the Kremlin Senate (1776-87) and Moscow University (1786-93); Vasili Bazhenov (1737-99) for the Pashkov House (1784-86) in Moscow; Ivan Starov (c.1743-1808) for the Tauride Palace (1783-88) in Saint Petersburg; and Andrei Voronikhin (1760-1814) for that city’s Kazan Cathedral (1801-11).

In painting, national talent also emerged in the mid-18th century. The work of Dmitry Levitsky (1735-1822) and Vladimir Borovikovsky (1757-1825), whose portraits mark the first achievements of Russia’s new art, shows full mastery of Western technique and conventions yet retains a local flavor.

Whether they painted royalty, as in Borovikovsky’s Portrait of Catherine the Great Walking in the Park at Tsarskoe Selo (1794; Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg), or young girls, as in Levitsky’s famous series of seven paintings (1773-76) of students at the Smolny Institute, their works radiate freshness and informality.

19th-Century Painting and Architecture

The high quality of Russian portraiture was maintained in the first half of the 19th century by two romantic painters: Orest Kiprensky (1782-1836) and Karl Briullov (1799-1852). Other genres also began to develop: Aleksei Venetsianov (1780-1847) started a school that specialized in idyllic peasant scenes; Pavel Fedotov (1815-52) pioneered in social satire; and Aleksandr Ivanov (1806-58) was an important religious painter.

Realism gave Russian painting a national idiom. Its development was spurred by the secession of 14 graduating students from the Academy of Arts in 1863 and the formation (1870) of an independent Association of Traveling Art Exhibits, whose members were called the Peredvizhniki, the Wanderers.

The emergence of middle-class collectors–among whom Pavel Tretyakov (1832-98), the founder of the first museum exclusively devoted to Russian painting, was the most prominent–gave the Association the necessary economic support. Freed of court patronage and the bureaucratic supervision of the Academy, the Wanderers joined the intelligentsia in the movement for reform and national renewal.

Ivan Kramskoi (1837-87), Ilya REPIN, and Vasili Perov (1833-82) excelled in the critical social genre that reflected the intellectuals’ quest for reform. Aleksei Savrasov (1830-97), Ivan Shishkin (1832-98), and Arkhip Kuindzhi (1842-1910) depicted the beauties of the Russian landscape; Vasily Vereshchagin (1842-1904) specialized in battle scenes; and Vasili Surikov (1848-1916) devoted himself to historical painting. Mikhail Nesterov (1862-1942) and Viktor Vasnetsov (1848-1926) added a religious and epic strain.

The development of a national style occurred earlier in architecture. Konstantin Ton (1794-1881) introduced 17th-century Muscovite ornamentation in civic structures and designed neo-Byzantine churches under Nicholas I (r. 1825-55). By the end of the century many private residences and public buildings, such as the Historical Museum (1878-83) in Moscow, were built in pseudo-Muscovite style, and churches were patterned on Russian medieval architecture, as is the Saint Vladimir Cathedral, Kiev (1876-82).

The high quality of Russian portraiture was maintained in the first half of the 19th century by two romantic painters: Orest Kiprensky (1782-1836) and Karl Briullov (1799-1852). Other genres also began to develop: Aleksei Venetsianov (1780-1847) started a school that specialized in idyllic peasant scenes; Pavel Fedotov (1815-52) pioneered in social satire; and Aleksandr Ivanov (1806-58) was an important religious painter.

Realism gave Russian painting a national idiom. Its development was spurred by the secession of 14 graduating students from the Academy of Arts in 1863 and the formation (1870) of an independent Association of Traveling Art Exhibits, whose members were called the Peredvizhniki, the Wanderers.

The emergence of middle-class collectors–among whom Pavel Tretyakov (1832-98), the founder of the first museum exclusively devoted to Russian painting, was the most prominent–gave the Association the necessary economic support. Freed of court patronage and the bureaucratic supervision of the Academy, the Wanderers joined the intelligentsia in the movement for reform and national renewal.

Ivan Kramskoi (1837-87), Ilya REPIN, and Vasili Perov (1833-82) excelled in the critical social genre that reflected the intellectuals’ quest for reform. Aleksei Savrasov (1830-97), Ivan Shishkin (1832-98), and Arkhip Kuindzhi (1842-1910) depicted the beauties of the Russian landscape; Vasily Vereshchagin (1842-1904) specialized in battle scenes; and Vasili Surikov (1848-1916) devoted himself to historical painting. Mikhail Nesterov (1862-1942) and Viktor Vasnetsov (1848-1926) added a religious and epic strain.

The development of a national style occurred earlier in architecture. Konstantin Ton (1794-1881) introduced 17th-century Muscovite ornamentation in civic structures and designed neo-Byzantine churches under Nicholas I (r. 1825-55).

By the end of the century many private residences and public buildings, such as the Historical Museum (1878-83) in Moscow, were built in pseudo-Muscovite style, and churches were patterned on Russian medieval architecture, as is the Saint Vladimir Cathedral, Kiev (1876-82).

Influence of New European Movements

About 1890 a reaction against the realists’ obsession with nationalistic subjects and socially useful art brought a resurgence of innovative painting that lasted into the 1920s. Isaak Levitan (1861-1900) turned to the outdoor (en plein air) painting of landscapes; Konstantin Korovin (1861-1939) and Valentin Serov (1865-1911) used the color discoveries of the impressionists; and Mikhail VRUBEL experimented with new decorative forms that incorporated symbolist and Art Nouveau elements.

Aleksandr BENOIS and Serge DIAGHILEV familiarized the Russian public with leading trends abroad through their magazine Mir Iskusstva (World of Art, 1898-1904) and their art exhibitions. They also showed Russian art (1906) in Paris and staged seasons of Russian ballet (beginning 1909) with exotic costume designs by Leon BAKST and other Russian painters.

The decade preceding World War I was one of a rapid succession of diverse movements. The symbolist Blue Rose movement, started in 1907, and the Cezannist Knave of Diamonds movement, started in 1910, opened the way for a new vanguard that was crucial for the development of modernism in both Russia and the West.

Natalia GONCHAROVA and Mikhail LARIONOV started as primitivists, relying on medieval icons and peasant prints (lubki), but by 1912 their work had evolved into the semiabstract RAYONISM, which was related to the CUBISM and FUTURISM of the West.

Wassily KANDINSKY painted his first nonrepresentational works about 1910; in 1913, Vladimir TATLIN created his first three-dimensional abstract structures; and Kasimir MALEVICH, who was a founder of SUPREMATISM, exhibited his rigorously abstract groupings of colors and shapes in 1915.

About 1890 a reaction against the realists’ obsession with nationalistic subjects and socially useful art brought a resurgence of innovative painting that lasted into the 1920s. Isaak Levitan (1861-1900) turned to the outdoor (en plein air) painting of landscapes; Konstantin Korovin (1861-1939) and Valentin Serov (1865-1911) used the color discoveries of the impressionists; and Mikhail VRUBEL experimented with new decorative forms that incorporated symbolist and Art Nouveau elements.

Aleksandr BENOIS and Serge DIAGHILEV familiarized the Russian public with leading trends abroad through their magazine Mir Iskusstva (World of Art, 1898-1904) and their art exhibitions. They also showed Russian art (1906) in Paris and staged seasons of Russian ballet (beginning 1909) with exotic costume designs by Leon BAKST and other Russian painters.

The decade preceding World War I was one of a rapid succession of diverse movements. The symbolist Blue Rose movement, started in 1907, and the Cezannist Knave of Diamonds movement, started in 1910, opened the way for a new vanguard that was crucial for the development of modernism in both Russia and the West.

Natalia GONCHAROVA and Mikhail LARIONOV started as primitivists, relying on medieval icons and peasant prints (lubki), but by 1912 their work had evolved into the semiabstract RAYONISM, which was related to the CUBISM and FUTURISM of the West.

Wassily KANDINSKY painted his first nonrepresentational works about 1910; in 1913, Vladimir TATLIN created his first three-dimensional abstract structures; and Kasimir MALEVICH, who was a founder of SUPREMATISM, exhibited his rigorously abstract groupings of colors and shapes in 1915.

Effects of the 1917 Revolution

The Bolshevik Revolution found support among the advocates of radical art forms, and for a few years innovative trends flourished even though Lenin and many other Bolshevik leaders had very conservative aesthetic tastes that favored 19th-century realism.

From 1917 to 1921 members of the avant-garde played prominent roles in the administration of culture and the creation of new art forms. Art was no longer confined to the easel and the studio but moved into the streets and into industrial design. Painters drew posters, mounted outdoor decorations for mass political events, and designed textiles, ceramics, books, interiors.

The Imperial Academy of Arts was replaced by a decentralized system of autonomous studios and theoretical institutes in which the pre-revolutionary vanguard was active. Kandinsky headed the Institute of Artistic Culture (Inkhuk); Chagall and Malevich ran an experimental art school in Vitebsk.

Architects also worked on creating a new environment. Inspired by the search for pure forms first inaugurated by painters, Konstantin Melnikov (1890-1974), Moisei Ginzburg (1892-1946), Ivan Leonidov (1902-59), and others pioneered the constructivist style    with their theoretical tracts and functional projects.

Many of their visionary designs for large housing developments–combining living quarters with communal and service buildings–and for cities with flexible zones and garden belts were never realized. Nevertheless, they revolutionized urban planning in the USSR.

Dominance of Official Art

Plurality in organizations and expression persisted after 1921 even though directive state patronage increasingly came to predominate. Many painters continued to innovate in mass media and the applied arts such as photography, cinema, theater, industrial design, and typography. Others returned to easel painting, a few carrying on their own highly individual, expressionist style, as did Pavel Filonov (1883-1941).

Some evolved an original neorealism–notably, Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin (1878-1939) and Aleksandr Deineka (1899-1969). A variety of artistic groupings formed and exhibited, while the Commissariat (Ministry) of Enlightenment under Anatoly Lunacharksy (1875-1933) tried to disburse funds and support impartially.

This diversity came to an end in 1932 when Stalin, to consolidate his power and engage everyone in the construction of socialism in one country, dissolved all existing artistic groupings and imposed monolithic, statewide professional unions on writers, painters, and architects. In 1934, SOCIALIST REALISM was promulgated by the Communist party as the single, official style.

In the pictorial field it took 19th-century Russian realism as the model. The contents of museums were purged of the Russian and Western vanguard to help enforce cultural isolation and the narrow politicization of art. Instruction and research in the history of art were similarly censored.

In architecture the state favored a pastiche of quasi-classical styles embellished with elements of national design. The Soviet Army Theater (1934-40), designed by K. Alabian, and the main ensemble of the State University (1949-53), designed by L. V. Rudnev–both in Moscow–are characteristic examples of the grandiose pomposity favored during the Stalinist period.

Post-Stalinist Changes

After 1953, developments in art paralleled to some extent the de-Stalinization in politics. During Nikita Khrushchev’s ascendancy (1954-64), pomposity in architecture was replaced by simpler, more standardized construction, especially evident in mass housing. The USSR opened up to the West and new, unfamiliar art was seen in Moscow in 1957 at the World Youth Festival and in 1959 at the American Exhibit.

The purged, early Soviet vanguard began to reappear selectively in museums, and censorship of art publications eased. As a result of exposure and greater creative freedom, unofficial art began to flourish alongside the officially promoted and supported activities, even though the government line persisted in criticizing modernism as a “bourgeois” deviation.

But during Leonid Brezhnev’s tenure (1964-82), the situation regressed and stagnated: several creative artists, notably the sculptor Ernst Neizvestny, emigrated, while dissident painters who staged an outdoor exhibit in a Moscow park in the fall of 1974 saw their works bulldozed.

Genuine plurality arrived in the Soviet Union only during the Gorbachev era (1985-91). His program of glasnost and perestroika (“openness” and “reconstruction”) permitted freedom of expression and creativity and breached the cultural isolation in which Soviet citizens had lived for nearly 50 years.

The introduction of free-market economic reforms put an end to the state’s monopoly of patronage. Artists first began to form cooperative and eventually private galleries to exhibit canvases in a variety of styles. Beginning with a Malevich show in 1988, museums held exhibits of painters whose works had been suppressed since the late 1920s.

Post-realist canvases by Russian and Western masters were reinstated in museums to their full glory. Uncensored publications supplied information about the full richness of the Russian and early Soviet art scene. An international auction of the early and contemporary Soviet vanguard, held in Moscow in July 1988 under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, put to an effective end the long-held dichotomy between official and unofficial art.

During the five years of Mikhail Gorbachev’s rule art ceased to be a political instrumentality and, as everywhere else, became to a large extent a commodity.

Post-Soviet Changes

The disintegration of the USSR in late 1991 into separate republics, tenuously reconstituted into the Commonwealth of Independent States, and the collapse of Communism as the official ideology that guided all aspects of cultural life, reinforced the burgeoning diversity that had emerged under Gorbachev.

The old administrative framework–the all-union academies of art and architecture, as well as the professional unions–has not been disbanded altogether, but by 1991 it had been broken up into separate and autonomous republican organizations. The former system of centralized state control over art instruction, professional training, patronage, and style is effectively over.

In the Russian Federation, as in the other former Soviet republics, freedom of artistic expression and association prevails. Artists attest to this new situation by painting in a bewildering variety of styles, ranging from the neo-primitivist and neo-nationalist trends to symbolism and abstraction.

With the introduction of a market economy the appearance of private patronage, and the freedom to travel abroad, the Russian artistic scene has lost most of its unique administrative and stylistic features. It has readily absorbed the aesthetic and economic trends that dominate the international art scene.

The disintegration of the USSR in late 1991 into separate republics, tenuously reconstituted into the Commonwealth of Independent States, and the collapse of Communism as the official ideology that guided all aspects of cultural life, reinforced the burgeoning diversity that had emerged under Gorbachev.

The old administrative framework–the all-union academies of art and architecture, as well as the professional unions–has not been disbanded altogether, but by 1991 it had been broken up into separate and autonomous republican organizations. The former system of centralized state control over art instruction, professional training, patronage, and style is effectively over.

In the Russian Federation, as in the other former Soviet republics, freedom of artistic expression and association prevails. Artists attest to this new situation by painting in a bewildering variety of styles, ranging from the neo-primitivist and neo-nationalist trends to symbolism and abstraction.

With the introduction of a market economy the appearance of private patronage, and the freedom to travel abroad, the Russian artistic scene has lost most of its unique administrative and stylistic features. It has readily absorbed the aesthetic and economic trends that dominate the international art scene.

Bibliography: Borisova, A., and Sternin, G., Russian Art Nouveau (1990); Bowlt, J., ed., Russian Art of the Avant-Garde: Theory and Criticism, 1902-34 (1988); Brumfield, W. C., Gold in Azure: One Thousand Years of Russian Architecture (1983) and The Origins of Modernism in Russian Architecture (1991); Cullerne Brown, M., Art under Stalin (1991); Gambrell, J., “Notes on the Underground” and “Perestroika Shock,” Art in America (Nov. 1988; Feb. 1989); Golomstock, I., and Glezer, A., Soviet Art in Exile (1977); Gray, C., The Russian Experiment in Art, 1863-1922 (1986); Hamilton, G. H., The Art and Architecture of Russia (1983); Kaganovich, K. and A., Arts of Russia, 2 vols. (1967); Kennedy, J., The “Mir Iskusstva” Group and Russian Art (1977); Lodder, C., Russian Constructivism (1983); Maxym, L., The History and Art of the Russian Icon (1986); Sarabianov, D. V., Russian Art: From Neo-Classicism to the Avant-Garde (1990); Shvidkovsky, O. A., ed., Building in the USSR, 1917-1932 (1971); Valkenier, E., Russian Realist Art, the State and Society (1989); Yabloskaya, M. N., Women Artists of Russia’s New Age, 1900-1935 (1990).

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