Lectures: GRAD LECTURES IN RUSSIAN ART (GRAD Gallery, London; Nov 25 and Dec 2, 2015)


Origins of the Russian Avant-Garde by John Bowlt, 25 November; Issue of forgery of Russian Avant-Garde, 2 December.

The dramatic experiments in Russian art of the first half of 20th century constitute a primary contribution to the history of Modernism. The object of this cycle of lectures is to revisit these innovations and to place them in a comparative context — taking due account of concurrent philosophical doctrines, material culture, the literary and performing arts and socio-political change. We will look at the cultural as well as geographical boundaries of Russian art, and its contact with the developments in Western European art. Against the different political phases, we will examine and critically discuss the shifts in the cultural context as well as the development of different artistic movements in this most dramatic period in the history of Russian art.

25 November 2015

Presented by Professor John Bowlt
Followed by lubok masterclass and wine reception
6.30–8.30 pm
Entrance fee is £12 adults (£8 concessions) for each event or £20 for both (£14 concessions) when pre-booked together – limited places, pre-booking essential.
For tickets call +44 (0) 20 7637 7274 or purchase online

Building upon his previous engagement with GRAD, Professor John Bowlt from the University of Southern California will be presenting the first lecture in the new series of GRAD Lectures on Fine Art, followed by a lubok masterclass with art historian and print-maker Helen Higgins (Courtauld Institute of Art).

John Bowlt’s lecture will be dedicated to the question of the diverse origins of the Russian avant-garde, which at the beginning of the twentieth century united artists by a common mission to return to simple and organic forms, as well as a common desire to purify art. A growing interest in primitive art was a logical consequence of this phenomenon. The combination of European innovations and Russian national traditions became a distinctive feature of the brave works of these provocative artists. They soon became known as primitivists, since ‘primitivism implies a reaching out to sources at once new and ancient, the quest for a timeless world in order to redress the cultural balance.’ These artists, united by their interest in folk art and in city folklore, collected icons and popular prints called lubok. The masterclass will explore (with a practical demonstration) how this visual practice developed from the seventeenth century to its adoption by the Russian avant-garde, looking at changes in technique, from woodcut and hand-colouring to engraving and lino cut.

Professor John E. Bowlt is undoubtedly one of the greatest authorities on the history of Russian art in the West. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Order of Friendship from the Russian Federation for his promotion of Russian culture in the USA. He has written extensively on Russian visual culture, especially on the art of Symbolism and the avant-garde, and has curated or co-curated numerous exhibitions of Russian art.

Helen Higgins received her MA in the history of Russian Art at the Courtauld after reading Fine Art at university, where she specialised in printmaking and installation.

02 December 2015

Followed by discussion and wine reception
6.30–8.30 pm
Entrance fee is £12 adults (£8 concessions) for each event or £20 for both (£14 concessions) when pre-booked together – limited places, pre-booking essential.
For tickets call +44 (0) 20 7637 7274 or purchase online

This event will be dedicated to an extended case study of the art historical and technical analysis of the works of the Russian Avant-garde. The virtual absence of reliable artists’ catalogues raisonnés, complex access to archival documentation, murky provenance of hundreds of art works that were frequently smuggled to the West during the Cold War and lack of any standards in providing certificates of authenticity led to pandemic corruption and even to criminal proceedings against certain negligent experts.

The scientific and historical analysis of works of art is becoming an increasingly necessary part of the due diligence process. Leaders in the field, art historian Konstantin Akinsha and technical expert Nicholas Eastaugh will strive to explain why analysis matters. Their presentations will be followed by a lively discussion chaired by another leading authority on Russian Avant-garde in the West, the London collector and dealer, James Butterwick.

Konstantin Akinsha is a contributing editor for ARTnews magazine, New York, as well as a Research Fellow at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg. He has written a number of books and curated numerous exhibitions of Russian art including Russian Modernism. Cross-Currents of German and Russian Art, 1907–1917 at Neue Galerie, New York (May–August 2015).

Dr Nicholas Eastaugh is probably best known for providing the crucial scientific evidence that led to the prosecution of ‘forger of the century’ Wolfgang Beltracchi. Nick Eastaugh has worked in the field of art analysis for over two decades. His company, Art Analysis and Research, is the largest of its kind, not to mention one of the best-equipped.

James Butterwick began collecting and selling Russian Art in 1985 and has established himself as one of the world’s leading experts. He owns a gallery of Russian art in West London and provides expert advice on the issues of authenticity.

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