The world of art movement

The world of art movement

The world of art movement

The world of art movement. In the history of Russian art, the late nineteenth century was a period of creative innovation and a fundamental restructuring of form. In the 1890s, a new chapter was opened in Russia’s visual arts by a generation of artists who radically revised almost the entire range of established tradition. Authorities that had seemed immutable were suddenly topped from their pedestals. The horizon of artistic creativity broadened, a new aesthetic emerged, a new art trends arose, all in striking contrast to what the earlier art movements of the nineteenth century had asserted. The re-evaluation of values led to cardinal changes in the interpretation and understanding of creative objectives and techniques.

Vsevolod Petrov. Photograph. 1970s

Vsevolod Petrov. Photograph. 1970s. The author of “The world of art movement” book

Before 1898
At the turn of the 1880s and 189s, a group of secondary-school boys, subsequently university students, gathered at the house of the architect Nikolai Benois, father of the two artists, Alexander and Albert Benois. It began as a club of several pupils studying at Karl Mai’s Gymnasium in St. Petersburg – notably Alexander Benois, Walter Nouvel, Konstantin Somov, and Dmitry Filosofov. In 1890, Benois and his friends set up a Society for Self-Education which arranged regular lectures on various subjects, discussed the latest books and magazines, and held musical evenings.

Boris Kustodiev. Group Portrait of the World of Art artists. Sketch. 1916-20. Oil on canvas. Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Boris Kustodiev. Group Portrait of the World of Art artists. Sketch. 1916-20. Oil on canvas. Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

In his recollections Alexander Benois wrote: “Full members of this society – the actual cradle of the World of Art – included beside myself, who was elected ‘president’, Walter Fyodorovich Nouvel, Dmitry Vladimirovich Filosofov, Lev Samoilovich Rosenberg, who in the following year took his grandfather’s name of Bakst, Grigory Yemelyanovich Kalin, Nikolai Vasilyevich Skalon…. Present, but not always, as auditors and elected shortly afterwards as ‘honorable members’ were Konstantin Andreyevich Somov, my childhood chum Valentin Alexandrovich Brune de St.Hyppolite, who subsequently disappeared from the scene, Evgeny Nikolayevich Fenou, Yuri Anatolyevich Mamontov, Nikolai Petrovich Cherimisinov, Dmitry Alexandrovich Pypin, and Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev…”

Alexander Benois. Frontispiece for the book My Recollections

Alexander Benois. Frontispiece for the book My Recollections

The very name, World of Art, was devised by this group long before the journal and the related exhibitions began. The lectures read dealt with the history of the visual arts in the West and in Russia (Benois and Bakst), literary problems (Kalin), music (Nouvel, with Diaghilev providing illustrative accompaniment), history (Filosofov), and religion (Skalon). The “society” existed in this form till 1891. But when Evgeny Lanceray , who was to become an artist, and Alfred Nurok, the future writer and art critic, joined the group in 1891-93, the issues of the day began to crowd out the interest in history and art. At the same time the idea arose of putting out a journal and arranging art shows, which, however, was not fated to be realized soon.

Alexander Benois in his study in St. Petersburg. 1910s

Alexander Benois in his study in St. Petersburg. 1910s

In 1893, Benois made his literary debut with a chapter on Russian artists for Richard Muther’s Geschichte der Malerei im XIX. Jahrhundert, while two years later Diaghilev published his first art reviews. In 1897, Diaghilev made his entrepreneurial debut, arranging an exhibition of English and German watercolorists, with one room devoted entirely to the portraits of the then highly popular German painter, Franz von Lenbach. He then organized an exhibition of Scandinavian art at which seventy odd artists of Sweden, Denmark, and Norway were represented. The success of these two shows, both of which were mounted in St. Petersburg, gave Diaghilev confidence and impelled him to undertake the daring initiatives that were to serve as the point of departure for the journal and exhibitions of the World of Art.

Leon Bakst. Portrait of Issac Levitan. 1899. In World of art, #6

Leon Bakst. Portrait of Issac Levitan. 1899. In World of art, #6

It was this man who proved able to translate into practical organizational terms all the urges and desires of the society’s members, that for years on end had gone no further than mere talk. “…What we lacked, though, was a ‘leader’’. Nothing would have come of it further, except a muddle, were everything confined to friendly chats, or even attempts to form a business-like association. Our personal qualities and temperaments were largely responsible. All we Petersburgians were spoilt, fastidious ‘lordlings’ or extremely impractical dreamers…”

Valentin Serov. Self-Portrait. 1901. Watercolor and India ink on paper. Art Museum, Odessa

Valentin Serov. Self-Portrait. 1901. Watercolor and India ink on paper. Art Museum, Odessa

Valentin Serov. Bathing the horse. 1905. Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Valentin Serov. Bathing the horse. 1905. Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Leon Bakst, Romulus Desmond and Konstantin Somov, 1908

Leon Bakst, Romulus Desmond and Konstantin Somov, 1908

Leon Bakst. Portrait of Alexander Benois. 1898. Watercolor and pastel on paper mounted on cardboard, Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Leon Bakst. Portrait of Alexander Benois. 1898. Watercolor and pastel on paper mounted on cardboard, Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Mikhail Vrubel. Portrait of Savva Mamontov, 1897

Mikhail Vrubel. Portrait of Savva Mamontov, 1897

Akseli Gallen-Kallela. Lamentation. 1897

Akseli Gallen-Kallela. Lamentation. 1897

Alexander Benois. The Bath of the Marquise, 1906. Gouache, pen and ink on cardboard. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Alexander Benois. The Bath of the Marquise, 1906. Gouache, pen and ink on cardboard. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Alexander Golovin. Portrait of the stage Director Vsevolod Meyerhold. 1917. Tempera on panel. Theater museum, St. Petersburg

Alexander Golovin. Portrait of the stage Director Vsevolod Meyerhold. 1917. Tempera on panel. Theater museum, St. Petersburg

Arnold Bocklin. Spring (The Song of Spring, Three Girls Singing)

Arnold Bocklin. Spring (The Song of Spring, Three Girls Singing)

Ida Rubinstein (seated center), Michel Fokine, Leon Bakst, and Olga Preobrajenska (standing at right) with latin singers at La scala, Milan. 1910s

Ida Rubinstein (seated center), Michel Fokine, Leon Bakst, and Olga Preobrajenska (standing at right) with latin singers at La scala, Milan. 1910s

Konstantin Somov. Portrait of Evgeny Lanceray. 1907. Lead pencil and crayons heightened with white on paper. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Konstantin Somov. Portrait of Evgeny Lanceray. 1907. Lead pencil and crayons heightened with white on paper. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Konstantin Somov. Portrait of the Poet Alexander Blok. 1907. Lead pencil, crayon, and gouache on paper. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Konstantin Somov. Portrait of the Poet Alexander Blok. 1907. Lead pencil, crayon, and gouache on paper. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Konstantin Somov. Self-portrait. 1898. Watercolor, lead pencil, and pastel heightened with white on paper mounted on cardboard. Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Konstantin Somov. Self-portrait. 1898. Watercolor, lead pencil, and pastel heightened with white on paper mounted on cardboard. Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Leon Bakst, Sergei Diaghilev, and Vaslav Nijinsky in Venice. 1912

Leon Bakst, Sergei Diaghilev, and Vaslav Nijinsky in Venice. 1912

Leon Bakst. 1900

Leon Bakst. 1900

Leon Bakst. Cover for the World of Art. 1901

Leon Bakst. Cover for the World of Art. 1901

Leon Bakst. Portrait of Alexander Golovin. 1908. Black chalk on paper. Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Leon Bakst. Portrait of Alexander Golovin. 1908. Black chalk on paper. Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Leon Bakst. Portrait of Sergei Diaghilev with His Nurse. 1906. Oil on canvas. Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Leon Bakst. Portrait of Sergei Diaghilev with His Nurse. 1906. Oil on canvas. Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Leon Bakst. Portrait of Walter Nouvel. 1895. Watercolor on paper mounted on cardboard, Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Leon Bakst. Portrait of Walter Nouvel. 1895. Watercolor on paper mounted on cardboard, Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Valentin Serov. Poprtrait of Pincess Olga Orlova. 1911. Oil on canvas. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Valentin Serov. Poprtrait of Pincess Olga Orlova. 1911. Oil on canvas. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Valentin Serov. Portrait of Fyodor Chaliapin. 1905

Valentin Serov. Portrait of Fyodor Chaliapin. 1905

Valentin Serov. Portrait of Leon Bakst. 1900s. India ink and gouache on paper mounted on cardboard. Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Valentin Serov. Portrait of Leon Bakst. 1900s. India ink and gouache on paper mounted on cardboard. Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

The annual meeting of the World of Art. Petrograd, 1914 (the image can be enlarged)

The annual meeting of the World of Art. Petrograd, 1914 (the image can be enlarged)

All images are scanned from the “The world of art movement” book.
«Мир искусства» Объединение русских художников начала XX века
Альбом (на английском языке)
Издательство «Аврора». Ленинград, 1991
Изд. «1043. (30-00)