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From Russia with Love

During the February half-term holidays I was able (thanks to the generosity of my family) to sneak off to the From Russia exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

The exhibition contains paintings by French and Russian artists working between 1870 and 1925 and looks at the cultural cross-over between the two countries.  Central to the exhibition are the collections of the two Russians, Morosov and Shchukin, important men in pre-revolution Russia. 

Two of my own favourite works in this exhibition are by the Russian Nathan (or Natay) Altman.  He was 25 when he painted his beautiful blue and yellow picture of the poet Anna Akhmatova.  

Different websites show very different sides to Altman’s art.  Compare, for example, Tatiana Kofyan’s Russian Avant Garde  and Olga’s Gallery

After the Russian Revolution Altman chose to work within the system.  He is chiefly remembered for his political works.  In an editorial about the From Russia exhibition, the Royal Academy Magazine is critical of Altman’s life choices – suggesting that his art suffered as a result and that he never realized his potential.

Altman died in 1970 at the age of 81.  He may not be well-known in the west, but he did survive longer than many a more subversive citizen.  He was also Jewish.  How can we possibly judge which was the better personal choice for him.  All that is clear is that artists, poets and musicians of 20th century Russia had to face harder decisions than we are ever likely to know.

Tatiana Kofyan’s own art is well worth a look, by the way. 

One Comment

  1. wrote:

    I too saw this exhibition when I was visiting Edinburgh last year. I would love to obtain a poster of the painting. I only have a small postcard. I love the painting.Does anyone know where I may obtain one?

    Friday, December 4, 2009 at 1:11 am | Permalink

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