Monday, 26 February 2018

Boris Kustodiev, the Russian Theatre and the Fairground

A few days ago I visited the opening of the exhibition of Vsevolod Tarasevich   at the Photography Centre MAMM near Kropotkinskaya in Moscow. I have already blogged about this opening which can be viewed here. However there was an element in the exhibition which relates to The Fairground Booth project and is worth mentioning here. A parallel exhibition was taking place  of Boris Kustodiev - both his photographs and his paintings I was familiar with his paintings because they will feature in The fairground Booth film in the section which will explain the role of the Fairground in Russian Theatre.

The Russian Revolution of 1905, which shook the foundations of Russian society, evoked a vivid response in the artist's soul. He contributed to the satirical journals Zhupel (Bugbear) and Adskaya Pochta (Hell’s Mail). At that time, he first met the artists of Mir Iskusstva (World of Art), the group of innovative Russian artists. He joined their association in 1910 and subsequently took part in all their exhibitions.
The artist was also interested in designing stage scenery. He first started work in the theatre in 1911, when he designed the sets for Alexander Ostrovsky's An Ardent Heart. Such was his success that further orders came pouring in. In 1913, he designed the sets and costumes for The Death of Pazukhin at the Moscow Art Theatre.
His talent in this sphere was especially apparent in his work for Ostrovsky's plays; It's a Family AffairA Stroke of LuckWolves and Sheep, and The Storm. The milieu of Ostrovsky's plays—provincial life and the world of the merchant class—was close to Kustodiev's own genre paintings, and he worked easily and quickly on the stage set. He also photographed provincial Russia in the early days of photography around the 1900s.
My interest is in his paintings of the Russian Fairground. Kustodiev concerned himself with both painting the Fairground and theatre set design and is ideal for the film The Fairground Booth. His paintings are a visual witness to what the Russian Fairground looked like at that time and therefore have a documentary element. 


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