Art, Architecture and Visual Culture

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Placing the piano in middle-class homes, 1890–1930
Michael Windover
and
James Deaville

In the nineteenth century, the piano became an important social, no less than musical, instrument of middle-class domesticity, and its presence in North American homes only increased in the first few decades of the twentieth century. The piano was a large-scale consumer item that in some ways prefigured later technologies, such as the phonograph, radio receiver, television and hi-fi stereo. While musicologists and organologists have addressed social practices associated with the piano, their studies have not considered the role of interior design in the instrument’s appearance and placement or the sensorial experience of the piano in domestic interiors. Drawing from a broad range of materials – from interior decoration advice literature to prefabricated house catalogues, middle-brow fiction to parlour piano music – this chapter argues that the piano played a potent role in the socio-spatial structure of middle-class homes. It provided both a focal and acoustic point in the multisensory design of the middle-class living room. The visceral tactility of keyboard performance on the one hand and the spatial penetration of its tones on the other combined to create a polysensory experience for residents and guests alike. By examining a variety of cultural representations and products associated with the piano in the first quarter of the twentieth century, this chapter encourages a reconsideration of the sounds and sights of middle-class domesticity.

in The senses in interior design
Fiona Fisher

The English pub has long been credited with a distinct atmosphere that differentiates it from the drinking places of other nations. This chapter examines how atmosphere formed a focus for professional discussions about the design of the modern public house interior during a period of intense building and refurbishment by brewery owners after the Second World War. Drawing on examples of English public house interiors from the 1950s to the 1970s, it explores the strategies employed by interior designers to engage the senses to create familiar, comforting and productive settings. It considers the use of warm, ‘thirsty’ colours to stimulate the senses and increase consumption, the creation of site-specific soundscapes to promote a sense of place and belonging in pubs of recent design and the employment of ‘fake’ and ‘authentic’ materials and finishes to trick the eye and reassure the hand. Through these examples it suggests ways in which many of these post-war design strategies centred on evocations of an imagined or remembered sensory past, whether in the form of the pleasant smell of beer and baccy or the acoustic hustle and bustle of an old city street, creating interior atmospheres that positioned drinkers in a playful and profitable multisensory relationship with the past.

in The senses in interior design
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Peripheral horizons – Russian Orientalism in a global context
Mary Roberts

This afterword situates Russian Orientalism in a Global Context within a historiography of Orientalism in art history, from the initial transposition of Edward Said’s concept of Orientalism into the discipline in the early 1980s through to current debates about its place within histories of modern Islamic art, as well as global histories of art. As a discourse constituting self and other through multiple, sometimes contradictory distinctions between East and West, the longue durée of Russian Orientalism unsettles a binary construction of Orientalism, but is nonetheless embedded within the politics of Russian imperialism and the Soviet Union’s international ambitions. Considering the Russian stakes in relation to art history’s ongoing debate about Orientalism prompts us to position this contested politics of self-representation within an international constellation of regional Orientalisms, while bringing into view counter images from Russia’s near neighbors as well as its colonized subjects. As the field of art history challenges its entrenched eurocentrism and grapples with transnational, diasporic, indigenous, and cosmopolitan subjectivities and objects of study, the significance of the visual culture of Orientalism is being recast. This book is a crucial contribution to this recentring and decentring of our discipline as we entertain art history’s multiple peripheral horizons.

in Russian Orientalism in a global context
Karl Rakhau’s Orientalizing interiors
Katrin Kaufmann

In nineteenth-century Russia, the medieval palaces of the Alhambra in Granada were primarily thematized in literature until they attracted the attention of artists and architects from the mid-1840s onwards. While some architects designed neo-Nasrid and Alhambresque interiors based on reproductions of Nasrid décor in illustrated books, others studied the Alhambra’s architecture and ornamentation in situ while on travel scholarships awarded by Russia’s Imperial Academy of Arts. Only a few of these students later went on to apply their knowledge of Nasrid architecture in Russia: among them Karl Rakhau (1830–80) and his colleague Karl Kol’man (1835–89), who had prepared a study of the Alhambra’s Tower of the Princesses with proposals for its restoration (1861–63). Back in St. Petersburg, Rakhau designed several Alhambresque interiors that were praised by both the press and his colleagues. Drawing on unpublished archival material, this chapter explores the connection between Rakhau’s Spanish studies and his later works, contextualizing them within the pan-European Moorish Revival as well as Russia’s Orientalizing architecture.

in Russian Orientalism in a global context
Exoticism, mysticism, and the East in Kazimir Malevich’s early works
Maria Taroutina

Focusing on Kazimir Malevich’s early works from 1907 and 1908, and especially his enigmatic painting, Holy Shroud (1908), this chapter interrogates the artist’s fusion of native and exotic visual vocabularies and themes and his incorporation of elements from Indian material culture and the Buddhist pictorial canon. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Malevich eschewed a purely exoticizing or othering stance and moved beyond the predictable pan-European nexus of Orientalist and theosophical cross-currents to produce a number of elusive and idiosyncratic artworks, defined by hybridity and syncretism. Around the same time, Malevich expressed an interest in Swami Vivekananda’s writings, which appear to have informed the artist’s idea of pure geometry, the absolute, and the illusory nature of the three-dimensional universe. In addition, throughout the 1910s and 1920s Malevich continued to reference Buddhism in his various treatises and essays, leading prominent Malevich scholar, Aleksandra Shatskikh, to conclude that Malevich’s Suprematist teachings were substantially informed by “Eastern mystic traditions” and “above all zen Buddhism”—influences which to date have rarely been discussed in Malevich scholarship.

in Russian Orientalism in a global context
Texts, images, and the popular imagination from Eruslan Lazarevich to Ruslan and Liudmila
Hanna Chuchvaha

In his seminal collection of popular prints published in 1881, Dmitrii Rovinskii mentions a woodcut entitled Eruslan Lazarevich, dated 1766. According to Rovinskii, the Russian bogatyr in “a Persian hat rides a horse” and represents one of the most admired Russian folk heroes depicted in popular tales. In the nineteenth century, Eruslan Lazarevich was reprinted in multiple forms, such as lubki, and in chapbook versions, but Aleksandr Veselovskii would note in 1868 that Eruslan did not originate in Russian folklore but was adopted from Shahnameh (The Book of Kings), a Persian epic poem written by Firdowsi between 977 and 1010. This chapter argues that in the popular imagination, Eruslan and his portrayals were among the earliest examples of the Russian fascination with Oriental culture. Originating from the East and subsequently Russianized, Eruslan became an inspiration for many authors in the eighteenth century, and Alexander Pushkin’s poem Ruslan and Liudmila (1820) appeared as his interpretation of A Tale of Eruslan Lazarevich. The chapter explores the origins of the “imaginary Orient” in literary sources and lubok culture and traces how this conception was reflected in modernist illustrations and stage designs for Ruslan and Liudmila.

in Russian Orientalism in a global context
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Maria Taroutina

This introduction discusses some of the key themes and concerns of Russian Orientalism in a Global Context: Hybridity, Encounter, and Representation. It emphasizes the importance of examining the proliferation of Orientalist motifs and representations in the Russian visual, architectural, and applied arts during the modern period and their entanglement with imperial ambitions and racial ideologies on the one hand and institutional critique and colonial resistance on the other. It provides a brief summary of each of the ten chapters in the volume, as well as the foreword and afterword, and argues that the hybridity, instability, and rupture inherent in Russian Orientalism open up new modes of studying art in the age of empire and fundamentally recast the terms in which European Orientalism is understood within art history.

in Russian Orientalism in a global context
Art and empire in Ilia Repin’s Reception of Volost Elders
Nikita Balagurov

This chapter discusses Ilia Repin’s court commission, Reception of Volost Elders by Alexander III in the Courtyard of the Petrovsky Palace in Moscow (1886). It argues that the painting reflected marginalizing discourses on the non-Russian minorities dominant at the outset of Alexander III’s rule. Repin employed a differentiating approach to rendering ethnically and religiously diverse representatives of the empire. He placed elders of Slavic appearance from the ethnically Russian imperial “core” in more favorable positions, while the inorodtsy (aliens) were less visible and occupied subordinate positions. The chapter further argues that Repin’s loose brushwork in the conspicuously marginalized Tatar figure articulates the artist’s painterly ambitions. It acts as a counter to his own skilled realistic rendering of the central figures in the painting, and eventually to its ideologically problematic subject matter. These arguments build on the investigation of Repin’s creative process in the context of the contemporary colonialist and nationalistic discourses, on the one hand, and Repin’s artistic evolution, on the other. The discovery of Repin’s original source, an album of group photographs of volost elders, enables one to identify a number of the characters in the painting.

in Russian Orientalism in a global context
Vasilii Vereshchagin’s Blowing from Guns in British India
John Webley

Vasilii Vereshchagin’s painting Blowing from Guns in British India sparked a controversy when it was exhibited at London’s Grosvenor Gallery in 1887. British audiences mistook the painting’s subject as an execution following the Indian Rebellion of 1857, when in fact it represented the execution of Namdhari Sikhs in 1872. Critics perceived the work as an indictment of British colonial rule and tried to discredit it on aesthetic, historical, and ethical grounds. They argued that Vereshchagin’s self-described “realism” failed to capture the true essence of the scene. This chapter interrogates why the painting proved so unsettling, arguing that Vereshchagin’s unique brand of realism presented India, specifically an Indian execution, in an unfamiliar way that upended assumptions about British moral and cultural superiority. This chapter argues that neither Vereshchagin nor his art express an anti-colonial viewpoint, rather this work is a pointed critique of how Britain brutally conquered and then mismanaged their colonies. In doing so, the painting tapped into pervasive British insecurities about their rule in India and Russia’s ability to foment discord there. This concern reached a fever pitch in the 1880s during the course of the Great Game, Russia and Britain’s competition for power and influence in Asia.

in Russian Orientalism in a global context
Marie Gasper-Hulvat

In an exhibition at the Tretyakov in 1929, Pavel Kuznetsov presented new work, much inspired by a recent trip to the Black Sea region. Many works represented agricultural labor, with one even titled The Crimean Collective Farm (1928). In the catalogue, Anatolii Lunacharskii praised Kuznetsov’s “figures of working people,” lauding Kuznetsov’s contribution to proletarian ideology. By contrast, in the same catalogue, critic Pavel Novitskii contested Kuznetsov’s figures’ ideological effectiveness, because the “Asiatic” character of the work made it “distant and strange to the era of the proletarian revolution.” Nonetheless, few of Kuznetsov’s images unambiguously signify Eastern alterity. Only a handful of titles indicate the Black Sea region, which, in the Russian imagination, had signified as Oriental Other since at least the eighteenth century. What many of the artists’ images do unambiguously signify, nonetheless, is agricultural labor. Kuznetsov’s images of people working fertile land might at first glance appear innocuous, a repetition of a trope common within the previous century of Russian art. However, interpreting them and their critical reception within the context of early Stalinist era political debates reveals how they subtly destabilized contemporary binary oppositions that undergirded not only Marxist art criticism but also official Soviet nationalities policies.

in Russian Orientalism in a global context