'Silver, Silks and Sarafans: The British Passion for Russian Decorative Art at the Time of the Last Tsar’

LOUISE HARDIMAN

Language: In English

In the years leading up to World War I and at the twilight of the tsarist regime, Russian culture experienced a remarkable surge of popularity in Britain – boosted by the arrival of the Ballets Russes in London’s theatres in 1911. This lecture tells the story of how Russian decorative art had become increasingly fashionable in late Victorian and Edwardian Britain, largely through its display at exhibitions and in shops. From the Sazikov silverware exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851, to the silk brocades adorning the Russian pavilions at the Glasgow Exhibition of 1901, to the peasant embroideries sold on Bond Street, Russian art could be seen by Britons as lavish or primitive, but always as exotic. This lecture is one of a series organised by the Heritage Lottery-funded project of the Russian Community Association for 2012-13: ‘Tracing the Footsteps of the last Tsar in London’.

LOUISE HARDIMAN is a PhD candidate in the Department of History of Art at the University of Cambridge and a member of the Cambridge Courtauld Russian Art Centre ( CCRAC ). She is currently finalising her thesis on the subject of cultural exchange between the British and Russian Arts and Crafts movements between 1890 and 1917. Her article ‘Infantine Smudges of Paint… Infantine Rudeness of Soul: British Reception of Russian Art at the Exhibitions of the Allied Artists’ Association, 1908-1911’ was recently published in Anthony Cross (ed.), A People Passing Rude: British Responses to Russian Culture (Cambridge, 2012), and her article ‘Gossamer Wings or Feet of Clay: British Portraits of Anna Pavlova’ will appear in a volume of essays on ‘Russian Presence in Britain’ to be published by Innostrannaya Literatura in 2013.

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