Following the Russian Revolution, artists were torn between radical non-objectivity on the one hand, and a contempt for the bourgeois tradition of ‘easel painting’ on the other. Between these extremes, several artists pursued a quieter middle path. Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin was a case in point. Although his work avoided the boisterous and attention-seeking rhetoric of the Avant-Garde, making allowance for the every day lives of ordinary Russians, he reflected on the idealistic agendas of his contemporaries. Andrew Spira explores the work of this subtle and sensitive artist, only recently coming to the attention of the British audience.
Spira graduated from the Courtauld Institute of Art before working at the Temple Gallery, London (specialists in Russian icons), and as a curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum. He was a course director at Christie’s Education for fifteen years and has led numerous tours to Russia, Romania, Armenia and elsewhere. His book 'The Avant-Garde Icon: Russian Avant-Garde Art and the Icon Painting Tradition' was published in 2008. He will be exploring the work of the painter Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin for Pushkin House, as he did earlier this year in a talk at the Royal Academy, accompanying their exhibition Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932.