A DICTIONARY of Twentieth Century Russian and Soviet Painters 1900-1980s
by Matthew Cullerne-Bown
* Compiled by a leading specialist. * Contains biographical details of approximately 13,000 twentieth century Russian and Soviet painters - thousands more than any competing publication in English, Russian or any other language. * Richly illustrated by over 350 plates - more than 300 in colour. * Includes a valuable glossary of over 150 art exhibitions, organisations and groups. In English.
The painting of Russia and the Soviet Union in the twentieth century presents a kaleidoscopic variety of styles and movements: from the social criticism, salon painting and impressionist art of the pre-revolutionary years, through avant-gardism, socialist realism and nonconformist art, to the "permitted" figuration, hyperrealism and post-modern painting of more recent times. Outside these and other tendencies a multitude of painters ploughed individual furrows.
The Dictionary is the first work of reference in any language to provide a comprehensive guide to the huge range of painters who worked in the Russian Empire and its successor, the Soviet Union, from 1900 until the last decade of the Soviet period. Approximately 13,000 entries supply concise biographical information drawn from a compendious variety of published and unpublished sources. Additional background material to individual careers may be found in the extensive glossary, which describes myriad art organisations, exhibitions and artists' groups. Transliteration tables assist the user who may be puzzled by the rendering of Russian names in English.
Over 350 plates - more than 300 of which are in colour - illustrate the work of individual painters. The Dictionary's impressive sweep and thoroughness make it an indispensable guide to one of the most important areas of twentieth century art.
In English the only comparable publication is John Milner's Dictionary of Russian Artists (1994) which lists some 2,000 artists in all. Not all of these are painters, and only a fraction are Soviet period painters.
Milner's book includes few artists who began working after the 1920s.
In Russian the standard work is the five-volume Bio-Bibliographical Dictionary of Artists of the Peoples of the USSR (1970-95), now a bibliographic rarity which can change hands for hundreds of dollars. It lists no more than about 5,000 twentieth century painters, and its alphabetical listing progresses only to the letter 'K'. There is no knowing when (or if) further volumes will appear.
Why You Need the Dictionary
If you are a scholar, the Dictionary is a unique and valuable work of reference. It enables you to access swiftly the career details of not only the well-known painters but also of a multitude of lesser names, saving you time and giving you an edge in your research and writing. Details of many artists' lives have been drawn from obscure Russian-language catalogues that you could well find difficult and time consuming to track down, even assuming you have the facility to pursue research in Russian libraries.
If you are a librarian, the Dictionary has the capability to become a prized and often-requested item in your collection. The Dictionary has been produced with the specialist market in mind and the print run is only 1,000 copies for general worldwide distribution. Only a fraction of university libraries with art history or Russian studies sections will be able to acquire a copy. Make sure your library can offer this unique resource.
If you are a collector, the Dictionary provides the information to extend your knowledge of Russian and Soviet painters beyond that of many art dealers. A well-informed collector is likely to impress the dealers with whom he or she does business; a display of knowledge can help in price negotiation. The Dictionary may assist you not only in buying but also in reselling works from your collection, should you choose to do so. Why? Because, as any art dealer or auction house can tell you, it is often easier to sell a work when you can supply biographical details of the artist.
If you are a dealer in Russian or Soviet art, or thinking of becoming one, the Dictionary is a "must have" book. If you already deal in this art, then you will know that one of the factors holding up the market is the lack of English-language reference material. Many, many collectors want to know (and quite rightly) that the artist whose work they are buying is "in the books". It is therefore not unknown for dealers to spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars acquiring biographical material for their exhibition catalogues. The Dictionary can ease this problem considerably. Buy the Dictionary and next time a potential customer asks about a picture on your walls, get the book out and impress them.
If you are an auctioneer, the Dictionary can enable you to make better informed judgements on paintings brought to you for sale. It may improve your sales by allowing you to print fuller and more accurate biographical details of the artists whose works you sell. And it should save you time and trouble in preparing catalogues: you need suffer no more nightmares trying to transcribe Russian names into English: the Dictionary provides them in standard transliterated form.
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