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Russia behind the Urals

Engravings and Lithographs of the 18th - 20th Centuries
From the series Engraving Opens up the World

Exhibition Catalogue

In recent years, the National Library of Russia has held some exhibitions from the planned series Engraving Opens up the World: namely, Russian Cities, Russia through the Eyes of Foreigners, The Peoples of Russia in the Engravings and Lithographs of the 18th - 19th Centuries, Suit in Engraved and Lithographed Publications of the 16th - 19th Centuries, Russian Columbuses (Voyages of Russian Navigators in Engravings and Lithographs). It is the sixth exhibition in the series. The display enables visitors to get acquainted with the engraved and lithographed material from the 18th to 20th centuries, dedicated to the Asian part of Russia, from collections of the Prints Department.

A significant portion of the material shown on the exhibition is the result of scientific expeditions systematically commissioned by the Government, the Academy of Sciences and, in the 19th century, by Russian Geographical Society to survey the vast Russian Empire. Members of these expeditions have always included artists who detailly depicted local views, fauna and flora, types of local residents, pictures of everyday life. Our exhibition begins with prints of views of the Siberian cities, which were created after drawings of Johann Wilhelm Lüsenius and Johann Christian Berckhans, the painters of the Second Kamchatka Expedition of 1733 - 1743. They, though, were engraved by masters of the Engraving Chamber in the Petersburg Academy of Sciences not immediately at the end of the expedition, but much later, in 1770.

The student of the Academy of Arts Luka Voronin was assigned to the geographical and astronomical naval expedition led by Joseph Billings. 'Her Majesty deigned to give orders ... ... to appoint an expedition for discoveries on the eastmost coasts and seas of her empire, to determine the exact longitude and latitude of the mouth of the Kolyma River, to describe the coastline of the Chukchi Peninsula even to the East Cape, and to map islands in the Eastern Ocean even to the shores of America ... ', these were the tasks put to the head of the expedition in the" instructions" of the Admiralty Board. The member of the expedition, later Admiral, General Hydrographer of the Naval Staff, Gavril Sarychev published an account of this adventure entitled the Travels of Fleet Captain Sarychev in the Northeastern Part of Siberia, the Arctic Sea and the Eastern Ocean in the Course of Eight Years on the Geographic and Astronomical Naval Expedition under Fleet Captain Billings from 1785 to 1793 in 1802. This publication has the folio atlas attached to it, some engravings from the atlas are featured at the exhibition.

Russia's first naval circumnavigation under the command of Ivan Krusenstern has made a significant contribution to the examination of the eastern borders of Russia. The fine atlas to an account of this voyage contains ones of the best Russian prints. 109 plates were engraved by Joseph Sebastian Klauber and his best pupils: Stepan Galaktionov, Egor Skotnikov, Andrei Ukhtomsky, Ivan and Kozma Cheskiis, etc. by the drawings of V. G. Tilesius, a physician, naturalist and painter who took part in this voyage. Among them are the views of Sakhalin, Kamchatka, Kuril Islands, representations of Ainu people and Sakhalin Tatars and others.

The great album Les Peuples de la Russie (The Peoples of Russia) was published in Paris by the Bavarian ambassador to the Russian court Count Carl Rechberg in 1812 - 1813. It also owes its origin to an expedition. The Finnish politician in the Russian service Georg Magnus Sprengtporten was sent by Alexander the First on a trip '... for the purpose of the military and strategic research' of European and Asian Russia. Emelyan Kornejev was assigned to him as an artist. Engravings accompanying stories in the album mentioned above were made by Russian and foreign engravers, in particular, after his drawings. Kornejev himself executed some of engravings.

In 1856, the full member of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society I.D. Bulychev published an account of his travels in Eastern Siberia, accompanied by a magnificent folio atlas of 66 chromo- and tone lithographs. 'I had a chance to see Siberia in all directions from the Urals to Petropavlovsk Port: after visiting Irkutsk and Yenisei Province, going with the flow of the Lena River to Yakutsk and thence to Okhotsk, I sailed across the sea to Petropavlovsk and reached Ust Kamchatsk along the east coast, and then proceeded through the west coast of the peninsula from Tigil to Pallal and back along the east coast to the Olyutorovskaya Gulf and arrived in Gizhiga, Okhotsk and Yakutsk through Ferapol'sky Valley, and, subsequently, visited all around the Trans-Baikal Territory, '- in such a way, Bulychev describes the route of his journey in the front pages of the publication. Indeed, the lithography atlas gives a comprehensive idea about various aspects of the lives of Russians in Siberia: here are pictures of vast expanses covered with snow and ice, the few settlements, the exotic ways to drive deer and dogs, the ethnic appearance of natives, their homes and garments, etc. .

In the middle of the 19th century, Russia begins to actively explore the Far East. Scientists made their research trips literally shoulder to shoulder with the pioneers - the Cossacks, soldier men who came under the command of Governor-General of Siberia Muraviev-Amursky to establish Russian settlements and military posts on wildland. Our exhibition shows several lithographs from the atlas to the Travels on the Amur River udertaken by Richard Maak in 1855 by order of the Siberian Department of the Russian Geographical Society. The young 30-year-old naturalist went to the completely uncharted territory and began to study the Amur in difficult circumstances when even the boundary between China and Russia had not been defined - 3 years before the signing of the Treaty of Aigun. In the album which was enclosed in the description of the trip published in 1859, we can find pictures of wildlife of the region, representations of local inhabitants, their homes, hunting and fishing gadgets, religious buildings, etc. Maak as a naturalist was particularly interested in the flora of the Amur Region, and attached atlas of native plants to the album and the Tungus dictionary to the accaunt of the journey. For lack of an artist in the expedition, Maak himself 'depicted places and ethnographic objects'. He writes, '... most of the drawings were made by me ... on the spot and just repainted in St. Petersburg by the talented artist Hun; the remaining part were borrowed from the album of Meyer (who also visited the Amur region); a part of them were portrayed by Petersburg artists from items I had brought '.

In the preface to the Travels Maak writes,'... you can be sure that the newly acquired fields of land, now almost completely empty, will soon revive by a thick, industrial Russian population and become the breadbasket of the neighboring parts of Russia.' The Russian society shared this enthusiasm of pioneers. Suffice it to say that to cover the costs of the expedition, the member of the Siberian Department of the Russian Geographical Society S.F. Soloviev appropriated about twenty pounds of gold, he also took over the publication of Travels.

Information about the scientific researches appeared in the press. The exhibition shows several lithographs from the Art Leaflet by V. Timm with the materials about the Amur Region.

In the Soviet period, the theme of the exploration of Siberia and its history continued. The artist B.I.  Lebedinsky devoted many years to the Siberian theme from 1917 to 1932 and then from the beginning of the Second World War to the end of his life. In 1929, he published the Irkutsk Fort, an album of engravings and lithographs with its own historical commentary. He cut the linocut Irkutsk Fort, using historical materials such as a "drawing book" by Remezov, watercolors by Pizhemsky; and the text of the covers, head- and tail-pieces were executed in the style of the seventeenth century book ornamentation. Immediately after the war, in 1947, two albums of the autolithographs by Lebedinsky came out: the Siberian Taiga and Baikal.

Artists became engaged in the process of integration of small Siberian nations that lived in a primitive society in the recent past in the general post-revolutionary cultural growth of the country. This field of activity had special significance to them. In this respect, interesting are works by Leningrad artists Eugenia Evenbach, presented at the exhibition. To study the subject, the artist made number of long trips to the Far East and the Amur in 1934 - 1938. Finely, she had a delicate perception of particular life and art of these peoples. Reflected in her etchings and lithographs, the everyday life of the Nanai and Nivkh is trustworthy and devoid of idealization, a characteristic type is ethnographically accurate. The knowledge of the material helped the artist in a special kind of artistic activity: the creation of drawings for primers and books for the small nations of Siberia who had not written language previously.

In the postwar period, many artists turned to the topic of Siberia. Due to the abundance of material and, conversely, lack of showrooms, we present only a few works in various genres. A complete catalogue or even a representative album is a thing of the future.

A special place belongs to artists - representatives of small nations of the North - who got a professional education in the years after the revolution and introduced themselves to the public with the outstanding artwork. Such is the Yakut artist A.P. Munkhalov with his plate the Quiet Conversation from a series of linocuts My North. Images of three elderly women puffing pipes before the fire are monumental, poetic and deeply national. For this series, the artist was awarded the title of laureate of of the Yakut Republic's State Prize named after Platon Oyunsky.

The amazing beauty of Siberian nature is embodied in the lithographs by I.P. Obrosov (Baikal Landscape), M.P. Miturich-Khlebnikov (Autumn in the Mountains from the series Sayan Mountains), colourful linocuts by A.D. Shchekalina, among the works of whose are views of the outermost boundaries of Russia - Kuril Islands. Another powerful theme came to the fore: the transformation of Siberia, the development of its natural resources. It became the central theme in works of many artists. For instance, the creation of powerful hydroelectric power stations, construction of the Baikal-Amur Mainline - these topics attracted V.S. Smirnov, the author of the industrial landscapes such as the Sayan-Shushenskaya Dam and Builders of the BAM.