Mir iskusstva

Last updated
"Members of the World of Art Movement", by Boris Kustodiev (1916-1920). From left to right: Igor Grabar, Nicholas Roerich, Eugene Lanceray, Kustodiev, Ivan Bilibin, Anna Ostroumova-Lebedeva, Alexandre Benois, Heorhiy Narbut, Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, Nikolay Milioti, Konstantin Somov and Mstislav Dobuzhinsky Mir iskusstva group by B.Kustodiev (1916-20, Russian museum).jpg
"Members of the World of Art Movement", by Boris Kustodiev (1916-1920). From left to right: Igor Grabar, Nicholas Roerich, Eugene Lanceray, Kustodiev, Ivan Bilibin, Anna Ostroumova-Lebedeva, Alexandre Benois, Heorhiy Narbut, Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, Nikolay Milioti, Konstantin Somov and Mstislav Dobuzhinsky

Mir iskusstva (Russian:«Мир искусства»,IPA:  [ˈmʲir ɪˈskustvə] , World of Art) was a Russian magazine and the artistic movement it inspired and embodied, which was a major influence on the Russians who helped revolutionize European art during the first decade of the 20th century. The magazine had limited circulation outside Russia. [1]


From 1909, several of the miriskusniki (i.e., members of the movement) also participated in productions of Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes company based in Paris.


The artistic group was founded in November 1898 by a group of students that included Alexandre Benois, Konstantin Somov, Dmitry Filosofov, Léon Bakst, and Eugene Lansere. [2] The starting moments for the new artistic group was organization of the Exhibition of Russian and Finnish Artists in the Stieglitz Museum of Applied Arts in Saint-Petersburg. [3]

The magazine was co-founded in 1899 in St. Petersburg by Alexandre Benois, Léon Bakst, and Sergei Diaghilev (the Chief Editor). [3] They aimed at assailing artistic standards of the obsolescent Peredvizhniki school and promoting artistic individualism and other principles of Art Nouveau. The theoretical declarations of the art movements were stated in Diaghilev's articles "Difficult Questions", "Our Imaginary Degradation", "Permanent Struggle", "In Search of Beauty", and "The Fundamentals of Artistic Appreciation" published in the N1/2 and N3/4 of the new journal. [4]

Classical period

Mir iskusstwa cover 1899 by Maria Yakunchikova Mir.iskusstwa.1899.jpg
Mir iskusstwa cover 1899 by Maria Yakunchikova

In its "classical period" (1898-1904) the art group organized six exhibitions: 1899 (International), 1900, 1901 (At the Imperial Academy of Arts, Saint Petersburg), 1902 (Moscow and Saint Petersburg), 1903, 1906 (Saint Petersburg). The sixth exhibition was seen as a Diaghilev's attempt to prevent the separation from the Moscow members of the group who organized a separate "Exhibition of 36 artists" (1901) and later "The Union of Russian Artists" group (from 1903). [5] The magazine ended in 1904. [5]

In 1904-1910, Mir iskusstva did not exist as a separate artistic group. Its place was inherited by the Union of Russian Artists which continued officially until 1910 and unofficially until 1924. The Union included painters (Valentin Serov, Konstantin Korovin, Boris Kustodiev, Zinaida Serebriakova, Sergei Lednev-Schukin), illustrators (Ivan Bilibin, Konstantin Somov, Dmitry Mitrohin), restorators (Igor Grabar), and scenic designers (Nicholas Roerich, Serge Sudeikin). [6]

In 1910 Benois published a critical article in the magazine Rech' about the Union of Russian Artists. Mir iskusstva was recreated. Nicholas Roerich became the new chairman. The group admitted new members including Nathan Altman, Vladimir Tatlin, and Martiros Saryan. Some said that the inclusion of Russian avant-garde painters demonstrated that the group had become an exhibition organization rather than an art movement. In 1917 the chairman of the group became Ivan Bilibin. The same year most members of the Jack of Diamonds entered the group.

The group organized numerous exhibitions: 1911, 1912, 1913, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1921, 1922 Saint-Petersburg, Moscow). The last exhibition of Mir iskusstva was organized in Paris in 1927. Some members of the group entered the Zhar-Tsvet (Moscow, organized in 1924) and Four Arts  [ ru ] (Moscow-Leningrad, organized in 1925) artistic movements.


Ivan Bilibin's illustration to The Tale of the Golden Cockerel. Dadon shemakha.jpg
Ivan Bilibin's illustration to The Tale of the Golden Cockerel .

Like the English Pre-Raphaelites before them, Benois and his friends were disgusted with anti-aesthetic nature of modern industrial society and sought to consolidate all Neo-Romantic Russian artists under the banner of fighting Positivism in art.

Like the Romantics before them, the miriskusniki promoted understanding and conservation of the art of previous epochs, particularly traditional folk art and the 18th-century rococo. Antoine Watteau was probably the single artist whom they admired the most.

Such Revivalist projects were treated by the miriskusniki humorously, in a spirit of self-parody. They were fascinated with masks and marionettes, with carnaval and puppet theater, with dreams and fairy-tales. Everything grotesque and playful appealed to them more than the serious and emotional. Their favorite city was Venice, so much so that Diaghilev and Stravinsky selected it as the place of their burial.

As for media, the miriskusniki preferred the light, airy effects of watercolor and gouache to full-scale oil paintings. Seeking to bring art into every house, they often designed interiors and books. Bakst and Benois revolutionized theatrical design with their ground-breaking decor for Cléopâtre (1909), Carnaval (1910), Petrushka (1911), and L'après-midi d'un faune (1912). Apart from three founding fathers, active members of the World of Art included Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, Eugene Lansere, and Konstantin Somov. Exhibitions organized by the World of Art attracted many illustrious painters from Russia and abroad, notably Mikhail Vrubel, Mikhail Nesterov, and Isaac Levitan.

In 1902 Benois and 'Mir Iskusstva' established a publishing house. They created postcards with reproductions of art masterpieces, 'educational' postcards with short commentaries and pictures from different fields of science (geography, zoology, etc.). However, the demand was rather low. Only the scenery and landscapes were sold in large runs, by 1909 the publishing house started printing books. They published guide-books on Pavlovsk, St Petersburg, Hermitage Museum, an exquisite edition of The Bronze Horseman with illustrations by Benois and many more. [7]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sergei Diaghilev</span> Russian art critic and impresario

Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev, usually referred to outside Russia as Serge Diaghilev, was a Russian art critic, patron, ballet impresario and founder of the Ballets Russes, from which many famous dancers and choreographers would arise.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Léon Bakst</span> Belarusian-Russian artist (1866–1924)

Léon Bakst – born as Leyb-Khaim IzrailevichRosenberg, Лейб-Хаим Израилевич (Самойлович) Розенберг was a Russian painter and scene and costume designer of Jewish origin. He was a member of the Sergei Diaghilev circle and the Ballets Russes, for which he designed exotic, richly coloured sets and costumes. He designed the décor for such productions as Carnaval (1910), Spectre de la rose (1911), Daphnis and Chloe (1912), The Sleeping Princess (1921) and others.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ivan Bilibin</span> Russian illustrator

Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin was a Russian illustrator and stage designer who took part in the Mir iskusstva, contributed to the Ballets Russes, co-founded the Union of Russian Artists and from 1937 was a member of the Artists' Union of the USSR. Ivan Bilibin gained popularity with his illustrations to Russian folk tales and Slavic folklore. His work was throughout his career inspired by the art and culture of Rus'.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alexandre Benois</span> Russian painter

Alexandre Nikolayevich Benois was a Russian artist, art critic, historian, preservationist and founding member of Mir iskusstva, an art movement and magazine. As a designer for the Ballets Russes under Sergei Diaghilev, Benois exerted what is considered a seminal influence on the modern ballet and stage design.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Konstantin Somov</span> Russian painter

Konstantin Andreyevich Somov was a Russian artist associated with the Mir iskusstva.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Igor Grabar</span> Russian post-impressionist painter, publisher, restorer and historian of art (1871-1960)

Igor Emmanuilovich Grabar was a Russian post-impressionist painter, publisher, restorer and historian of art. Grabar, descendant of a wealthy Rusyn family, was trained as a painter by Ilya Repin in Saint Petersburg and by Anton Ažbe in Munich. He reached his peak in painting in 1903–1907 and was notable for a peculiar divisionist painting technique bordering on pointillism and his rendition of snow.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vladimir Stasov</span> Russian music and art critic (1824–1906)

Vladimir Vasilievich Stasov, was a Russian critic of music and art. Born into a wealthy, noble family Stasov became a prominent figure in mid-19th-century Russian culture. He discovered a large number of its greatest talents, inspired many of their works and fought their battles in numerous articles and letters to the press. As such, he carried on a lifelong debate with Russian novelist and playwright Ivan Turgenev, who considered Stasov "our great all-Russian critic." He wanted Russian art to liberate itself from what he saw as Europe's hold. By copying the west, he felt, Russian artists could be, at best, second-rate. However, by borrowing from their own native traditions, they might create a truly national art that could match Europe's with its high artistic standards and originality. By "national" Stasov meant an art that would not only portray people's lives but also be meaningful to them and show them how to live.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eugene Lanceray</span> Russian artist

Yevgeny Yevgenyevich Lanceray, also often spelled Eugene Lansere, was a Russian graphic artist, painter, sculptor, mosaicist, and illustrator, associated stylistically with Mir iskusstva.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mstislav Dobuzhinsky</span> Russian and Lithuanian artist

Mstislav Valerianovich Dobuzhinsky or Dobujinsky was a Russian and Lithuanian artist noted for his cityscapes conveying the explosive growth and decay of the early twentieth-century city.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ballets Russes</span> Itinerant ballet company (1909–1929)

The Ballets Russes was an itinerant ballet company begun in Paris that performed between 1909 and 1929 throughout Europe and on tours to North and South America. The company never performed in Russia, where the Revolution disrupted society. After its initial Paris season, the company had no formal ties there.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alexandre Jacovleff</span> Russian painter

Alexandre Yevgenievich Jacovleff was a Russian neoclassicist painter, draughtsman, designer and etcher.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vladimir Shchuko</span> Architect

Vladimir Alekseyevich Shchuko was a Russian architect, member of the Saint Petersburg school of Russian neoclassical revival notable for his giant order apartment buildings "rejecting all trace of the moderne". After the Russian Revolution of 1917 Shchuko gradually embraced modernist ideas, developing his own version of modernized neoclassicism together with his partner Vladimir Gelfreikh. Shchuko and Gelfreikh succeeded through the prewar period of Stalinist architecture with high-profile projects like the Lenin Library, Moscow Metro stations and co-authored the unrealized Palace of Soviets. Shchuko was also a prolific stage designer, author of 43 drama and opera stage sets.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Saint Petersburg State University Faculty of Law</span>

The Faculty of Law at Saint Petersburg State University is the oldest law school and one of the biggest research centers in Russia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Zinaida Serebriakova</span> Russian painter (1884–1967)

Zinaida Yevgenyevna Serebriakova was a Russian and later French painter.

The year 1922 was marked by many events that left an imprint on the history of Soviet and Russian Fine Arts.

The year 1924 was marked by many events that left an imprint on the history of Soviet and Russian Fine Arts.

The year 1942 was marked by many events that left an imprint on the history of Soviet and Russian Fine Arts.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Princess Maria Tenisheva</span>

Maria Klavdievna Tenisheva (née Pyatkovskaya, in the first marriage - Nikolaeva, was a Russian Princess, artist, educator, philanthropist and collector. She was born May 20, 1858, in St. Petersburg. Maria Tenisheva is famous as the founder of the Art studio in St. Petersburg, and the Drawing School at the Museum of Russian antiquity in Smolensk, handicraft college in Bezhitsa town, as well as by artistic and industrial workshops held in her own estate of Talashkino.

The Nevsky Pickwickians was an informal circle of art-loving and intellectual friends who were students at the University of St. Petersburg, Russia at the end of the 19th century. The group originally included Alexandre Benois, Léon Bakst, Walter Nouvel, Dmitry Filosofov and Konstantin Somov.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fine Art of Leningrad</span>

The fine art of Leningrad is an important component of Russian Soviet art—in the opinion of the art historians Vladimir Gusev and Vladimir Leniashin, "one of its most powerful currents". This widely used term embraces the creative lives and the achievements of several generations of Leningrad painters, sculptors, graphic artists and creators of decorative and applied art from 1917 to the early 1990s.


  1. Winestein, Anna (2008). "Quiet Revolutionaries: The 'Mir Iskusstva' Movement and Russian Design". Journal of Design History. 21 (4): 315–333. ISSN   0952-4649.
  2. Scholl, Tim (1994). From Petipa to Balanchine: classical revival and the modernization of ballet. Routledge. p. 66. ISBN   0415092221.
  3. 1 2 Melnik 2015, p. 205.
  4. Yakovleva 2017, p. 150-152.
  5. 1 2 Pyman, Avril (1994). A History of Russian Symbolism. Cambridge University Press. p. 121. ISBN   0521241987.
  6. Ilyina & Fomina 2018, p. 238.
  7. Mazokhina 2009, p. 163-167.