The Museum of Russian Art Ushers In New Year With Concurrent Exhibitions: “Prinmaking From Soviet Estonia” and “Impressionism: On the Edge of Soviet Art”

Though dramatically different in style, new exhibitions both represent forbidden Soviet Era art

MINNEAPOLIS (Jan. 7, 2008) – On Monday, Jan. 14, The Museum of Russian Art (TMORA) will usher in the New Year with “Printmaking from Soviet Estonia and “Impressionism: On the Edge of Soviet Art,” two concurrent exhibitions on display through Saturday, April 26. Though dramatically different in subject and style, the new exhibitions represent some of the Soviet Era’s (1922-1991) most forbidden art.

“Printmaking from Soviet Estonia” features 41 prints on paper created by uncensored Estonian artists, while “Impressionism: On the Edge of Soviet Art” traces the historical evolution and influence of impressionist painting from its roots in 19th century France to its successful transplantation into pre-Revolutionary Russia.

“These two new exhibitions reflect TMORA’s commitment to presenting a diverse portfolio of Soviet and Russian art genres,” said Judi Dutcher, TMORA president and director.  “We continually challenge ourselves to develop new artistic themes we believe will expand our visitors’ education and enhance their appreciation for the many artistic traditions and accomplishments of Russia and the former Soviet Union.”

“Printmaking from Soviet Estonia”

This collection of Estonian prints, on display in TMORA’s Lower Level gallery and on loan from the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Museum at Rutgers University, provides a glimpse into Estonia’s rich, mostly uncensored graphic art tradition. Under Soviet rule in the 1900s, authorities censored creative works to ensure that they adhered to the dictated norms, which required painting to be realist in form and socialist in content. Art needed to avoid issues such as religion, overtly sexual images or images critical of the Communist Party or its policies.

Graphic print, however, with its low visibility to censors, gave expression to these and a vast array of nonconformist subjects drawn from Estonia’s distinctive culture and geography. This combined with Estonia’s proximity to Europe provided artists with access to Western culture that was less available to their counterparts in Russia, allowing an exchange with contemporary trends in art beyond the Iron Curtain.

“Impressionism: On the Edge of Soviet Art”

During Stalin’s reign, impressionism was routinely suppressed by the Communist Party. It was characterized as “peripheral art” and its practitioners were “enemies of the people” who were often harshly punished for deviating from official stylistic and thematic standards. Soviet artists, however, never abandoned their affection for and use of impressionist brush techniques and color pallet. Following Khrushchev’s thaw, hidden impressionist works that had been banished to museum storage were re-hung and artists eagerly explored the long tradition of Russian impressionism that had been officially kept from them.

This exhibition of 54 oil on canvas paintings is drawn from private collections throughout the United States, and will be installed on TMORA’s Main and Mezzanine galleries.


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