The Museum of Russian Art Announces “Transcendent Art: Icons from Yaroslavl, Russia”

AN HISTORIC EXHIBITION OF WORKS PREVIOUSLY UNSEEN IN THE UNITED STATES

Exhibition opens Sept. 22; features 54 original icons on loan exclusively to TMORA from the Yaroslavl Art Museum in Russia 

MINNEAPOLIS (September 17, 2008) – The Museum of Russian Art (TMORA) continues its banner year of thought-provoking exhibitions with the announcement of “Transcendent Art: Icons from Yaroslavl, Russia,” an historic exhibit of 54 authentic icons on view for the first time in the United States. The icons, on display Monday, Sept. 22, 2008 through Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009, are on loan exclusively to TMORA from the Yaroslavl Art Museum in Russia, further establishing TMORA as an international destination for Russian art appreciation.

“This extraordinary exhibition of icons will highlight the rich artistic tradition of icon painting in Russia, a tradition that began in the 11th century and continues to today.  The Russian icon has long symbolized Russian culture.  It has received more universal recognition than any other form of art that emerged from ancient Rus,” said Judi Dutcher, TMORA president and director. “The beauty, color, form and size of these icons are stunning and they reflect a style of artistry and execution that is unique to Yaroslavl. We anticipate that there will a large audience for this historic exhibition and so TMORA will be open 7 days a week beginning September 28th and continuing until the end of the show.”

The treasured, and once venerated icons on view at TMORA were painted in the 17th and 18th centuries, considered “The Golden Age” of Yaroslavl’s cultural and commercial life. Separating the exquisite icons of Yaroslavl from others of the same period is the highly decorative quality, the free composition, the mass of architectural detail and lavishly decorated robes to tell a story through a common symbolic language.

The Yaroslavl Art Museum’s collection includes icons rescued from local churches by those devoted to preserving the local traditions, culture and art in the troubled post-revolutionary years. After the revolution of 1917, Soviet authorities waged a war on the age-old traditions of Russian Orthodox believers, destroying many churches together with the ancient art they housed. The Soviet anti-religious campaign resulted in the devastation of thousands of venerated icons.

In the early 1920s, a small group of scholars and art restorers from Yaroslavl set up an art restoration committee to rescue hundreds of valuable icons. Relabeled “monuments of easel painting” and “objects of folk art,” numerous icons were removed from churches and stored in a restoration facility. The efforts to preserve and protect those that were salvaged attest to the unfading importance of these objects to the people of Russia. Icons are still revered today and considered important works of art beyond their religious significance.

TMORA will supplement “Transcendent Art: Icons from Yaroslavl, Russia” with a short compilation of film clips that were recorded in 1973 by the founder of the University Film Society, Al Milgrom.  Mr. Milgrom and his crew captured the celebration surrounding the dedication of a new icon wall in a small Russian Orthodox church in Bramble, Minnesota – a town that no longer exists on Minnesota maps.  The film highlights the veneration of an ancient icon that was brought to the celebration from Chicago.  The icon was reportedly carried by the troops of Peter the Great in the battle of Poltava in 1709.  “The film is a wonderful time capsule that connects the importance of icons to believers of the Russian Orthodox faith and also connects the viewer to this small community in Koochiching County,” said Dutcher.

In conjunction with the exhibition, TMORA will host a fall lecture series featuring three national and international scholars on the subject of iconography. The speakers will include Dr. Wendy Salmond, Professor of Art and Art History, Chapman University; Dr. Alexei Lidov, founder and Director of the Research Center for Eastern Christian Culture, Moscow; and Dr. Roy R. Robson, Associate Professor of History, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. Please visit tmora.org for times and details.

This fall TMORA will host its second annual film fest with “Envisioning Russia,” a film series at the historic Heights Theatre in Columbia Heights, Nov. 6, 9, 13 and 20. Visit www.heightstheater.com for directions or www.tmora.org for further details and for a schedule of showings.

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