The Museum of Russian Art (TMORA) is pleased to present Peasant Women of the Russian North: Heritage of a Culture Lost. Drawn from the Museum’s permanent collection, over 100 rare artifacts reveal the rich peasant culture in northern and central Russia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Before the Soviet collectivization of farmland, most peasant homesteads were largely self-sufficient, and all basic needs in foodstuffs, tools, cloth and clothing were produced by the peasant family. In northern Russia, flax was a major staple. Grown by women, it was homespun and woven into long-lasting and beautiful cloth that was widely used and imbued with value and meaning beyond its functional role. TMORA expresses its profound gratitude to Susan Johnson and Gwenn Djupedal, for the gift of their remarkable collections to TMORA, which made this exhibition possible.

Conducted by the Soviet government under Stalin, the ruthless abolition of private farming and the establishment of collective farms in the late 1920s, largely destroyed traditional Russian peasant culture, yet these richly decorated objects continue to resonate today, bringing to life a peasant lifestyle that has long-since disappeared.

Remarkable in their beauty, the fabrics and tools featured in the exhibition showcase traditional designs and symbols that trace their origins back to Russia’s pre-Christian past over a thousand years ago. One of the important messages of the exhibition is the sustainability of peasant textile production. Its purpose is to remind contemporary consumers about the value of objects produced by human hands.

Peasant Women of the Russian North: Heritage of a Culture Lost will be on view in the Main Gallery June 8 – September 22, 2024.

Ritual Cloth, late 19th-early 20th century
Gift of Raymond and Susan Johnson

Konstantin Mefodevich Maksimov
Kolkhoz Woman, 1959
Oil on canvas, 57 5/8 in x 30 1/4 in
Collection of Raymond and Susan Johnson