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August 23, 2015 15:16

The World of Art (aka Mir Iskusstva) association founded in St. Petersburg in 1898 played a key role in the art of the Silver Age, especially Art Nouveau and Symbolism.

The background of World of Art started with the Neva Pickwickians group organized by students of the Petersburg Karl Mai Private School in 1887. Alexandre Benois, Dmitry Filosofov and Konstantin Somov founded it for self studying the history of art, first of all painting and music. Later on Sergey Diaghilev and Léon Bakst joined the art group.  Sergey Diaghilev's practical knowledge in the field of fine arts grew up fast thanks to his trips abroad. He established contacts to foreign writers and artists and started collecting paintings.

Under the leadership of Sergey Diaghilev, who became the main ideologist of the little art group, it developed into the expansive World of Art association. The artists of Moscow school of the mid 1890s, namely Konstantin Korovin, Valentin Serov, Vasnetsov Brothers, Mikhail Vrubel, and Mikhail Nesterov joined the association. In 1898 their paintings were displayed at the Russian and Finnish art exhibition arranged by Sergey Diaghilev and Filosofov in St. Petersburg, and later the same year in Munich, Düsseldorf, Cologne and Berlin.

The World of Art movement published the same name magazine, which appeared in November, 1898 to take the lead among literary and art editions of Russia of the Silver Age.

The World of Art promoted the styles of Art Nouveau and Symbolism. As opposed to the ideas of the realistic Itinerants, the memebers of The World of Art proclaimed the priority of the aesthetic in art. They believed that art is first of all the expression of the artist's personality. Sergey Diaghilev wrote in one of the first issues of the magazine: "The work of art is important as expression of the creator". Believing that modern civilization is antagonistic to culture, the World of Art looked for the ideal in art of the past. Artists and writers, in their paintings and on journal pages, rediscovered for the Russian public the underestimated beauty of medieval architecture and old Russian iconography, the grace of classical St. Petersburg and palaces surrounding it. They showed ancient civilizations in new light and made contemporaries  come to appreciate our own art and literary heritage.

Art exhibitions organized by The World of Art were a resounding success. In 1899 Sergey Diaghilev organized a really international exhibition with works by the Russian and 42 European artists, including Edgar Degas and  Oscar-Claude Monet in St. Petersburg. Large-scale exhibitions of the World of Art memebers, among them Leon Bakst, Alexandre Benois, and Konstantin Somov, also took place in Moscow and St. Petersburg in 1901 and 1903.

Some internal controversy gradually caused the World of Art group and magazine break up in 1904. The fairwell exhibition organized by Sergey Diaghilev in St. Petersburg in 1906 presented the best fruits of the World of Art's activities and paintings by its pillars along with selected works by Mikhail Vrubel, Viktor Borisov-Musatov, Nikolay Sapunov, Pavel Kuznetsov, Nikolay Milioti, as well as new names, such as Nikolay Feofilaktov, Martiros Saryan and Mikhail Larionov.
In the 1910s the Wolrd of Art was revived and its exhibitions went on till the 1920s.


Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: World of Art Silver Age Russian Artists Symbolism  

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