on May 8, 2013
The large, voluminous work is fundamentally a catalog raisonne of the incomparable, irreplaceable Lobanov-Rostovsky collection of Russian costume and related theater art breaking with the standard catalog raisonne format and also content to be a multidimensional art book. While not exhaustive since reflecting the Lobnov-Rostovsky collection, the breadth of the collection makes the art book a premier history, record, and visual reference for Russian stage and costume design from the latter 19th through the mid 20th centuries. These decades were roughly the last decades of the czarist monarchy through fairly advanced, early Stalinist Communism.
Different artistic and national--and sometimes nationalistic--postures, ideas, and themes are expressed and reflected in the designs of the fifty years. One vein is references to and plays on customary, often identifying wear for familiar or generic urban, court, national, religious, or literary figures such as king, witch, businessman, mongol warrior, and saint. Relating to this is elements or motifs of Russian folk culture. The Oriental influence of looser garments often brightly colored and flowing or in the Russian interpretations, billowing and sometimes flaring is also evident. The modernist art of cubism, constructivism, and fauvism are also reflected in the varied styles of the Russian theater art.
In addition to the expected names of Bakst, Malevich, Rodchenko and others represented, there are also lesser, yet still notable names such as Anisfeld, Lissen, and Soudeikine. Where the volume most obviously goes beyond the typical catalogue raisonne format is in biographical and artistic backgrounds of the many artists, cross-references to artists as applicable in Vol. II, some analysis of styles mostly with regard to originality and influence, and organization of text and visual matter not simply chronologically--as found in a catalog raisonne--but according to Russian historical and artistic periods and social history. The four periods are Between East and West, The Silver Age, The Avant-Garde, and Theater of Revolution. Another noticeable element continuing the art-book design are the full-page color illustrations interspersed with the 90-page bibliography in addition to the more than 225 throughout the regular text.
The large section "Addenda" more than 170 pages has 17 diverse sections including the index which complement the material and organizational criteria of the main part. Among these are Russian Art, Russian-born Artists Active as Set and Costume Designers outside Russia (1909-62), Typographical Designs on the Lobanov-Rostovsky Collection, Ballets and Operas Produced or Projected by Sergei Diaghilev.
With its historically and artistically knowledgeable documentation and commentary on the holdings of the Lobanov-Rostovsky collection and the large-size illustrations of numerous costumes and stage settings, this volume is incomparable on the field of modern Russian theater art. This and the second volume of the set are required works for introduction to and study and appreciation of the subject for social historians, theater historians and researchers, students of art history, costume designers, and the like.