The Swan Princess.

Russian Art 1880–1910

In this exhibition you will get a rare opportunity to view works by some of Russia’s most famous artists in the company of works by Edvard Munch and other popular Nordic artists, including Erik Werenskiold, Gerhard Munthe, Theodor Kittelsen, Carl Larsson, Anders Zorn and Akseli Gallen-Kallela. Our appreciation of Nordic depictions of national myths, legends and folktales will be enhanced by viewing them in the context of art by russian legends such as Ilja Repin, Mikhail Vrubel, Vasilij Polenov og Jelena Polenova.

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By virtue of a unique collaboration with the Tretyakov Gallery, the Munch Museum has gained access to some truly iconic Russian works of art, enabling us to assemble an exhibition that is evidence of the powerful senses of national identity that prevailed in both Russia and Norway in the late 19thand early 20th centuries. This exhibition is particularly relevant in today’s tense political climate, in that it makes possible an important cultural dialogue with Norway’s most powerful neighbour.

While Russian authors such as Dostoevsky and Tolstoy are well known in Norway, fewer Norwegians are familiar with Russian visual artists. This exhibition will provide a unique opportunity to see works by some of Russia’s foremost artists and to learn about their personal and professional lives. The exhibition will feature works by Ilya

Repin, Viktor Vasnetsov and Yelena Polenova. One of the paintings by Ilya Repin is a portrait of the art collector Pavel Tretyakov, founder of the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. Repin is revered as Russia’s most famous and influential artist. Joseph Stalin saw Repin’s work as the forerunner of the socialist realist style that emerged in the 1930s.

The exhibition also includes several paintings illustrating myths and folktales by Viktor Vasnetsov, whose position in Russian art history is comparable to that of Gerhard Munthe in Norway. There are also works by Yelena Polenova, who was the first Russian artist to collect and illustrate Russian folktales. Her goal was to preserve an aspect of Russia’s cultural heritage that was seen as under threat from French influences and modernisation. Her fairy tale illustrations can be compared to Werenskiold and Kittelsen’s illustrations for Asbjørnsen and Moe’s Norwegian folktales.

Ideas about national identity held a powerful sway in fin-de-siècle Russia and Norway, and illustrations of folktales, book publishing, and the applied arts were all important to the nation-building process. Interest in traditional folklore and crafts and rural culture are obvious characteristics of the art movements that emerged in the late 19th and early 20thcenturies. This exhibition demonstrates how society stood at a new watershed between national mythologies and a new, transnational modernity that challenged the traditional value systems of the time. This created fertile ground for the emergence of new, modern forms of art, both in Russia and in the Nordic countries.

The Swan Princess. Russian Art 1880–1910 is the first of three major exhibitions of Russian art at the Munch Museum. In spring 2019, the Tretyakov Gallery will host a major exhibition of almost 100 works by Edvard Munch. This will be the first time that such a wide-ranging exhibition of Munch’s art is presented in Russia.