Amazons through Centuries

17 May – 16 July, 2017

On 17 May at 5 p.m. the Amazons through Centuries exhibition will open in the Museum of 20th and 21st Century St. Petersburg Art. The exhibition includes paintings, drawings and sculptures from several museums, such as the Museum of 20th and 21st Century St. Petersburg Art, State Russian Museum, Research Museum of the Russian Academy of Arts, St. Petersburg State Museum of Theater and Music, and a variety of private collections of St. Petersburg and Moscow.

The impressive gallery of women depicted invites the spectator to take part in discussing the problem of woman’s role in society and her position in the man-woman hierarchy, as well as choosing between strength and weakness as the woman’s most attractive feature. One of the questions in connection with amazons is how they managed to endure throughout the epochs. The present exhibition has combined works by artists belonging to different periods and representing different artistic principles and even tastes, such as Nikolay Feofilaktov (1878-1941), Boris Grigoryev (1886-1939), Pavel Ab (1902-73), Ksenia Klementyeva (1896-1984), Vladimir Lebedev (1891-1967), Alexandra Exter (1882-1949), Victoria Belakovskaya (1901-65), Alexander Samokhvalov (1894-1971), Pavel Chelishchev (1898-1957), Nikolay Kulbin (1868-1917) and many others.

All had their own specific idea of femininity. In the watercolor Composition with Three Figures by one of the chief exponents of Russian Symbolism, Nikolay Feofilaktov, for instance, the focus is on the mystique of the eternal feminine, while in Boris Grigoryev’s demonic woman types, apparently created in the atmosphere of the imminent revolutionary upheavals, one can discern the tragic image of the upcoming Russia.

The exhibition makes it plain that the October revolution of 1917 gave rise to the new generation of amazons, strong, energetic and ready to defend their Socialist state. Such is the young machine-gunner in the Firers. Society for the Promotion of Aviation and Chemical Defense by Pavel Ab. One cannot but admire the beauty of the young warrior-girl.

Next to her are Soviet amazons who distinguished themselves in the peaceful battles of constructing Socialism. They, too, possess charm and sensuality verging on eroticism, as, for example, the Fisherwoman by Ksenia Klementyeva or the Barmaid, with ‘appetizing’ forms doomed to astound men, by Stalin’s favorite artist Alexander Gerasimov.

Some of those depicted were real warriors, e.g. the Children’s Author Susanna Georgievskaya by Vladimir Lebedev, who fought as a volunteer during WWII finishing the war in Berlin.

In the second half of the 20th century, new, ironic aspects appeared as an addition to or, sometimes, substitution of the former heroic ones, e.g. the Beauty with the Stars by Arkady Petrov or the Bitch by Vik. Another example of the same are drawings by Boris Zinkevich, especially his Great Campaign, showing the army of women riding naked men. The picture’s idea, peace as the outcome of the men-women opposition, is unfading. Who knows what would be the world we live in like, should it be ruled by women?

The exhibition includes a cultural program.