I am a doctoral candidate at the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU, where I study 19th-century art and visual culture with an emphasis on Russia and France. This interest comes from my training and career as a classical ballet dancer, during which I virtually lived in the intersection of these two cultures. After Perestroika, the many Russian ballet teachers and dancers coming to the US sparked my interest in Russian culture. When I started college after my ballet career, I was naturally drawn to courses in 19th-century art and literature. The aesthetics, ideas, and cultures I learned about were directly related to my own artistic experience. Russia’s cultural connections to France fascinated me especially.
My Fulbright project is related to my dissertation, The Female Nude in Nineteenth-Century Russian Painting. The female nude was a popular and prestigious theme in Western art, but had a mixed reception in 19th-century Russia, where female modesty was a core cultural value. This year I will be studying the collectors of this important European genre to determine the degree to which Russian art patrons adopted Western tastes and values. I plan to find out whether collectors of nudes tended to focus on Russian or Western art, and whether they had just one nude in their collection, or several. This research will help me to determine whether the taste for nude subjects was part of an identifiably Western outlook.
As I learn about Russian nudes and their owners, I will also find out more about the minor 19th-century art collections in the city. The new art patrons who began collecting during this period were not aristocrats, but merchants and state officials. I am interested in knowing if the lower-ranking collectors tried to emulate the nobility, or if their tastes were distinctly different. Understanding the minor art collections alongside the larger ones will provide a more balanced view of Russian collecting practices, and will lead to a better understanding of the St. Petersburg art market of the period.
My affiliation for my Fulbright year is the St Petersburg Academy of Arts. It was founded in the mid-18th century as the Imperial Academy of Arts, and became the center of Russian art production. As the training ground of most of the artists I am studying, the Academy is a link to the historical roots of my project.