Рaintings from the collection of Lidia Ruslanova, the Honored Artist of the RSFSR
03.12.2018 - 01.03.2019

The exhibition and permanent exposition of the museum will feature 29 paintings (out of 39) from the collection of Lidia Ruslanova, the Honored Artist of the RSFSR (1942), prominent singer of folk songs, who was famous all over the Soviet Union and particularly successful during the 1930s–1940s. During this period her private collection began to develop, taking its final shape in the post-war years

In 1930, inspired by her third husband Mikhail Garkavi, entertainer and conférencier, Lidia Ruslanova started collecting paintings and rare books. She studied monographs on artists, bought albums and exhibition catalogs, listened attentively to the assessments of her advisers – the best experts of the time: the Tretyakov Gallery Trustee, artist, restorer and art historian Igor Grabar, head of the State Hermitage Museum restoration workshops in Leningrad Stepan Yaremich. It benefited her greatly, helping to develop a tremendous instinct for perfect original works of art.

She eagerly filled her huge apartment in Lavrushinsky Lane with the special aura of the world of the Russian fine art. Canvases inspired her to search for new interpretations of the old Russian song – the major element of her own creativity. “They help me sing, they create the mood,” she said. Ruslanova loved everything that was Russian, primordial, that reminded her of the antiquity and traditions of the Russian people. Paintings by the Makovsky brothers, Viktor Vasnetsov and Boris Kustodiev, Ivan Shishkin and Mikhail Nesterov were very close to her spiritually. The collection turned out to be integral and exquisite, meeting the tastes of its author.

During the war, Lidia Ruslanova participated in performances of the front-line concert brigades. She also acquired two Katyusha squadrons for the battle front. The concert she gave in front of the Reichstag in 1945 went down in history. In 1948, Lidia Ruslanova was accused in anti-Soviet propaganda and looting and got arrested on charge of the so-called “trophy case” with her husband, General Vladimir Kryukov, and was sentenced for 5 years in the labor camps.

All information about the confiscated collection of the singer is compiled from her interrogation protocols, the catalog of the Tretyakov Gallery and the testimonies of her contemporaries. The collection inventory was conducted by investigators during the singer’s arrest in 1948. In total the inventory listed 132 paintings in. Though the NKVD experts were not able to identify about 60 canvases, the list of the works is quite impressive: Konstantin Makovsky – 7, Boris Kustodiev – 5, Ivan Shishkin – 5, Ilya Repin – 4, Mikhail Nesterov – 4, Ivan Aivazovsky – 4, Vasily Polenov – 3, Filipp Malyavin – 3, Konstantin Somov – 3, Mikhail Vrubel – 2.

Lidia Romashkova, former head custodian of the Tretyakov Gallery, who worked there since 1956, recalled: “... at first the NKVD people came to the Gallery and brought several dozen canvases without saying who owned these paintings and how they got them. Much later the gallery staff realized that these were the works from the collection of Ruslanova. And then, in 1953, the same “authorities” suddenly reported on the rehabilitation of Ruslanova and said that “everything confiscated should be immediately returned to the family and removed from the catalogs”. In 1949 some of these paintings got into the State Procurement Commission and were distributed among museums in the early 1950s.

In 1954, after Ruslanova returned from the labor camps, she got back 103 paintings from the State Tretyakov Gallery. A huge role in the acquisition of paintings from the Ruslanova collection played the persistence and charm of Alena Aladava, director of the State Art Gallery of the BSSR in 1944-1977.

Canvases from the collection of Lidia Ruslanova arrived to the National Art Museum of the BSSR in 1950 – 1989 from several sources: the State Procurement Commission of the USSR, exhibitions of private collections in 1961–1962, from Ruslanova herself, and later, after her death in 1973, from her stepdaughter Margarita, from collector Natalya Yakovleva, who previously bought some of the works from the singer. In total the museum acquired 43 works: 42 paintings and 1 graphic work.

In 1962-1963, four paintings were permanently transferred to the Pinsk Museum of Local History (Pinsk Museum of the History of Paliesse) and the Viciebsk Regional Museum of Local History.

After the war, the collection of Ruslanova disintegrated. After the release from the labor camp, her passion for painting burned out and desire for collecting disappeared. Today the paintings from the collection of Lidia Ruslanova make up the backbone of the exposition of classical Russian art, the foundation of the two thousand items museum collection of Russian paintings.

Nadezhda Usova, Leading Researcher 

of the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus

Curators of the exhibition – Nadezhda Usova, Leading Researcher of the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus and Alla Vasilevskaya, Researcher of the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus.

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