[Following the marathon effort of getting my new web site live and kicking, I'm changing tack slightly in this blog format. Instead of posting full length articles and reviews, shorter pieces will appear more frequently.]
Camilla Gray was a young and pioneering scholar of Russian modernist art. She was a former ballet dancer, with no academic background. She married Oleg Prokoviev (the composer's son) and died tragically young at the age of only thirty-five. And yet she established a body of work on Russian art in 1962 which was quickly appreciated in other European countries. Her original impulse, fuelled by admiration for the modernist work of Malevich and Tatlin, was to look into the tradition out of which such revolutionary art had grown. There was little information around in the 1960s when she began her research, which is what makes her achievement so remarkable.
The first part of the cultural process she documents is the development of a Russian middle class in the late nineteenth century. Mamontov, who made his money builidng the railway from Archangel to Murmansk, established an artists' colony .