Author Topic: Russian Palace Architecture  (Read 24600 times)

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Offline londo954

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Russian Palace Architecture
« on: November 26, 2011, 06:05:38 PM »
I have been studying Russian art and architecture of the Imperial Period for 15 years and I have always found it fascinating how the Russians adopted the styles of the east but did not seek to copy. The different styles of decoration changed with each successive ruler but the basic design of the Palaces changed little from the beginning. Let me begin our discussion by putting forth the question:

Did the Russians copy western ideals or adapt them?

Offline G.Michael

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Re: Russian Palace Architecture
« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2011, 08:00:51 PM »
London,

My interest in Russian history and architecture began in college, after I enrolled in a Russian history course for the simple reason that it fit my schedule better than any other "non-Western" history course.

On the first day of class, the professor asked how many people were taking the course only because their degree requirements included a credit for "non-Western" history. Virtually every hand went up, including mine.

The professor then said something that made an impression on me and sparked my lasting fascination with the subject.

"Russian history," he said, "is the story of a great nation on the eastern fringe of Europe trying desperately to assert itself as a part of Western civilization. The fact that we are calling this story non-Western history should tell you that it will be a tragic and frustrating drama."

 I would suggest that Russia did not "copy" Western architecture, for the simple reason that Russia considered itself Western and therefore considered Western style it's rightful inheritance.

Offline londo954

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Re: Russian Palace Architecture
« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2011, 09:26:44 PM »
Very well put... I would add that they did not copy the west but adapted it to suit the tastes of the reigning monarch. Thus Dutch Baroque became Peter's Baroque, and Elizabeth's Rococo and Catherine's neoclassicism. I think this adaptation was a part of the westerniztion process begun by Peter??

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Russian Palace Architecture
« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2012, 01:13:43 PM »
I think it's much easier to talk of "Russian" architecture when one is discussing the work done by and for the classes below the senior aristocracy and monarchy.  Once one takes the Middle and Far East out of the equation (at least for the most part), most great architectural movements that have affected the edifices put up at the top of the social structure in Russia and elsewhere have been transnational.

Ivan III and Ivan IV brought in architects and builders from western Europe and, while their work looks "Russian" to modern eyes, it introduced distinctly non-Russian design and materials.  The Palace of Facets, which is viewed by many as an example of Old Russian architecture, for example, was put up by a European architect and could have fit quite nicely into the cityscape of Renaissance Florence.  European Romanesque architecture, which evolved into Gothic architecture, drew primary influences from Byzantium.  Northwestern Europe's neoclassicism was based on Greek and Roman forms which, in the first period, were far more prevalent in Asia Minor, North Africa, and the Near East than they were in western Europe.  Europe was overtaken by a rage for Egyptian forms as a result of Napoleon's late-18th-century expedition to Egypt, and those forms acquired a new lease on life with the 20th century's Art Deco movement.  Then there were the enduring European fads for Chinoiserie and, later, Japanese art forms.  (Some of Josiah Spode's most famous early 19th-century ceramic patterns carried adaptations of Japanese imari decoration, and Frank Lloyd Wright's arts and craft work and the associated decorative arts were heavily influenced by Japan.)  At the top levels of wealth and society, it becomes very difficult to talk about a "national" architecture, unless referring to a period in which a nation undertakes a self-conscious reversion to what it thinks were its earlier indigenous forms, such as happened with the Pan-slavism and Russification movements that began with Alexander III.

Also, beginning with Catherine the Great, Russian monarchs were themselves progressively less Russian.  It has been calculated that Nicholas II was 1/80 Russian by blood, as all his predecessors from Catherine II onward either were western Europeans or married western Europeans.  They tended to think of themselves as Russians and European, every bit as much as a Hapsburg thought of himself as Austrian and European.

So I would argue that Russian architecture -- at least imperial and aristocratic architecture -- did not "copy for localization" anything any more than did English, French, German, Italian, or Austrian architecture.  Every one of these countries was rife with buildings that were in the central flow of transnational movements with origins from all over the world.  If Rastrelli's work in St. Petersburg was a Russianized "copy" of anything, then Palladio's work in Italy was a modernized "copy" of early classical forms.  If Quarenghi's work in Russia was a Russianized "copy" of anything, then Wren's work in London was an Anglicized "copy" of French architecture and Italian (especially Bernini's) architecture.  If Cameron's work at Tsarskoye Selo was a "copy" of anything, then one would also have to speak of Adams' work at Syon House in London as a copy of Pompeii.

In short, I do not think Russia copied anything in architecture.  I think that, as it unified under Ivan III and began to think more and more of itself as a member of an international community, it eventually joined the other European powers in drawing from the same transnational movements from which they drew for their architecture.

Offline londo954

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Re: Russian Palace Architecture
« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2012, 02:38:52 PM »
An interesting catch-22 Nicholas II was the least Russian of all the monarchs yet it was during his reign that the Pan-Slavic movement gained the most momentum

Offline edubs31

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Re: Russian Palace Architecture
« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2012, 03:48:09 PM »
An interesting catch-22 Nicholas II was the least Russian of all the monarchs yet it was during his reign that the Pan-Slavic movement gained the most momentum

Right, owing to Nicholas II's devout nationalism. You'd never know he was married to a foreign bride either considering how he surrounded himself with all things Russian; books, music, theory, etc...
Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right...

Offline londo954

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Re: Russian Palace Architecture
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2012, 12:01:23 AM »
True ... another anachronism....
One of the more beautiful constructions of his reign was the Narodny Dom which was a wooden theater complex built to support the arts and was open to the common people. From what I understand performances were either free or for a nominal fee. The structure was accomplished in the Russian Style but was made of wood and therefore I do not believe it has survived.

Offline RichC

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Re: Russian Palace Architecture
« Reply #7 on: May 13, 2012, 12:13:14 PM »
So I would argue that Russian architecture -- at least imperial and aristocratic architecture -- did not "copy for localization" anything any more than did English, French, German, Italian, or Austrian architecture.  Every one of these countries was rife with buildings that were in the central flow of transnational movements with origins from all over the world.  If Rastrelli's work in St. Petersburg was a Russianized "copy" of anything, then Palladio's work in Italy was a modernized "copy" of early classical forms.  If Quarenghi's work in Russia was a Russianized "copy" of anything, then Wren's work in London was an Anglicized "copy" of French architecture and Italian (especially Bernini's) architecture.  If Cameron's work at Tsarskoye Selo was a "copy" of anything, then one would also have to speak of Adams' work at Syon House in London as a copy of Pompeii.

In short, I do not think Russia copied anything in architecture.  I think that, as it unified under Ivan III and began to think more and more of itself as a member of an international community, it eventually joined the other European powers in drawing from the same transnational movements from which they drew for their architecture.

The only difference I see here is that the architects named in your examples are not actually native born Russians.  Russia seems to not only have borrowed the styles for these structures (the great Palaces) from transnational movements in the West but also borrowed the actual human talent too.  Quarenghi and Rastrelli were both born in Italy while Cameron was born in Scotland.  In contrast, Wren and Adam are both highly acclaimed native-born British architects.    Their ideas may be borrowed from cultures outside Britain, but they themselves were British.  Not so with Russia; not only were the ideas borrowed, but there doesn't seem to have been any native talent available to execute them; if there was, they were passed over for some reason.  The fact that the structures are located in Russia is almost incidental. 

This touches upon the ongoing argument of Russia's overall contribution to world culture; something Russians are very self-conscious about.  I think their overall contribution is undeniably rich, but I agree with you that is not the case with their 18th and 19th century palaces. 

And where they can claim credit, they sometimes don't get it!  It's ridiculous to look at a painting by Kandinsky in a museum and see him described as a GERMAN painter with no reference to his Russian heritage.

Offline Inok Nikolai

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Re: Russian Palace Architecture
« Reply #8 on: May 13, 2012, 07:59:08 PM »
True ... another anachronism....
One of the more beautiful constructions of his reign was the Narodny Dom which was a wooden theater complex built to support the arts and was open to the common people. From what I understand performances were either free or for a nominal fee. The structure was accomplished in the Russian Style but was made of wood and therefore I do not believe it has survived.

Here is a short article on The Narodny Dom of Tsar Nicholas II in St. Petersburg.
http://wikimapia.org/18298741/ru/Народный-дом-императора-Николая-II

It was built in 1900, expanded in 1911-12. The original pavilion came from the Nizhni-Novgorod Pan-Russian Exhibition.

The Narodny Dom burned down in 1932.

The site is now occupied by the Baltic Theater (the former Lenin Komsomol Theater).

Here are two shots of the exterior:
http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Файл:Народный_дом_Николая_II.jpeg

http://photos.wikimapia.org/p/00/01/45/63/63_big.jpg

And here are a whole series of the interiors:
http://www.nlr.ru/petersburg/spbpcards/pet/1.htm

Decorated for the 300th anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty:
http://panevin.ru/uploads/calendar/1855_2_1024.jpg

The celebration for the knights of St. George's medal in November 1915:
http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Файл:St._George%27s_day_1915.jpeg


This site in general is fascinating:
The National Library's collection of pre-Revolutionary postcards of St. Petersburg!
http://www.nlr.ru/petersburg/spbpcards/index.html

инок Николай

Offline BobG

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Re: Russian Palace Architecture
« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2012, 12:54:02 PM »
The English version of the National Library's site can be found here:

http://www.nlr.ru/eng/line/spbpcards/

BobG

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Russian Palace Architecture
« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2012, 10:13:57 PM »

Not so with Russia; not only were the ideas borrowed, but there doesn't seem to have been any native talent available to execute them; if there was, they were passed over for some reason.  The fact that the structures are located in Russia is almost incidental.


I think this is right for the premiere architects whose names dominate the field of imperial architecture:  Rastrelli, Cameron, Trezzini, Renaldi, Quarenghi, et al.

However, some of the greatest buildings erected by the senior nobility -- and quite a few imperial palaces and other imperial commissions -- were the work of Russian architects.  The greatest families in Russia relied on Russian-born architects:  the Yussupovs, who used Yevgraph Tyurin on Arkhangelskoye; the Arakcheyevs, who used Vasily Stasov on Gruzino (not to mention Stasov's creation of the Lyceum and the Chinese Village in the Catherine Palace complex); the Razumovskys, who employed Alexandr Kokorinov as their house architect; the Krushyovs, who used Afanasy Grigoriev (born a house serf of the Kretov family) in Moscow; the Shuvalovs; the Vorontsovs, who employed Karl Blank as house architect after his successful execution of several major projects for Catherine II.

And my two favorite structures in Russia (including even the imperial palaces) -- Ostankino and Kuskovo, commissioned by the highly-artistic and phenomenally wealthy Sheremetev family -- were the creations largely or in part by Russian-born architects:  Ivan Starov, Pyotr Argunov, Karl Blank, Y. I. Kologrivov, Fiodor Argunov.  In fact, one could argue that Ostankino, the grandest private residence of them all, had as its architect Nikolai Sheremetev himself.

Even the last transnational style to come to imperial Russia -- Art Nouveau -- was the idiom of such Russian architects as Lev Kekushev, Ilya Bondarenko, Victor Vasnetsov, and Sergey Solovyov.

To me at least, the main difference between a neoclassical building executed by a foreign architect and one executed by a Russian architect lies never in the layout or proportions, sometimes in the scale, and always in the strong color palette.  It is there, more than any other dimension, that the "Russianness" of the buildings and their creators comes shining through.