October 30, 2021

The Best Dostoyevsky Artwork at the Russian Museum


The Best Dostoyevsky Artwork at the Russian Museum
Exhibit poster and model of Dostoyevsky's first Petersburg home, St. Michael's Castle. Amanda Shirnina

In honor of the upcoming 200th anniversary of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's birthday (November 11, 2021), the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg has an exhibit on for one month only – from October 14 to November 15. The exhibit is called "Dostoyevsky in Fine Art from the Collection of the Russian Museum." If you can't make it to St. Petersburg yourself by November 15, here's an overview.

First, the exhibit is staged at a very important place in the Petersburg life of Dostoyevsky: St. Michael's (Mikhailovsky or Engineer's) Castle. It is a branch of the Russian Museum but just happens to be Dostoyevsky's first residence in St. Petersburg when he arrived as a 15-year-old military cadet. It was a creepy place to live and felt haunted by the ghost of Paul I, who was murdered in its halls prior to Dostoyevsky's arrival.

Reflection of St. Michael's Castle
Reflection of St. Michael's Castle in the moat Paul I built around it to protect himself from assassination; it does not work when the plotters live among you. | Amanda Shirnina

Five pieces of artwork on display can be seen on the museum's advertisement for the exhibit.

The showing includes some of the Russian Museum's best pencil sketches, paintings, and marble, bronze, and wood sculptures of Dostoyevsky himself. But the majority of the artwork was inspired by his writing, used as cover art for his books, or used to imagine how the stage might look when various of his novels were turned into plays.

Dostoyevsky's shadow
Shadow of bronze statue F.M. Dostoyevsky, Leonid Mikhailovich Baranov, 1986. | Amanda Shirnina

Two different artists, Alexandra Nikolaevna Korsakova (Rudovich; 1950s-1960s) and Fyodor Denisovich Konstantinov (1945), envisioned Rodion Raskolnikov as having very wide eyes with the whites showing in the extreme.

In 1981, Leonid Izrailovich Lamm perceived Dostoyevsky's The House of the Dead in a series of lithographs as being overwhelmed by Orthodox religiosity. Of course, it was Soviet times.

Also on display is a series of paintings that shows modern-day Pitertsy what Haymarket Square really looked like in the nineteenth century. It was flooded with people, horses, carriages, and a truly gigantic church that no longer exists.

Dostoyevsky's dark mode comes across well in the gathered artwork inspired by the novelist and is sure to leave visitors to St. Michael's spooky castle both depressed and inspired.

One part of a wood triptych inspired by Dostoyevsky, Mikhail Alexeevich Makhov, 1971. | Amanda Shirnina

 

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