Russian Museums and Galleries Moscow Museum of Private Collections Tatyana Mavrina Collection and Works (Room 204)

Tatyana Mavrina Collection and Works (Room 204)

Tatyana Alexeyevna Mavrina (Lebedeva) (1900/02–1996), an honoured artist and illustrator, and her husband, the artist Nikolai Vasilyevich Kuzmin (1890–1987), collected Russian icons and applied art. In 1996, Tatyana Mavrina presented the Museum of Private Collections with their unique collection of icons, a series of works of applied art and several dozen of her own creations.

The core of the Tatyana Mavrina collection is twenty-two icons. Mostly painted in the sixteenth century, these works are of an extremely high artistic standard. All of them are now on permanent exhibition. One of the gems in the collection is the small icon Battle between the Suzdalites and the Novgorodians (Novgorod, early 16th century). The subject is based on one of the earliest events in Russian history – the saving of Novgorod from capture by Suzdal in 1169. When the forces of Suzdal approached the city, the citizens of Novgorod brought out the icon of Our Lady of the Sign. The attackers were blinded and defeated.

The iconography of this subject usually consists of three sections – the siege of Novgorod, the procession with the icon and the rout of the Suzdalites. This particular work only consists of the latter two parts. The distinct division of the icon into tiers, expressive silhouettes, rich tones and golden background rank Battle between the Suzdalites and the Novgorodians from the Mavrina collection among the masterpieces of Old Russian painting.

Besides north Russian icons, the Mavrina collection also contains examples of the Muscovite school of icon-painting, including waist-length images of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel from a Deisus tier.

Tatyana Mavrina and Nikolai Kuzmin also collected works of decorative and applied art, distaffs, clay toys and objects painted by Tatyana Mavrina in the Russian national style. Mavrina made a copy of the popular lubok print Kazan Cat – Astrakhan Wit and painted a tin tray and tots. Such objects demonstrate the artist’s creative method, combining the traditions of Russian primitivism with the painterly quests of the first decades of the early twentieth century.

Tatyana Mavrina was the daughter of a teacher and writer called Alexei Lebedev. She studied under Nikolai Sinezouboff and Robert Falk at the VKhUTEMAS/VKhUTEIN in Moscow (1921–29). A member of the Growth group of artists, with whom she began her exhibition career (1928–29), she later contributed to the shows of the Thirteen group. Mavrina was her mother’s surname, which she used as a pseudonym. One of the most talented members of Thirteen, Mavrina later united the group’s “penchant for sketching the sharp side of life” with her own interest in Old Russian and folk art. She created her own unique style, combining free graphic drawing with the decorative expressiveness of folk primitivism.

Besides producing paintings and graphic art, Tatyana Mavrina also designed posters and cinema and theatrical sets. Bouquet with Gorodets Horses (1965) reflects the artist’s desire to “bring together two types of painting – the pure tones of Russian icons and the exact, naturalist colour of autumn leaves.” Her illustrations and compositions based on Russian fairytales and numerous sketchbooks from her travels round Russia have won wide recognition.

In the mid-1970s, Mavrina painted the maxim of St Cyril of Turau – “heaven and earth serve thee, one is moisture and the other is fruit; the sun serves thee with light and warmth” – on a preliminary sketch combining a landscape and a bouquet. The words of the twelfth-century spiritual writer could well serve as an epitaph to the artist’s own works of her last decades. In the 1970s, Mavrina confined herself to still-lifes, preferring to paint bouquets on a window-sill. Her favourite medium was gouache on paper. The artist’s works of the 1980s and early 1990s also merit attention. At the end of her professional career, she scaled new heights of colour expression.

The Museum of Private Collections owns six canvases painted by Tatyana Mavrina in the 1930s and several dozen graphic works, including drawings, gouaches, travel sketches and illustrations. Part of her graphic heritage is also on permanent exhibition.

Tatyana Mavrina made an additional name for herself as the illustrator of more than two hundred books. She won silver medals at the Leipzig Book Fair (1960, 1965, 1977) and first prize at the International Exhibition of Book Graphic Art in Brno (1966). She was awarded the Ivan Fyodorov Prize and the State Prize of the USSR (1975). Tatyana Mavrina was one of only a few Russian artists to win the Hans Christian Andersen Prize for her illustrations of children’s books (1976).

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