Russia's Unknown Orient. Orientalist painting 1850-1920

June 1, 2010

From 19 December 2010 to 8 May 2011, the Groninger Museum will present an exhibition about the Russia's unknown Orient and the wealth of its 19th-century Orient. Various paintings and drawings will elucidate the influence of the Russian Orient upon painting of the 19th- and early 20th centuries. While simultaneously the work of the painters that these oriental counties produced will also be shown in the Groninger Museum.
The exhibition tells the story of the (art-)historical link between Russia and its southern neighbours: Uzbekistan (formerly Turkistan), the Caucasian countries (Georgia, Armenia) and the Crimean peninsula – a link that is characterized by fascination for oriental traditions and a succession of wars of conquest.
The most important artist in this exhibition is Vasili Vereshchagin (1842-1904). He travelled with the army on campaign in the south. Like a war photographer avant-la-lettre, he painted the ruthless realities of war, as well as the wealth of the oriental cultures. In doing so, he offered a glimpse of an unknown 19th-century world. Of course, these countries also had their own contemporary artists, who displayed their interpretations of the rich traditions of their country, which continued to develop during Russian rule.
The themes featured in this exhibition are: allegory (the way in which Russia saw its neighbours), travel impressions, war reports, everyday life in the Russian Orient and the biblical East. More than one hundred works by Vasili Vereshchagin, Martiros Sarian, Vasili Polenov, Niko Pirosmanashvili, Pavel Kuznetsov, Evgenii Lanseray, and others will be presented.
Russia and the Groninger Museum
In the past few years, the Groninger Museum has devoted several exhibitions to Russian art. In 2001 the Museum presented the very successful exhibition entitled Ilya Repin. Russia’s Secret, followed by Russian Landscape (2003) and Russian Legends, folk tales and fairy tales (2007).
To accompany the exhibition, a catalogue will appear with contributions by Dr Inessa Kouteinikova (guest curator) and by specialists from Russia, Canada and Europe, among others.
- Moscow: A.A. Bakhrushin State Central Theatrical Museum, The Bolshoi Theatre Museum of Russia, The State Museum of Oriental Art, The State Historical Museum, State Tretyakov Gallery, Private collection
- Tula: Tula Regional Art Museum
- Saint Petersburg: The Russian Museum of Ethnography, Scientific Research Museum of the Russian Academy of Arts
- Kiev: National Art Museum of Ukraine, Kiev Museum of Russian Art
- Yerevan: National Gallery of Armenia, Martiros Sarian House Museum
- Tashkent: State Museum of Art of Uzbekistan
- Bukhara: The Bukhara State Architectural and Art Museum
- Samarkand: Samarkand Museum
- London: Sphinx Fine Art
The exhibition has been made possible by a contribution from the Foundation Fund for Art and the Economy, an initiative of VNO-NCW Noord and the Groninger Museum. This project is co-funded by the co-operative venture Noord-Nederland, EZ/Kompas.
Media partner
Dagblad van het Noorden newspaper
Note for the editor, not for publication:
Guest curator, Inessa Kouteinikova; production of the exhibition, Stijn ten Hoeve; layout of the exhibition, Mark Wilson.
For more information, please contact: Josee Selbach,, +31 (0)50-3666555,