18 November, 2004 — 31 July, 2005


Avant Garde Jug
Image above: RSFSR Measuring Jug, Painting designed by Rudolf Vilde, 1921 ©The State Hermitage Museum

The exhibition Circling the Square: Avant-garde Porcelain from Revolutionary Russia will present, for the first time in this country, a comprehensive survey of the porcelain produced in the world-renowned Lomonosov Porcelain Factory in St. Petersburg (formerly the Imperial Porcelain Factory) during the years following the Russian Revolution of 1917.

This is a rare opportunity to consider the achievements of a group of radical avant-garde artists — especially the abstract Suprematist painters in the circle of Kazimir Malevich — within the context of Russian revolutionary porcelain. The exhibition of porcelain and drawings is jointly organised by the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg and the Courtauld Institute of Art, and is sponsored by The Russian financial corporation URALSIB. The exhibits, from the historic collection of the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory Museum, are now in the care of the State Hermitage Museum.
Each of the four galleries concentrates on a facet or period of the factory’s output. The first gallery is devoted to the Suprematist phase of c.1923. During this intensely productive period Malevich, Nikolai Suetin and Ilya Chashnik created a new, non-naturalistic style of porcelain decoration using geometric forms — the square, the circle and the cross. Examples of their famous deconstructed teapots, coffee pots and half-cups will be on show.
The second gallery features work by some of the leading Russian avant-garde artists including Ivan Puni, Vladmir Tatlin and Wassily Kandinsky. Propaganda is the subject of the third gallery, which includes pieces by Rudolf Vilde, Vladimir Lebedev and Lyudmila Protopopova. Propaganda for revolutionary ideas was everywhere in Russian life. Its spirit is present in the porcelain on show.
In March 1918 the Imperial Factory was taken over by the People’s Commissariat for Public Education. To fulfil the factory’s new aim of producing porcelain that was 'revolutionary in content, perfect in form and flawless in technical execution’, the factory’s new artistic director, Sergei Chekhonin, whose designs are also on show, invited avant-garde artists to the factory and encouraged the resident artists to experiment with modernism.
The final gallery brings together pieces dating from the Soviet Cultural Revolution to the mid-1930s. At Lomonosov, with Suetin as artistic director, Suprematism continued to be an influence on decoration, though now with the new Soviet imagery — proclaiming agrarian reforms and other aspects of Stalin’s Five-Year Plans.

Alexandra Gerstein

The Hermitage Rooms

We acknowledge with grateful thanks the ongoing support for the Hermitage Rooms of the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation, The Deborah Loeb Brice Foundation and the Founding Members of the Walpole Circle.

The Marquess of Cholmondeley, His Grace The Duke of Devonshire, Dame Vivien Duffield DBE

Nicholas and Jane Ferguson, Rocco Forte Hotels, Georges C Karlweis, Ms N Parker

Mr and Mrs S N Roditi, Lord Rothschild, OM, GBE, FBA, Mr Peter Simon, Olga and William Shawcross,

Mr John Studzinski, Mrs Charles Wrightsman and others who wish to remain anonymous.

We would like to extend special thanks to Lord Rothschild for his particular contribution to the Hermitage Rooms.