Pushkin House Prize 2017 Winner: The Russian Canvas: Painting in Imperial Russia, 1757-1881 by Rosalind P. Blakesley
We’re delighted this morning to confirm Rosalind Blakesley’s The Russian Canvas: Painting in Imperial Russia, 1757-1881 as the winner of the Pushkin House Russian Book Prize 2017, triumphing over a suitably superb shortlist.
Driven by 2017 marking the centenary of the Russian revolutions, the past year has seen a deluge of fine publishing on the theme of Russia and its history, making a win this year all the more significant. The Pushkin House Russian Book Prize exists to champion the very best non-fiction writing on Russia and The Russian Canvas eminently achieves that ambition.
It is indeed a simply sumptuous work from Yale University Press, brimming with some 250 illustrations charting the development of Russian art from the foundation of the Imperial Academy of the Arts in 1757 through to the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881. This period saw Russian painting under the broad influence of other European schools and the shifting politics of the time.
Best Russian Book in Translation
Also recognised last night was Teffi’s Memories from Moscow to the Black Sea, handed a special subsidiary prize for the best Russian book in translation.
The socialite and satirist Teffi – whose real name was Nadezhda Alexandrovna Lokhvitskaya – was forced to flee Russia following the October Revolution and Memories from Moscow to the Black Sea bears witness to her extraordinary refugee experience.
Our congratulations then to Rosalind Blakesley and the team of translators - Robert Chandler, Irina Steinberg and Anne-Marie Jackson – behind the publication of Teffi’s still all-too relevant memoir of cultural displacement.
The 2017 Shortlist
'The vast prison without a roof' – the history of Russian criminal and political exile to the isolation of Siberia is vast and terrible, from the beginning of the nineteenth century to Stalin’s gulags of the twentieth.
Daniel Beer’s The House of the Dead probes the truths and myths of this brutal quarantine, revealing that this systematic world of punishment also served as a laboratory of revolution.
‘Masterful, gripping ... filled with astonishing, vivid and heartbreaking stories of crime and punishment, of redemption, love and terrifying violence. It has an amazing cast of despots, murderers, whores and heroes. It's a wonderful read.’ - Simon Sebag Montefiore
From the mid-eighteenth century to the fall of the Tsars, Russian painting enjoyed a remarkable and swift evolution. Artists who were initially tarred with a provincial aspect rose to become international players, and the Russian form itself was sculpted and influenced by the art and philosophy of those they came into contact with.
Sumptuous and impeccably researched, Rosalind P. Blakesley’s The Russian Canvas: Painting in Imperial Russia, 1757-1881 stands as the definitive word on an entire era of art, intrigue and social politics.
‘Drawing on much original research, this study explores the transformation of Russian painting in the late 18th and 19th centuries.’ – Apollo: The International Art Magazine
In Putin Country, author Anne Garrels eschews the conventions of focusing on Moscow to forensically unpicking the more socially representative city of Chelyabinsk in an effort to understand a Russia guided by Vladmir Putin.
Garrels’ visits to Chelyabinsk began back in 1993, a benchmark moment of transition between the monolithic systems of Soviet power and the new Russia emerging from its shadow. Providing a true document of change: brimming with interviews from every walk of life – from drug addicts to schoolteachers, single mothers to members of the LGBT community – Putin County is a compelling reflection of the true modern Russia.
Princeton University’s Simon Morrison leaves no stone of excess and genius unturned in his Bolshoi Confidential, the luminous account of Russia’s most spectacular and feted artistic institution.
From its unlikely 1780 beginnings at the hands of unscrupulous English impresario Michael Maddox, the volume charts the Bolshoi’s ascent, an evolution marked by as much drama offstage as there was ever on.
‘Delivers what its title promises: struggles and intrigues, crimes and punishments, imperial jewels and Soviet medals.’ – The New York Times
Simon Sebag Montefiore’s The Romanovs: 1613-1918 is one of those once-in-a-decade texts that manages to bring the past very much into the present, with the author’s impeccable research and deft skill for story sealing a vast but still intimate chronology of Russia’s twenty sovereigns.
For Antony Beevor, writing for the Financial Times, The Romanovs is ‘epic history on the grandest scale … reading Montefiore's excellent account, it is hard to imagine how the monarchy could ever have survived under their catastrophic leadership.’
Teffi, the pseudonymous writer Nadezhda Alexandrovna Lokhvitskaya, was once favourite of both Nicholas II and Lenin, but later years found her fleeing from post-Revolutionary Russia.
Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea is the journal of that exodus, charting Teffi’s heartbreaking loss of the Moscow she loved to the vast uncertainty of the future. At each step, friends and cities fall under the march of Bolshevik progress, forcing Taffi to endure what was, in effect, an infinite farewell.
‘Teffi inimitably captures the chaos and terror of war… Memories might have been relentlessly bleak if it were not for its humour and Teffi’s indestructible positivity.’ – The Guardian