AUSTRALIAN SOCIETY FOR CULTURAL RELATIONS WITH THE SOVIET UNION (VICTORIAN BRANCH); STREETON, Arthur; FAIRFAX, W. O. et al
Exhibition of Russian Culture : Russian pictures and photographs, Soviet posters and cartoons, pictorial statistics, Russian works of art.
Officially opened by His Excellency, Major-General Sir Winston Dugan … Governor of Victoria. Open from March 4 to March 13 … Lectures daily in the afternoons. The Velasquez Galleries, 100 Bourke St., Melb., C.1. Proceeds in aid of Russian Branch, Aust. Red Cross Society. Melbourne : The Society, . Octavo (215 x 135 mm), original printed wrappers with vignette hammer and sickle design (previous owner’s punch holes, upper wrapper with silverfish damage to fore-edge and bottom corner), stapled, 15 pp, with a series of short Tributes to Russian Culture by Prominent Citizens (Sir David Rivett, Sir Arthur Streeton, W. O. Fairfax and Justice Charles Lowe), followed by a catalogue of the 191 paintings, prints, posters, embroideries and carpets in the exhibition, and brief biographies of the 46 artists represented (mostly nineteenth-century painters such as Repin, Shchedrin, Levitsky, Kiprensky and Levitan, with a few notable exceptions being Soviet artists Taras Gaponenko, Sergei Gerassimov, Mitrofan Grekov, Boris Johanson, Yuri Pimenov and Vassily Yefanov); internally clean and fresh.
A highly significant catalogue which illustrates the sympathy towards Soviet socialism held by many Australian intellectuals and artists of the 1930s and 40s. The Victorian Branch of the Australian Society for Cultural Relations with the Soviet Union counted among its eight vice-presidents such academic luminaries as economists Professor John Crawford and Professor L. F. Giblin. Melbourne artist Marguerite Mahood was on the organising committee for the exhibtion.
The catalogue frames Russia as a great Ally in the war against Fascism, and the foreword contains a well-intentioned but politically biased statement which, blind to the horrors of Stalinist Russia in the 1930s – the Great Terror, the Gulag, the Holodomor, the Kazakh Famine – tells the reader that they have been “ill-informed” about the marvellous life and achievements in that country. There follow four short pieces by Prominent Citizens (Rivett, Streeton, Fairfax and Lowe), each a paean to different aspects of Russian culture (literature, music, ballet, art and craftsmanship – although the comments ironically mention only pre-revolutionary figures) or socialist progress (agricultural and industrial development). Sir Arthur Streeton, painter-turned-social commentator, opines naively: “The Russians appear to-day a transformed nation where their vast population are all workers and apparently happy under communal laws”.
Very scarce. Trove locates only one copy (SLV).