ICONS & RETABLOS: IMAGES OF DEVOTION
March 2—August 27, 2023
Curated by Dr. Elizabeth Calil Zarur
This bilingual exhibition, created in collaboration with New Mexico State University, will explore and compare Orthodox icons and Mexican retablos, which convey artistically similar themes but with different materials, styles, and iconographies.
Orthodox icons, typically made with egg tempera on wood panels, feature a stylized representation of the divine against a golden background, symbolizing the intangible and mysterious world of heaven. Icons, an integral part of worship in the Orthodox Church, offer us a glimpse of the divine and transcend ordinary, earthly reality.
Retablos, on the other hand, are religious images painted in oil on industrial pieces of tinplate. They depict an idealized likeness of the divine against blue skies, symbolizing truth and heaven, and facilitating a human connection with God and the saints. This unique and richly varied artistic tradition flourished in Mexico during the nineteenth century.
SWAN LAKE: 145 YEARS OF HISTORY & TRIUMPH
November 10, 2022 – February 26, 2023
An exhibition of photographs, costumes, and historical documents from the private collection of Yana Veselova, this mini exhibition worked to preserve the memory of the choreography and ballet dancers of the 19th and 20th centuries through original black and white photographs, costume pieces, and theater playbills from France, Russia, Australia, England, and the United States.
TREE OF LIFE: BIRCH THROUGH THE AGES
Curated by Simone Tricca
The birch tree serves many purposes in Slavic culture – it is a versatile material for traditional crafts, an ancient symbol of sorrow and renewal, and a representation of the land and people. Centered around six unique icons created by Siberian artist Vladimir Tulyak from layers of birch bark, this installation brings together representations of birch in Slavic art, poetry, and craft. Seen together, these works create connections between the traditional, pagan roots of the birch motif and its later uses in Christian belief and contemporary Slavic life.
IMAGES OF ATHEISM: THE SOVIET ASSAULT ON RELIGION
May 5 – October 2, 2022
Images of Atheism explores the role of visual propaganda in the Communist Party’s seven-decade war against religion (ca. 1920–1990). With their eye-catching design, strident slogans, and stereotyped characters, the posters, and publications of Soviet atheism demonized the world’s religions and jeered at those who practiced them. Above all, they appealed to young people by promising a new world of abundance and moral values replacing the superstitions and injustices of the past. Intended mainly for domestic consumption, this remarkable campaign to eradicate faith is among the least-known aspects of Soviet visual culture.
The exhibition shows the shifting strategies deployed in the Soviet war on religion, at times appealing to science and reason, at others stoking fear and resentment, or exposing individual expressions of faith to ridicule. Among the exhibit’s highlights are a virtual “Godless Corner” showing how atheist materials were to replace icons in the public space; a rare portfolio of antireligious alphabet cards targeting schoolchildren; and posters from the Brezhnev era meant to stem the growing religiosity of Soviet citizens as communism approached its end. Uniting the images across this seventy-year span is a visual language of right and wrong, us and others, whose coercive power can still be felt today.
TEA IS FOR TRADITION
On view February 3 – October 2, 2022
Tea holds a special place in Russian life, and no Russian home is complete without a samovar, the portly metal urn used to boil water. But how did this ancient beverage come to hold such a place of prominence in Russia? This mini-exhibition explores the objects associated with tea drinking and the permeation of tea culture in art, craft, and literature.
ICONS FOR OUR TIME: ORTHODOX ART FROM AROUND THE WORLD
October 14, 2021–April 3, 2022
Icons for Our Time, guest curated by Dr. Clemena Antonova, celebrates the fifteenth anniversary of the Museum’s founding with an exhibition of fifteen icons by some of the most important contemporary icon painters. New works by artists from Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Egypt, Georgia, Greece, Japan, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia, the UK, and the US have been especially commissioned for this anniversary exhibition.
GORDON LANKTON: A COLLECTOR CELEBRATED
July 29 – October 3, 2021
Although Gordon B. Lankton is known primarily as the founder of the Museum of Russian Icons, his journey as a collector spanned a lifetime, reflecting his travels and a deep interest in human culture worldwide. Some of the objects in this exhibition chronicle his personal and professional accomplishments; others simply represent his varied interests. From an early age he assembled impressive sets of American pennies, World War II posters and propaganda, die-cast metal toys, presidential election pins, African sculpture, cast bronze buddhas, and Asian painting.
ATOMIC ALERT! CONFRONTING THE BOMB IN THE NEW ATOMIC AGE
July 1 – August 8, 2021
The Soviet Union’s detonation of its first atomic bomb test on August 29, 1949, thrust the United States into a new and more precarious era. Just four years after celebrating victory in World War II as the only nation with an atomic bomb, Americans now found themselves confronting the probability of an atomic war.
Atomic Alert!: Confronting “The Bomb” in the New Atomic Age, a new exhibition on view at the Museum of Russian Icons from July 1 – August 8, 2021, explores the U.S. government’s Cold War era efforts to educate Americans about what to do before an atomic attack, how to react to a sudden, blinding flash, and what action to take in the aftermath of a catastrophic blast.
Featuring artifacts such as posters, brochures, videos, and interpretation from Michael Scheibach, Ph.D., independent scholar and author, Atomic Alert! offers a unique opportunity to revisit the early atomic age when the world was divided between two atomic-armed adversaries: the United States and the Soviet Union.
PAINTED POETRY: ALEXANDER GASSEL, A RETROSPECTIVE
March 5 – July 18, 2021
This exhibition of contemporary paintings by Russian-born American artist and designer Alexander Gassel blends the avant-garde with traditional Russian iconography and combines ancient symbols with contemporary subjects. Gassel creates extraordinarily vivid works that reflect his cultural heritage alongside his life experience in America.
Artist, conservator, and writer Alexander Gassel’s artworks combine ancient icon painting techniques with Biblical, mythological, modern, and deeply personal narratives. A synthesis of Art Deco designs influenced by Erté, narrative genre scenes evoking Chagall, saturated color schemes recalling Kandinsky, and complex formal structures reminiscent of Malevich all combine to make for a highly sophisticated and individual vision that is unique to Gassel, yet typically Russian. Harmonious, elegant, and moving, his art consistently garners international attention and appears in many public and private collections, including that of the Vatican.
Click here for a virtual tour of this exhibition.
MINIATURE MASTERPIECES: RUSSIAN LACQUERED BOXES
October 30, 2020 – March 31, 2021
Miniature Masterpieces: Russian Lacquer Boxes, features more than 100 intricately painted lacquer boxes from the four small Russian villages of Fedoskino, Palekh, Kholui, and Mstera.
The development of Russian lacquerware, widely renowned for its exquisite detail and bright colors, is a fascinating story of artists adapting local traditions to produce new enterprises. The papier-mâché treasures, decorated with miniature paintings of folk scenes and fairytales, are lacquered and polished to a high sheen. This exhibition is made possible through the generous gift of lacquer boxes from the private collection of Dennis H. and Marian S. Pruslin.
TRADITION & OPULENCE: EASTER IN IMPERIAL RUSSIA
July 17–October 25, 2020
From opulent, jeweled creations to humble embroidered examples, perhaps no country is more closely associated with the tradition of exchanging decorated Easter eggs than Russia. This exhibition, of almost 200 objects, includes works by the Fabergé firm and its competitors, ceramic eggs, icons, and vintage Easter postcards, from collectors around the country and abroad. Click here to order the companion catalog.
THE LONG WAY HOME: A PHOTOGRAPHIC JOURNEY WITH GORDON LANKTON
July 17–September 27, 2020
On November 6, 1956, armed with a camera, maps, passports, C-Rations, a budget of $5.00 per day ($3 food, $1 sleeping, $1 for gas and everything else) and little else, 25-year-old Gordon Lankton left Frankfurt, Germany on an NSU motorcycle and began an adventure that would come to influence the path he would take for the next 50 years.
Over 40 stunning photographs, taken by Museum founder Gordon Lankton during this life-changing journey, along with artifacts from the trip, will be on display.
Click here for a story map of Gordon’s adventure.
LESIA SOCHOR | PYSANKA: SYMBOL OF RENEWAL
April 7 – August 2, 2020
Lesia Sochor’s paintings are narratives told in paint that are prompted by personal experiences. The Pysanka series evolved from Sochor’s annual spring ritual of creating Ukrainian Easter eggs called Pysanky. Depicting the symbolic meanings and traditional motifs of this talismanic object in oils and watercolors spawned a new path of contemporary expression for this ancient art form. Sochor creates a direct link to her ancestral roots by continuing the tradition of Pysanky making passed down by her Ukrainian immigrant mother.
EMIL HOPPE: PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE BALLETS RUSSES
November 15, 2019–March 8, 2020
THE LORE OF SAINT NICHOLAS
Comprised of 85 platinum prints, this exhibition paid homage to the genius of two men: famed Russian impresario Sergei Diaghilev who, more than a century ago, founded the Ballets Russes; and renowned photographer Emil Otto Hoppé, who, between 1911 and 1921, photographed the champions of that illustrious company.
December 6, 2019–March 15, 2020
NUTS ABOUT NUTCRACKERS
This exhibit, in the Museum’s auditorium, explored the mysterious and wondrous persona of Saint Nicholas. It featured more than 40 rarely-seen icons of the saint taken from the Museum’s collection storage.
November 14, 2019–March 8, 2020
WRESTLING WITH ANGELS: ICONS FROM THE PROSOPON SCHOOL OF ICONOLOGY AND ICONOGRAPHY
A mini-exhibition of unique nutcrackers on loan from the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum in Leavenworth, Washington explored these object’s fascinating history.
July 19–October 20, 2019
Wrestling with Angels was an exhibition of forty-six luminous contemporary icons by sixteen iconographers from the Prosopon School of Iconology and Iconography. Exploring the recent renaissance of this ancient tradition, the exhibition will feature icons by the founder of the Prosopon School, Vladislav Andrejev, along with works by master iconographers, instructors, and apprentices.
ZHOSTOVO: A RUSSIAN AMERICAN ODYSSEY
April 6–October 20, 2019
More than twenty trays painted in the traditional Zhostovo style.
KONSTANTIN SIMUN: THE SACRED IN THE PROFANE
February 22–June 30, 2019
The Sacred in the Profane, curated by Fitchburg Art Museum Curator Lisa Crossman, offered a survey of artist Konstantin Simun’s unique capacity to find iconographic forms in molded plastic and other consumer objects.
CORNCOBS TO COSMONAUTS: REDEFINING THE HOLIDAYS DURING THE SOVIET ERA
November 9, 2018–January 27, 2019
Corncobs to Cosmonauts showcased over 150 ornaments, toys, and books from the Soviet era and compares the Soviet’s secular New Year’s celebrations with the Western world’s Christmas traditions. The majority of the ornaments and toys were donated to the Museum by collector and Hamilton College Professor Franklin Sciacca.
OPULENCE REDISCOVERED: THE ROMANOV LITURGICAL SILVER
October 19, 2018–January 13, 2019
This extraordinary set of Orthodox liturgical implements was made in 1877 as part of the imperial dowry of Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna Romanova (1853-1920), the only surviving daughter of Russian Emperor Alexander II, who married Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, in 1874, and used this opulent silver set in her private chapel in the Clarence House British Royal Residence in London.
ICONS OF THE HELLENIC WORLD: THE COLLECTION OF ARGIE & EMMANUEL TILIAKOS
June 22–October 21, 2018
Icons of the Hellenic World was the first major exhibition at the Museum of Russian Icons that focused exclusively on Greek and Byzantine iconography. On view June 22 – October 21, 2018, the exhibit delved deeply into the links and the continuity of Greek art and culture from Late Antiquity, through Byzantium, to the present.
RUSHNYKY: SACRED UKRAINIAN TEXTILES
February 15–June 3, 2018
Rushnyky: Sacred Ukrainian Textiles celebrated and explored Ukrainian culture through one of its most ancient and valued traditions.
This exhibit of over 80 rushnyky, Ukrainian icons, and related artifacts came from the collection of Franklin Sciacca, Associate Professor of Russian Language and Literature at Hamilton College
FROM FIREBIRD TO FISHERMAN: TWELVE FAIRY TALE PLATES
September 26, 2017–January 28, 2018
This mini-exhibit showcased a series of twelve decorative plates designed and crafted by accomplished artists from Palekh, and Kholui, to Fedoskino. Each plate illustrates a different Russian fairytale. The myths and legends of Russia are provide a window into a fascinating and diverse culture. Generously donated by Robert Laroucque in 2017.
MIGRATION + MEMORY: JEWISH ARTISTS OF THE RUSSIAN AND SOVIET EMPIRES
October 12, 2017–January 28, 2018
This exhibition featured approximately 60 works drawn from the Vladimir and Vera Torchilin Collection that explore the creative responses as well as historical trajectories of Jewish artists born, trained, or active in the Russian as well as Soviet Empires in the twentieth century. Organized by Boston’s Ballets Russes Arts Initiative and presented by the Museum of Russian Icons, it is curated by BRAI’s Executive Director, Anna Winestein, and structured around the themes of migration and memory that are central to the Jewish experience in this period.
FANTASTIC BEASTS IN ICONOGRAPHY
June 3–September 24, 2017
Natural and unnatural creatures were the focus of this exhibition at the Museum of Russian Icons. Fantastic Beasts in Iconography will include 50 icons and artifacts that spotlight the origins, symbolism, stories, and myriad of representations of animals in icons. The family-friendly exhibit will include over 50 icons and artifacts along with six mounted dragon heads created by Worcester artist, Hilary Scott.
FROM THE VAULT: ICONS OF ETHIOPIA
This exhibit featured a mix of Ethiopian icons, silver hand crosses, and artifacts from the Museum’s collection dating from the 19th and 20th century. Many of the icons were purchased from a gallery in Berlin, Germany between 2011 and 2014 including a Mother of God fresco, from the late 18th century that had been removed from the wall and transferred to canvas.
PONDERING MARY: HER STORY THROUGH ICONS
March 11–May 21, 2017
This exhibit explored Mary’s life as portrayed in icons; how her relationship with her Son has defined her; and how the Russian people have viewed her complex role in salvation.
TWO IMPERIAL ICONS
October 15, 2016–May 14, 2017
These two important Imperial Presentation icons by Faberge and Kurliukov, were created as gifts for the 1908 wedding of Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna the Younger (1890-1958) to Prince Willem of Sweden, Duke of Sodermanland.
HOLY FOOLS TO WONDER WORKERS: SAINTS OF THE ORTHODOX FAITH
November 19, 2016–February 26, 2017
Holy Fools to Wonder Workers featured 30 icons from the Museum’s collection that are not regularly on view. Visitors to the exhibit will be able to explore different types of saints celebrated by the Orthodox Church, from Prophets of the Old Testament to the Monastics living in rural Russia. Popular saints such as Nicholas and George will be shown alongside those who are lesser known but equally fascinating figures. There is Simeon the Stylite, who lived for many years atop a pillar, and Saint Mary of Egypt, a repentant sinner who lived alone in the deserts of Egypt.
IN COMPANY WITH ANGELS: SEVEN REDISCOVERED TIFFANY WINDOWS
July 14–October 16, 2016
“Angels Representing Seven Churches,” the central element of this exhibit, is a set of free-standing, eight-foot tall, windows created by Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1902 at Tiffany Studios in New York City. Originally commissioned for a church in Cincinnati, the seven windows depict almost life-size angels, illustrating passages from the Bible’s Book of Revelation. Although they form a set, each angel, named according to their Biblical reference, has different characteristics—and a unique personality—depicted in glass through the artistry of Tiffany Studio.
TOYS, TRINKETS, AND TREASURES: THE STORY OF THE NESTING DOLL
February 11–June 26, 2016
Russian Matryoshka dolls, often painted to depict peasants, have become an icon of Russian culture. The bright colors, distinctive shapes, and the imaginative concepts have delighted generations of children and are thoroughly recognizable to young and old alike. The Museum of Russian Icons unveiled its newest addition, a collection of nesting dolls from Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Japan and other countries. These dolls came to the Museum through the generosity of collector Pamela Kruskal who gifted 370 sets in the summer of 2015. The collection contains the story of the nesting doll which extends well beyond the well-known Russian dolls of the 20th century.
DISCOVERING ST. NICHOLAS
November 20, 2015–January 23, 2016
The traveling exhibit Discovering Santa Claus originated from the St. Nicholas Center in Holland, Michigan. The exhibition showcased a vast collection of art, icons, symbols, toys, statues and other treasures from around the world.
FEASTS: EARTHLY CELEBRATIONS OF HEAVENLY EVENTS
September 26–November 7, 2015
This exhibition showcased more than 30 rare icons depicting significant Russian Orthodox feast days, commemorating the annual cycle of holy days, the veneration of saints and the Church’s twelve major feast days.
BYZANTIUM TO RUSSIA: THE ORIGINS AND DEVELOPMENT OF RUSSIAN ICONS
Featuring icons from London’s British Museum
May 2–September 12, 2015
Byzantium to Russia was curated by Gordon B. Lankton, Prof. Raoul Smith and Kent dur Russell, and organized by the Museum of Russian Icons. A selection of 35 icons and 30 objects from the British Museum traced the stylistic development of sacred art from the center of Christian civilization to the introduction of Christianity to Russia. The show included icons as well as Byzantine cast metal objects, ivories and engraved gems. This is the first time that the British Museum, London, has lent St John the Baptist (Constantinople c. 1300) and the famous St George and the Dragon (known as the “Black George” Novgorod late 14th century).
THE VIBRANT ART AND STORIED HISTORY OF ETHIOPIAN ICONS
60 Icons & Artifacts from a Private European Collection
January 23–April 18, 2015
The Vibrant Art and Storied History of Ethiopian Icons illustrated the Christian traditions of this legendary East African nation. The exhibition featured 60 small-scale icons, triptychs, and illuminated manuscripts from the 16th century to the present. Several cast-brass processional crosses with intricate designs from the Museum’s own collection, as well as some small pendant crosses fundamental to sacred vestments, icons and a stone-carved triptych were also included.
SIBERIA IMAGINED AND REIMAGINED
September 13, 2014–January 10, 2015
From the everyday to the bizarre, 130 unique and powerful photos by Russian photographers. This exhibit brought photographs of Siberia by Russian photographers to the American public for the first time. Countless images of Siberia by non-Russian photographers have been published and those depictions have shaped perceptions around the world. Siberia Imagined and Reimagined offered an insider’s view.