Tag Archives: Grigory Potanin

Lidia Bazanova art exhibit, Tomsk


You may not realize that Lidia Bazanova (1864-1916) is worthy of your attention. There isn’t a damn thing about her in the English-language internet, and she is not included in John Milner’s wonderful Dictionary of Russian and Soviet Artists: 1420-1970. But as it turns out, even Russia chose to forget her for quite awhile. Here is what a major reassessment of her life and work had to say on the website of the Tomsk Regional Museum of Art: “The artist herself and her work were long forgotten; her creative biography was never published. Tomsk residents recalled this interesting person and artist only in the 1990s when a few newspaper articles appeared.” I’m not the best person to crack the silence about her, because I virtually know nothing myself. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do a little hunting and reading and thinking, does it?
The building I show in this post is now called the Officer’s House (address: 50 Lenin Prospekt). When Bazanova lived in Tomsk it was called the Public Meeting building and it was here that Bazanova not only organized her own first personal exhibit of paintings, but the first large art exhibit ever held in this city. That took place in 1902. I don’t know this for a fact, but I’m guessing that one of the paintings included in that exhibit was her Portrait of a Young Girl, which was painted in 1901. Because you’ll have a heck of a time finding that painting on the net anywhere, I am breaking my own little “rule” of showing only architecture and monuments and inserting the painting below as the last image in this post. You can see another of Bazanova’s best known paintings, Portrait of Grigory Nikolaevich Potanin (1915), on the museum.ru website.  Note that you can increase the size of this electronic reproduction by clicking on the + magnifying glass icon in the upper left corner. If you’re interested in more about Potanin and Tomsk, see the post I made on this blog-site in August.

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Bazanova was born Lidia Pupareva in Sernovodsk in the Samara gubernia and she died in Kazan. She graduated from the Moscow Institute of Sculpture and Architecture in 1895, following her husband Ivan Bazanov to Tomsk in 1899 or 1900, depending upon the source. Ivan Bazanov was a professor of civil law and ship building (that’s what Russian Wikipedia tells us) until 1913. He was rector of the university from 1909-1913. The couple moved to Kazan in 1913. Bazanova not only painted, she was an instrumental figure in organizing art exhibits in Tomsk. She also was a well-regarded art critic and a teacher of art and painting. She stood behind the first Siberian Mobile Art Exhibit in 1903, an exhibit of French artists in Tomsk in 1904, and numerous exhibits of the Tomsk Society of Appreciators of Art from 1908 to 1909. She participated in an international exhibit of fine arts in Rome in 1911 and her paintings were exhibited in various Moscow shows. I have drawn much of this information from the internet Encyclopedia of Siberia.
As far as I can tell, the fullest treatment of Bazanova’s life and work to date is the first article I link to above on the site of the Tomsk Regional Museum of Art. In addition to detailed biographical and artistic information, it publishes short memoirs of the artist, as well as several newspaper reviews of her work. It also has a fairly large bibliography. (It is worth going to the article even if you don’t read Russian because there are several reproductions of her paintings there.) Here is one paragraph from this article:
“In March 1902 Lidia Pavlovna Bazanova appeared before the Tomsk public as an artist. In one of the rooms of the Public Meeting building the artist exhibited 47 or 49 (newspapers print various numbers) works, among which there were 11 large canvases. We do not have a complete list of the works that were shown; no catalogue of the exhibit has yet been found. It was the first major personal exhibit in the history of the city, and it presented an artist who commanded various genres with equal professionalism, who was capable of painting fresh, spontaneous studies and of creating large, accomplished compositions. It was precisely Bazanova who introduced Tomsk residents to serious painting on significant themes. She quickly won over the affection of colleagues and those journalists who wrote about artistic events in the life of the city. The opinion was shared by all: ‘Tomsk had never seen such an exhibit.'”



Grigory Potanin bust, Tomsk


Grigory Potanin (1835-1920) is still another of those figures, an ethnographer and natural historian, who had avoided my obviously inadequate efforts to learn Russian history and culture. When I was last in Tomsk I lived across the street from this small but imposing bust of Potanin that stands in a wooded area in front of Tomsk University, and alongside the Tomsk University Research Library and Archive. The plaque  proclaims him an honorary citizen of Siberia. I would never have thought anything of that until the story behind it was told to me by several Tomsk residents, including Pavel Rachkovsky and Valentina Golovchiner. You see, the notion of a “citizen of Siberia” implies an autonomy for Siberia that it has never had. It has never been a nation and it has never had the right to confer citizenship upon anyone. In other words, to some people, these are fighting words. And indeed, as I learned, there have been several movements throughout history when elements in the vast Siberian region have talked about or actively sought independence from European Russia. It is an idea, as one might imagine, that has never gained traction in Moscow (or in St. Petersburg, when it was capital). I first heard this in April and – lo and behold! – the news the last few weeks has been full of reports about demonstrations and political actions being called throughout Siberia to proclaim the desire to renew the discussion of potential Siberian independence. Encouraged by Vladimir Putin’s willingness to receive Crimea when it “seceded” from Ukraine and his support for “separatists” in Eastern Ukraine, numerous regions in Russia are rethinking their attitude to the central, but very distant, government. If Putin so readily supports secession of Ukrainian lands, why shouldn’t he support their desire for autonomy? Right? Well, not so fast… As it has done every time in the past, the current Russian government is doing everything possible to at least dampen, if not douse, the rising fervor. The tools are typical: bans, threats, harassment, arrests and such. The prominent opposition politician and former Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Boris Nemtsov tells on his Facebook page about an August 17, 2014, march for independence planned in Novosibirsk.
“I have repeatedly said that the war in Ukraine will lead to centrifugal tendencies and a growth of separatism in Russia,” Nemtsov writes. “The boomerang always comes back.”

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Potanin is a prominent and respected figure in Tomsk, one of the great Siberian cities. He was one of the founders of Tomsk University. But even in death he has had to remain on the run, so to speak. The bust pictured here was kicked out of another place where it was not wanted and then hastily moved to this kind of no man’s land at the university. Professor Golovchiner told stories of people at the university chafing about Potanin’s presence on their territory, and there have been efforts to run him out of here, too. The situation is complicated by the fact that, indeed, this is more than just a bust on a pedestal in the woods, it is actually Potanin’s resting place. Not everyone knows this, apparently, but his body is buried here, also having been unwelcome elsewhere in the past. If the current secessionist movement in Siberia gains any momentum, we can expect to hear much more about Potanin. His name will surely be held high on someone’s banner.