The Unsung Hero of the Russian Avant-Garde
This book is the first biography of Nikolay Punin (1888-1953). One of the most prominent art-critics of the avant-garde, in 1919 Punin was the Commissar of the Hermitage and Russian Museums, he was lecturing at the Academy of Arts and at the State University in Petrograd (and subsequently Leningrad). He was the right hand of Lunacharsky and the head of the Petrograd branch of the Visual Arts Department of Narkompross. From 1913 till 1938, Punin worked at the Russian Museum and organized several major exhibitions of Russian art. Yet his name is not widely known in the West, primarily because his file languished in the KGB archives since he died in 1953, partly because his grave in the Gulag where he died is marked only by a number, and partly because his own reputation became submerged under that of his lover, the poetess Anna Akhmatova. Through the life and inheritance of Nikolay Punin, this book will examine the very phenomenon of the Russian avant-garde and its fate after the October Revolution, as well as the artistic trends and cultural policies which dominated Soviet art in the 1930-1950s.