“Splendor and Light” presents a fresh look at the JSMA’s collection of Russian art. Gertrude Bass Warner, the founder of the University of Oregon Museum of Art, as it was then known, acquired an impressive group of Russian Orthodox icons as part of the Murray Warner Memorial Collection of Oriental Art. She continued to add to the collection after she gifted it to the University of Oregon, and other donors have augmented this legacy with additional gifts.
This rotation includes highlights from the collection of icons from the 17th through 19th centuries, as well as examples of cast metal crosses and icons.
In addition, selections from a recent gift of lacquer boxes made in the 1970s and ‘80s demonstrate the connections between the sacred and secular arts. Gifted to the JSMA in 2014 by the family of Dr. and Mrs. R.G. Van Horne, the boxes depict scenes from Russian history, fairy tales, literary works and daily life. Lacquerware is created by gluing thin sheets of cardboard together and pressing them into the desired shape. Then, it is covered with several layers of black or red varnish before an artist painstakingly paints the desired scene, using a brush with only one or two hairs for the smallest details. Gold leaf is often applied, and then the box is polished and varnished again. A single object can take many months to create, and the largest and most detailed pieces can take up to a year.
“Splendor and Light” was organized by Johanna G. Seasonwein, Ph.D., Senior Curator of Western Art, with the assistance of Anastasia Savenko-Moore, a 2015 Master’s graduate of the Department of Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, and Heghine Hakobyan, Slavic Librarian.
“It was important to me to respect the language and traditions of the artists that made these objects, especially in light of the large Russian Orthodox Old Believer community in Oregon,” says Seasonwein. “We incorporated Russian titles and text throughout the exhibition as one way to pay respect to this community.”
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website