Russian Folklore in Art and Illustration
Memorial Library’s entry lobby has become the temporary home to a fascinating exhibit focusing on Russian artworks inspired by Russian folklore. The exhibit features 28 images, some reproduced in large scale. Also included are excerpts from the texts of several well-known Russian folktales and epic poems, as well as detailed explanations of the historical background and cultural significance of specific images in the exhibit. The exhibit was created to draw attention to the excellent and beautifully illustrated existing Russian collections that our campus libraries have. The exhibit will remain up through the end of December.
Folklore, legends, and mythology help to form the conceptions that we have about who we are. In the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, references to regional folklore became an important way for Europeans to express their developing national identities. A number of artists working in Russia at that time sought inspiration from the themes and folk beliefs of the region and used them to inspire stunning works of art. The folktales compiled by folklorists such as Alexander Afanasyev in the 1850s and 1860s, provided valuable subjects for Russian artists such as the author Alexander Pushkin and the composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Those works as well as the folktales themselves were to further inspire visual artists such as Viktor Vasnetsov (1848-1926) and Ivan Bilibin (1876-1942) to create accompanying book illustrations, paintings, murals, and theatrical sets. Some of those notable works have been reproduced for this exhibit.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s library system holds a wealth of materials related to Russian folklore. Russian folklore materials are held by several campus libraries, such as the Art Library, Memorial Library and the School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) Library. Memorial Library’s Russian folklore collection was built extensively during the 37-year period from 1964-2001 when Alexander Rolich was the Slavic Studies Bibliographer. Memorial Library continues to actively collect Russian folklore. The Art Library’s Russian folklore collection has been built and curated by Art Librarian Dr. Lyn Korenic and her predecessor William Bunce. The UW-Madison library system’s Russian folklore collection has also benefited greatly from the donations of folklore materials by retired Professor Emeritus Dr. James Bailey and the late Dr. Lydia B. Kalaida, both of the UW-Madison Slavic Languages and Literature Department. Many of these volumes have beautifully illustrated pages accompanying the folkloric texts. We hope that this exhibit will inspire your imagination and your desire to read a book about folktales.
This exhibit was created through a collaboration between Andy Spencer (Slavic, East European, Middle Eastern & Central Asian Studies Librarian), Tom Durkin (Anthropology, Folklore, & Sociology Librarian), and Lyuba Stadnik (Graduate Student in the School of Library and Information Studies focusing on preservation and cataloging).
Want more information? Check out the Russian Folklore LibGuide!