The Seslavinsky collection associated with the name of Alexander Benois was shown at the Pushkin Museum

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About the album-research by Mikhail Seslavinsky “The Book World of Alexander Benois”, recently presented in Moscow on Red Square, “MK” wrote in sufficient detail. This work was based on his personal collection of unique books, magazines, objects, dedicatory inscriptions and original works of the great graphic artist. This week, the collection of Seslavinsky associated with the name of Benois, supplemented by exhibits from the funds of the Pushkin Museum, was temporarily exhibited in its halls. On the eve of the official opening, our correspondent visited the exposition.

Alexandre Benois is primarily known as the author of illustrations for Pushkin’s works, primarily for his poem The Bronze Horseman. The generally accepted opinion remains the following: these works are the best of those created in history, in terms of artistic value they can compete with Pushkin’s masterpieces, a “bridge” to the understanding of which they build. This thesis is needed to understand why Mikhail Seslavinsky placed Benois in the center of his attention as a collector and researcher, comparable in scope and versatility to Leonardo da Vinci.


– He is a book graphic artist, a painter, one of the founders of the Diaghilev Seasons, the founder and soul of the World of Art, a museum worker, and so on. According to Lev Gumilyov, he is a passionary who has moved the artistic life of the country forward. Without it, it is impossible to imagine the Silver Age. And from my point of view, the Silver Age is even more abrupt than the Golden Age, – Seslavinsky emphasized at the opening of the exposition. – Benois created fantastic works of art. Suffice it to name one – “The history of painting of all times and peoples.” To take a swing at such an idea, you need to be a large-scale personality.


Tracking the historical context, continuing to work on cataloging, compiling lists of owners of Benois’ works and searching for new ones, Seslavinsky is also interested in books, in which Alexander Nikolayevich took part in illustrating – or wrote them.


In one of the glass showcases of the historic mansion on Prechistinka, one can see Benois’s massive volume Tsarskoe Selo in the reign of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, 1910. During the years of stagnation, it was possible to buy it (and with great difficulty) for 600 rubles – a colossal amount, given that the average salary in the USSR in 1970 was 120 “wooden”.


But Benois is not only Pushkin’s Eugene, running away from the terrible Bronze Horseman galloping after him, not only sketches of theatrical scenery and pre-revolutionary, Soviet and foreign books, posters, flyers, posters and programs illuminated by his skill. Or postcards addressed to children and the legendary “ABC in Pictures by Alexander Benois”, issued in 1911 by the “Expedition for the Procurement of State Papers” – that is, the current Goznak.


You can sometimes meet an artist in an unexpected context.

So, at the opening, Natalya Dmitrievna Solzhenitsyna told an interesting story:

– When Alexander Isaevich was expelled in 1974, the first two years we lived in Zurich. He was expelled in February, I arrived as children at the end of March, because it was necessary to secretly smuggle his archive – it took six weeks. In December of the same year, the Nobel Prizes – a diploma and a medal – were to be received with a four-year delay. I had never owned an evening dress before that time – something had to be figured out. And one Russian emigrant said that there is literally the last dressmaker in Zurich. Let’s go to her, she says: I have the last piece of black fabric with embroidery made according to Benoit’s sketch. From this cut she sewed a beautiful dress, and now only a jacket remains.

As our readers guessed, the widow of the Nobel laureate in literature came in the same jacket.

It remains to be noted that in addition to Natalya Dmitrievna, the writer Sergey Shargunov, the poet, living classic Yuri Kublanovskiy and the producer Konstantin Ernst came to congratulate Seslavinsky on the next museum project. Ernst personally walked through the museum halls, in particular, Mikhail Vadimovich showed him a book spread with the last photograph of Benois.

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