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17 November 2018

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Konstantin Makovsky: The Tsar’s Painter in America and Paris

Wendy Salmond, Russell E. Martin, Wilfried Zeisler (Hillwood, $45)

The rise and acclaim of artist Konstantin Makovsky’s work paralleled both the Russian imperialism of the late Romanov era, and a warming in US-Russian relations. His work romanticized and often idealized the boyar past, serving to make him a favorite in the Russian court and, after some of his works were acquired or toured abroad, Russia’s unofficial cultural ambassador.

Media savvy New York entrepreneurs displayed his Boyar Wedding Feast in their jewelry store, where it drew in large and avid crowds, eager to consume such “exotic” art. Postcards and prints proliferated and this and other works by Makovsky went on to have a rather disproportionate impact on Americans’ perceptions of Russia and Russian art.

Not until the cooling of US-Russian relations at the turn of the twentieth century, and the rise of other more popular art forms, did Makovsky’s influence wane.

This beautifully designed book puts Makovsky’s life and work into well deserved perspective, and sheds light on an era in US-Russian relations that is little examined.

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: May/June 2016