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Color Vintage Photos of Russia 100 Years Ago

Let’s go back in time with this striking collection of color vintage photos , taken in the Russian Empire between 1905-1915. These rare old photos of tsarist Russia were made by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky  with the support of Tsar Nicholas II.

PROKUDIN-GORSKY, SELF-PORTRAIT AT THE WATERFALL KIVACH, KARELIA
PROKUDIN-GORSKY, SELF-PORTRAIT AT THE WATERFALL KIVACH, KARELIA

Color photography as known today was not possible 100 years ago, yet it could be imitated by special technology. Photographer took three separate frames of one subject through red, green and blue filters. Then these three monochromatic pictures were projected on the screen through filters of  same colors and superimposed one on another. Therefore they looked like realistic color images  when viewed through a final filter. This three-color technology was also used in unique vintage photos of Old Moscow in 1930 and the same set of RGB – channels (red-green-blue) can be found in modern digital images.

Colored Vintage Photos of TSARIST RUSSIA, PEASANT WOMEN IN 1910.
Color Vintage Photos of TSARIST RUSSIA, PEASANT WOMEN IN 1910.

At the beginning Prokudin-Gorsky studied photochemistry with the German Professor Adolf Miethe to become experienced chemist and artist. He soon reached incredible success in photography. Tsar Nicholas II was so impressed by his works, especially that famous portrait of Leo Tolstoy, that he commissioned the photographer to capture the whole of Russia.

Vintage Photo of Leo Tolstoy
Vintage Photo of Leo Tolstoy

The author fled Russia after the October Revolution, taking the glass negatives with him, that at the end were bought by the Library of Congress in 1948 and published in 1980. Now everyone can see impressive collection of 2607 digital photos, that capture people, objects, historic sites, industry and agriculture, scenes of public life, water and railway transportation routes, villages and towns. High-quality of the image combined with vivid colors makes unbelievable, that we look at the world 100 years ago, when there have been no russian revolution, no world war.

Russian Object Design in Kazemir Malevich’s Tableware

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Innovative tableware of unimaginable geometric forms by Malevich and Chashnik is considered to be one of the highest manifestations of the ideology of suprematism and russian object design. In 1920s Malevich declared his masterpiece “Black Square” to be “the face of the new art” and was  looking for ways, that could bring that ideology to the masses. One of those ways was the creation of suprematist tableware and other functional objects, which were released by Lomonosov Porcelain Factory.

Russian object design in a Dish by Malevich
Russian object design in a Dish by Malevich

Since its founding in 1744, the Imperial Porcelain Factory in St. Petersburg has been a leader in manufacturing high quality porcelain, supplied exclusively for the king and the Imperial court. After the October revolution it was reorganized for the production of porcelain, meant to be “revolutionary in content, perfect in form and flawless in technical execution”. A new style called “propaganda porcelain” was born with involvement of famous artists, working in various creative styles. Collaborations included leading representatives of russian avant-garde, such as Nathan Altman, Vladimir Lebedev, Alexander Samokhvalov, Kozma Petrov-Vodkin, Nikolay Lapshin. Among other artists were suprematists, Suetin, Malevich and  Chashnik, who were allowed to experiment with fresh and radical abstract designs, based on squares, circles and crosses in 1922-1924.

Russian object design in a Cup by Malevich
Russian object design in a Cup by Malevich

They replaced traditional cups  by simplistic hemispheres, and classic curly handles – by rectangular forms. The same manifestation of pure minimalistic art reflected in colors. Paintings were converted in straight lines and lost their deco themes, showing only the importance of the color and not visual story. However such simple yet innovative form was hard to use in everyday life. Suprematist cups and kettles were not recognized by the consumer. Factory’s manager complained: “Mr. Malevich, the water from your teapot does not flow”. Malevich ironically answered: “it’s not a kettle, but the idea of a teapot”. Be that as it may, soon the lab was closed and the artists got fired. The dishes ended up in museums, becoming a classic example of the ideology of suprematism and russian object design.

Russian Design for Export
Russian Design for Export

The most famous piece of russian avant-garde porcelain was Malevich’s teapot paired with a half cup, which reflected the principle of “utilitarian perfection of the thing”. Even today it can be purchased in a 5-pieces tea set on the official website of the Imperial Porcelain Factory for almost 50000 rubles.

If it’s too expensive for you, you can still take a closer look at Malevich’s teapot, printed on a 3d printer.

Or buy affordable piece of art for home use — Malevich’s Cup for 1604 rubles.

Porcelain-Tableware-Malevich

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