Alexander Kamensky archive

About the founder

Alexander Kamensky (1922–1992) was a Soviet art historian, one of the fathers of the new art history of the Khrushchev Thaw. He defended artists accused of formalism, including Vladimir Favorsky, Martiros Saryan, Robert Falk, and Alexander Tyshler, coined the term “severe style,” and was the ideologist and co‑organizer of the landmark exhibition 30 Years of the Moscow Union of Artists at the Moscow Manege. His archive is a unique collection of documents covering art from the 1950s to the 1990s.

About the archive

The archive includes manuscripts and typescripts of articles and monographs by Alexander Kamensky, clippings from Soviet and international journals and papers, photographs and videos, personal correspondence and documents. A separate section is devoted to Kamensky’s correspondence with publishers, the Soviet Copyright Agency, and other Soviet institutions (Ministry of Culture; Ministry of Communications and Finance; USSR State Committee on Publishing, Printing, and Book Trade; etc). These documents offer insight into the publishing process in the Soviet Union, as well as the bureaucratic and economic aspects of a Soviet art historian’s work. The archive also includes internal correspondence of the Moscow Union of Artists that shows how the organization functioned and paper and journal clippings with critique of Kamensky’s works, including of an anti‑Semitic nature.

Kamensky’s major academic works include Private Views (1974), A Knight’s Feat. On the Sculptor Anna Golubkina (1978), and the albums Saryan (1968, 1987) and Konenkov (1962, 1975), preparatory materials for which are also included in the archive. It also contains Kamensky’s correspondence with Marc Chagall and negatives and reproductions of Chagall’s works, which Kamensky used in the preparation of his book Marc Chagall. An Artist from Russia (1991–1992), as well as materials relating to Chagall’s only visit to the Soviet Union in 1973.

In the 1970s, Kamensky developed an interest in the work of Armenian artists (Martiros Saryan, Nikoghayos Nikoghosyan, Yervand Kochar, Minas Avetisyan, and Akop Akopyan, among others) and made an in‑depth study of the Armenian art tradition, which resulted in the publication of Studies on Armenian Artists (1979). The archive contains a large number of reproductions, exhibition catalogues of Armenian artists, and fiction and academic writings on Armenia and its art.

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