Circling the Square: Avant-garde Porcelain from Revolutionary Russia Circling the Square: Avant-garde Porcelain from Revolutionary Russia is an exhibition celebrating an extraordinary period in the history of 20th century art and design. It will present, for the first
from which rays emanate), and Natan Altman’s famous red and green plate ‘Land to the Workers’, of 1919. The prestigious job of decorating St Petersburg’s Palace Square to celebrate the first anniversary of the October Revolution fell to Altman and his watercolour design for this scheme, which inspired the plate, will also be shown. The significance of porcelain in terms of our understanding of popular street art cannot be overestimated; for although the objects themselves very quickly became elite objects – not for domestic consumption or for use by the masses – the iconography and decoration serves as a lasting testament to much of the temporary art put up at the time to celebrate major revolutionary festivals.
Notes to Editors
Lomonosov Porcelain Factory and Museum
The St Petersburg Porcelain Factory was founded by Empress Elizabeth in 1744 on the banks of the river Neva on the outskirts of St Petersburg. During the reign of Catherine the Great the factory was styled the Imperial Porcelain Factory and production, until the Revolution of 1917, was exclusively for the Imperial court. The quality of its products equalled those of European porcelain manufacturers and during the 19th century it was well represented at international exhibitions. In 1844, to mark its centenary, Tsar Nicholas I ordered the creation of a museum to house pieces from the factory and serve as a teaching collection for the factory’s craftsmen and artists. The museum was based on the existing collection of models, supplemented by some of the finest works from the storerooms of the Winter Palace and other royal residences. It was open daily, apart from weekends and holidays, and entrance was free to all. The museum contained examples from other celebrated European factories as well as Chinese and Japanese ceramics. As production at the factory grew, so did the museum, and by the end of the 19th century one copy of all new designs went to the museum, a practice that has continued into the 21st century.
Following the February Revolution of 1917 and the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917 the factory was nationalised and renamed the State Porcelain Factory. Surviving blanks from the Imperial Porcelain Factory were decorated with the new revolutionary designs. In 1925 it was re-named the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory in honour of Russia’s first great scientist Mikhail Vasilevich Lomonosov, who was also an admired poet and the founder of Russia’s Academy of Science. The museum’s collection moved several times during the 20th century, eventually finding a home in the factory’s administrative building in 1975.
The factory was privatised in 1993 and in 2001 its prestigious historical collection was transferred to the care of The State Hermitage Museum, of which it now forms the department known as the Porcelain Museum. Today, Mrs Galina Tsvetkova, Chairman of the Board of the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory, owns 75.61% of the factory with minority shareholders holding the remainder. The collection, which is still physically housed on the site of the Lomonosov Factory, is open to visitors.