Russian Through Art

By Elizabeth Price ‘22

During the fall 2020 semester at Dickinson, students, faculty and staff managed to navigate the wild world of online learning. New courses perhaps managed to fit into this strange mold a bit more easily. Despite being separated by nearly eleven time zones for half of the course, Russian Through Art was one such course.

This course, taught primarily in Russian, offered students an opportunity to learn about art movements and their significance across Russian history. Beginning with the founding of one of the most well-known galleries in the world, the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, the class examined famous collections, pieces, themes and even had a chance to discuss one realist painter in depth during the mid-term presentation.

Students were also lucky enough to have access to local Moscow museums and galleries via conversations and videos with students from the High School of Economics. These partnerships also allowed students to practice their conversations skills via Zoom, discussing not only art topics but asking questions about what it’s like being a student in Moscow during the pandemic.

To conclude the course students were asked to create a presentation looking at some of the final themes discussed in class. Two topics centered around the life and work of Ilya Repin – the most renowned Russian realist painter, and the story behind Repin’s most famous painting: Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan. The themes progressed to the 1917 Russian Revolution, and how this great political shift permeated the art sphere. Finally, students looked at the evolution of Russian avant-garde and one famous early modernist: Chagall.

The presentations demonstrated a broad range of understanding on behalf of the students–not only of concepts of Russian art, but also of the vocabulary and grammar introduced throughout the duration of the course. Anna Harvey ’22 said that she was grateful because the course gave her the space to “explore a topic that interested [her] in greater depth than [she] would have in a typical language course.” Alyssa Martin ’22 shares this sentiment, saying, “this course taught me words related to art that I never knew and then I was able to use them in different contexts.”

Photo: From top to bottom Alyssa Martin ’22, Elizabeth Price ’22, Professor Elena Duzs, Anna Harvey ’22, Laura McNevin ’21, Erin Kennaly ‘22

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