Skip to main navigation Skip to main content
The University of Southampton
The Parkes Institute

International Conference - The Vitebsk people’s art school and its legacy (1918-1922) Event

9 - 10 April 2019

For more information regarding this event, please email Claire Le Foll at .

Event details

Organised by the University of Southampton (History Department & Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/Non-Jewish Relations) and the Vitebsk State University named after P. M. Masherov. In association with the Vitebsk Museum of Modern Art and the Marc Chagall Museum. With the financial support of the Centre d’études franco-russe (CEFR, Moscow), Parkes Institute and History department at the University of Southampton, French Embassy in Belarus, British Embassy in Belarus, German Embassy in Belarus, US embassy in Belarus. Many thanks for your generous support!

100 years ago, the town of Vitebsk appeared on the map of the European cultural avant-garde: in January 1919, Marc Chagall, the newly nominated commissar of the arts for the province of Vitebsk, opened an art school in his hometown. The ‘free studios’ that he created became for a few years laboratories where artists of the avant-garde such as Lissitzky and Malevich, but also representatives of other artistic trends could experiment, teach, publish, collaborate (theatre, music) and ‘bring the art to the street’. Although mostly famous for the Unovis and Malevich’s suprematist experiment, the Vitebsk people’s art school hosted the classrooms of local less famous artists (Pen, Iakerson) and became a springboard for a generation of young Jews who joined one or the other artistic group. The Vitebsk art school, transformed after 1922 into an artistic tekhnikum, set the foundations for a generation of graphic artists. As other cities or towns from the peripheries (eg. Kiev, Vilna, Lviv), the ‘provincial’ town of Vitebsk, where the Jewish painter Yurii Pen had opened an art studio in 1897, became a center of modernist culture and later of the Soviet culture.

This international conference aims to revisit the role of Vitebsk as a center of radical cultural experiment through the analysis of the activity and legacy of the People’s art school, and to explore the diverse facets of this extraordinary episode that is significant to understand East European urban history, the history of the Russian avant-garde, and more specifically the Jewish urban experience, and the emergence of a new Soviet culture in BSSR.

Conference organisers:

Claire Le Foll (Southampton)

Aleksandr Lisov (Vitebsk)

Further information re the programme is attached below.

Image from 1918
Image from 1918

Useful Downloads

Need the software? PDF Reader
Privacy Settings