The World Opened Wide: 20th-Century Women Artists from the Collection Thomas P. Whitney '37

March 2 – May 13, 2001

The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, reopened on March 2 following an 18-month facility renovation, inaugurated its new gallery space with The World Opened Wide: 20th-Century Women Artists from the Collection Thomas P. Whitney '37 on March 2, 2001.

Dr. Jill Meredith, director and curator of European art at the Mead Art Museum, and Dr. Darra Goldstein, professor of Russian and chair of the Department of German and Russian at Williams College, are co-curators of this exhibition of 80 paintings, drawings and prints by pioneers of the avant-garde. Dr. Christina Lodder, professor of art history at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, delivered a lecture on "An Exemplary Constructivist: Liubov Popova" on March 30, 2001 in Stirn Auditorium.

The Russian women artists featured in this exhibition were leading figures in the revolutionary artistic movements of the early 20th century: Neo-Primitivism, Cubo-Futurism, Constructivism and Suprematism. These so-called amazons of the avant-garde—Alexandra Exter, Natalia Goncharova, Olga Rozanova and Varvara Stepanova, among others—explored innovative art forms seeking to discover new bases of artistic creation. Each distilled and transformed current western European art styles, yet drew inspiration from national folk traditions, science and technology, poetry and the performing arts. The diversity of their work—from the figural subjects to non-objective abstraction in easel paintings, linocut prints, mixed-media assemblages and artists' books—attests to their bold experiments with traditional and innovative art forms.

These women were trained in art schools; taught in art schools; exhibited in major avant-garde group shows in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Paris; promulgated new art theories; and undertook alternative work in theater and film décor, textiles and clothing design and the graphic arts. Sympathetic with the radical politics and economic upheaval around them, they advanced the modern social revolution as participants in the new cultural order. Highly visible members of artist couples and avant-garde groups, they valued equal creative and social collaboration with male colleagues as they championed the cause of the "new art."

The exhibition takes its title from Olga Rozanova's 1913 manifesto in which she exhorts her fellow radical artists with the battle cry: "We want to see this world opened wide!" and declares war on the sentimental, derivative and self-centered perspectives of other Russian artists groups.

The World Opened Wide premiered selected works from the recent gift of the art collection of Thomas P. Whitney '37 to Amherst College. It surveys a significant portion of more than 400 objects of Russian art in the Whitney Collection, spanning the late 19th through 20th centuries, including major works by Alexander Rodchenko, Pavel Filonov, Mikhail Larinov, Vladmir Tatlin and Naum Gabo.

Whitney's art collection has rejoined his extraordinary archives of Russian culture, donated in 1991 to the Amherst Center for Russian Culture at Amherst College. As part of the ongoing collaboration between the Mead Art Museum and the Amherst Center for Russian Culture a portion of the exhibition was also presented at the Amherst Center for Russian Culture.


March 31, 2001, 4:30 p.m.
An Exemplary Constructivist: Liubov Popova
Lecture - Christine Lodder
Professor of Art History
University of St. Andrews, Scotland
Stirn Auditorium

First Tuesday Gallery Talk
"We want to see this world opened wide!" Russian art from the Whitney Collection
Dr. Jill Meredith
Curator of European Art
Mead Art Museum