The People’s Art School and Unovis in Vitebsk, International Conference

The People’s Art School and Unovis in Vitebsk, International Conference
19 -20 April 2018
Pembroke College, Cambridge

In the devastating years that followed Russia’s 1917 October Revolution, a small provincial town in present-day Belarus witnessed the founding of a revolutionary new art school. At its helm was Marc Chagall, a native of Vitebsk newly returned from Paris, who was soon joined by fellow avangardisti in the form of Kazimir Malevich and El Lissitzky. Together with students and colleagues, and against the backdrop of a raging civil war, this exceptional group of artists elaborated a new path for artistic education and collective creativity that had a profound influence far beyond the boundaries of Vitebsk.

Organised by the Cambridge Courtauld Russian Art Centre (CCRAC) in collaboration with the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven and generously supported by the In Artibus Foundation and Pembroke College, Cambridge, this conference complements the major exhibition, Chagall, Lissitzky, Malevich: Vitebsk 1918-1922, which opens this spring in Paris’s Centre Pompidou (28 March – 23 July 2018).

The event draws together fifteen senior academics and emerging scholars from Belarus, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, the US and UK to consider anew this vital period – one that is often lost within the broader history of Russia’s celebrated avant-garde. With papers devoted to a wide range of media, from Russian-Jewish painting to porcelain and Suprematist ballet, this conference aims to reveal just what made a short-lived venture far from Russia’s artistic centres so innovative and far-reaching.

For further details, please see the full synopsis and draft programme.


Inna Bazhenova, In Artibus Foundation
Christianna Bonin
, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Professor John E. Bowlt, University of Southern California
Dr Tatiana Goryacheva, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Dr Samuel Johnson, Syracuse University
Dr Irina Karasik, State Russian Museum, St Petersburg
Dr Maria Kokkori
, The Art Institute of Chicago
Dr Claire Le Foll, University of Southampton
Dr Alexander Lisov, Independent scholar, Belarus
Professor Christina Lodder, University of Kent
Dr Maria Mileeva, University College London
Professor Nicoletta Misler, Università degli studi di Napoli L’Orientale, Italy
Willem Jan Renders, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven
Professor Aleksandra Shatskikh, Independent scholar
Professor Isabel Wünsche, Jacobs University, Bremen

Dr Rosalind P. Blakesley
, University of Cambridge
Willem Jan Renders
, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven
Isabel Stokholm
, University of Cambridge

Thursday, 19 April | 09:50 – 18:00 (registration from 09:30)
Friday, 20 April | 09:00 – 13:10

Venue: Old Library, Pembroke College, Cambridge, CB2 1RF

Tickets: Attendance is £30 (£20 concessions). Book your tickets here. Students and staff of Pembroke are welcome to attend for free but must register.

For further information, contact Isabel Stokholm:

Supported by                       Organised by

in artibus logo         University of Cambridge logo          Van Abbe Museum Logo


General media partner                       Partners

Art Newspaper logo  pembroke college logo  CCRAC logo