The Oleg Kushnirskiy Collection Catalog Presented at The Nevyan Icon Museum

The Oleg Kushnirskiy Collection Catalog Presented at The Nevyansk Icon Museum

A presentation of the catalog “Russian Icons from the Mid-17th to the Early 20th Century. The Oleg Kushnirskiy Collection” was recently held at the Nevyansk Icon Museum in Ekaterinburg.

The book was presented by the director of the Russian Icon Collection, Ilya Kushnirskiy; the author of the catalog, specialist in Russian iconography of the 18th to the beginning of the 20th century, expert of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, Anna Ivannikova; and the leading researcher of the Department of Ancient Russian Art of the State Russian Museum, Irina Shalina.

The Nevyansk Icon Museum is a private institution devoted to a rare facet of Russian religious painting. Its collection is composed exclusively of Old Believer iconography from the mining areas of the Urals, dating from the 18th century to the first third of the 20th century. Ilya Kushnirskiy pointed out the significance of the temporal overlaps in the collections of the museum and Oleg Kushnirskiy, underscoring the importance of this event.

“It’s both a great joy and an honor to present this book and speak about my father’s collection in this museum, amidst these beautiful icons,” said Ilya Kushnirskiy. “Encountering individuals who share a deep appreciation for Russian iconography is a great joy. While iconography may not be the most popular genre among collectors, my father was always guided by his love for this art, understanding that he was collecting not just for himself. His aim was to reveal the significance and timeless beauty of icons to others, and this collection has indeed become the endeavor of his lifetime.”

Anna Ivannikova briefly described the collection and the book: “The catalog meticulously details all the icons in the collection. It reveals an abundance of intricate details and offers an insight into an important part of art history. I sincerely hope that everyone engaging with this collection will uncover a new chapter in the history of Russian iconography.”

Irina Shalina then talked about the phenomenon of icon collecting and the significance of Oleg Kushnirskiy’s collection:

“In the latter half of the 20th century, the focus of collectors was primarily on ancient icons, while late-period icons, including those from Old Believers and the 19th century, received less attention. However, interest in late icons significantly increased at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries. In this context, the Kushnirskiy collection is particularly noteworthy, especially considering it has been both systematized and popularized with the assistance of specialists, an important aspect of the collecting process.

I would also note that in the world of collecting, there is a problem with passing collections to the next generation, as children do not always share the passions of their parents. This can lead to the loss of a collection’s integrity. However, there are exceptions. I am aware of perhaps only two such cases: the collection of Sergey Vorobyov, inherited from his father, Nikolay Alexandrovich, and the collection of Oleg Kushnirskiy, which his son Ilya is actively promoting.

The Oleg Kushnirskiy collection primarily features icons with complex, multifaceted compositions, with few images of individual saints. Such a choice, apparently, reflects the collector’s desire to tell as broad a story as possible with each piece. The collection showcases a variety of events, holidays, and portrayals of saints, giving it a deep Christian meaning.

Particular attention in the collection is given to icons depicting the Resurrection of Christ and the Harrowing of Hades. Despite the seeming apocalyptic nature of this theme, it actually symbolizes the joy of Easter, and thus, the celebration of life and beauty.”