Between 20 June and 27 August, 2017, the A.A. Bakhrushin Theatre Museum in Moscow runs the exhibition Aristarkh Lentulov’s Mystery Bouffe.

Aristarkh Lentulov can be considered a major innovative experimentator artist on the Russian avant-garde scene of the first half of the 20th century. A.A. Bakhrushin Theatre Museum mounted the exhibition  Aristarkh Lentulov’s Mystery Bouffe to celebrate the artist’s 135th anniversary. The exhibition spans over the whole artistic life of Lentulov and so far becomes the most comprehensive and representative show of his works. The exhibition features over 250 works by Lentulov from 19 museums, including those from the far-off corners of Russia, private collections and even the collection of Fyodor Lentulov, the artist’s great-grandson.

The curators of the exhibition view the heritage of Lentulov through his sets and designs for various theatre plays. The combination of paintings and graphic works with theatre set designs is the major principle around which the whole exposition is organised. It also demonstrates the dialogue Lentulov was involved in with other Russian and European artists of his generation. Theatricality is typical of Lentulov’s approach even before he started to make stage designs for theatres  in 1914. This characteristic found its expression through the choice of various styles: Lentulov experimented with trends from  Impressionism to Futurism. His pallette becomes increasingly vivid and bright, he occasionally uses collages and various light effects, especially as he gets involved into his theatre projects.  He was attempted to achieve exceptional expressiveness by boldly combining the newest language of art with elements of Russian traditional ecclesiastical architecture and popular folk motifs.

The A.A. Bakhrushin Theatre Museum displays approximately 70 set and costume designs, as well as the famous model for the production Demon /1919/, for which Lentulov was awarded with the Grand Prix at the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Paris in 1925. Some works are being shown for the first time.

The exhibition’s title provides the major key for its understanding. The play by Vladimir Mayakovsky, first staged in 1918, defined, crystallized and consolidated the imaginative component of the pioneering art. And despite the fact that Aristarkh Lentulov did not produce the designs for this play, the genre of the mystery bouffe influenced his artistic creed. It was not without reason that Mayakovsky once stated that Lentulov achieved in painting what the poet himself did in literature.