I am an enemy of all prints and fashionable fabrications [...] you will not find ingenious illustrators for this task, and besides, the writing itself must be classical, widely known, polished, finished, and not filled with a heap of flaws as mine is.
Such was N. V. Gogol’s attitude to the illustration of his books. At the same time, Gogol can be called one of the most illustrated authors. The Gogol iconography began to be formed in the 1840s and 1850s along with the publication of his most famous works and the rapid development of his literary career.
At various times, his portrait was drawn by Aleksei Venetsianov, Fyodor Moller, Vasilii Tropinin, Emmanuil Dmitriev-Mamonov, and Aleksandr Ivanov; and illustrators of his works included Aleksandr Agin, Pyotr Boklevsky, Ilya Repin, Bοris Kustodiev, and Marc Chagall.
Taras Shevchenko’s illustrations of the story Taras Bulba are well known, as well as Gogol’s own sketches for the manuscripts of Arabesques, The Government Inspector, and Diary of a Madman. No less rich is the twentieth-century body of Gogol artwork. Indeed, every drawing, sculpture, illustration is always a new interpretation, an authorial rethinking of the image of the writer and his characters.
The museum collection of Gogol House comprises more than 3,500 items, and the largest part of the collection is the graphic archive, which includes about 1,400 paintings and drawings.
The two main categories of acquisition have been the portraits of Gogol and illustrations of his works. The collection incorporates both original illustrations (paintings and drawings made with watercolor, pencils, sauce pencils, and pastels), and engravings (woodcuts, zincographs, etchings, lithographs, and silkscreens).
It is dominated by the work of artists of the second half of the twentieth century, but also includes works from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by Zakhar Pichugin and Νikolai Ivanshentsev. The collection also benefits from the work of contemporary authors whose works have already become classics of book illustration: Sergei Alimov and Vitalii Goryaev.
Thus, the exhibition allows us not only to “revive” Gogol’s heroes, but also to see a collective portrait of the era, inspired by the work of the author of Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka, The Overcoat, and Dead Souls.
Curator — Gogol House Museum