A Russian Paints America

A Russian Paints America: The Travels of Pavel P. Svin'in, 1811-1813

William Benton Whisenhunt
With an introduction by Christopher Ely
Translated by Marina Swoboda
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 230
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  • Book Info
    A Russian Paints America
    Book Description:

    A Russian Paints America presents the first complete English translation of Svin'in's fascinating memoir. Thirty-one original watercolours complement his provocative views on topics such as slavery, religion, politics, and the fine arts. Introductory essays by Marina Swoboda and William Whisenhunt examine Russian-American relations, consider Svin'in's life and particular role in Russian history, and set his work in the context of the genre of picturesque travel - Svin'in clearly did not set out to produce a scholarly account of the United States but a work of literature, at a time when Russian literary language was in its earliest stages of development.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7506-6
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 3-11)
    Christopher Ely

    A respected reference manual on Russian literature has this to say of Pavel Svin’in: “He is remembered (if at all) as a figure of fun: as the object of epigrams … fables … and prose satire, such as Pushkin’s ‘A Little Liar’ … for his exaggerated patriotism … and (above all) his persistent disregard for the conventional boundaries between fact and fiction.”¹ Despite his achievements as a diplomat, prolific writer, and founding publisher ofNotes of the Fatherland, later to become one of the most influential journals in imperial Russia, Pavel Svin’in is reduced here to a comic footnote, more...

  2. (pp. 12-23)
    William Benton Whisenhunt

    As Russia experienced a type of “Europeanization” begun by Peter the Great, who reigned from 1682 to 1725, it also expanded its diplomatic and commercial ties to Europe and beyond. By Catherine the Great’s reign (1762–96), Russia’s developing relationship with Great Britain proved to be one of its most important and beneficial diplomatic and commercial connections. Therefore, by extension, the British American colonies were also growing in importance for Russia. However, the turmoil that turned into the American Revolution left Russia’s official relationship with the rebellious colonies and later the new nation in a precarious position. Russia wanted to...

  3. (pp. 24-33)
    William Benton Whisenhunt

    Pavel Petrovich Svin’in was born on 8 June 1787 into a family in the provincial gentry of some financial means.¹ His father, Peter Sergeevich Svin’in (1734–1813), served as a lieutenant-general in the army and later as a senator. The Svin’in lineage appears to have gone back to a migration from Lithuania in the fifteenth century. Probably for service to the czar, members of the family were granted an estate, and they became landowners. Svin’in’s family was certainly never among the highest of Russian nobility, but its status and wealth provided many opportunities that were only reserved for the elite.²...

  4. (pp. 34-54)
    Marina Swoboda

    The name of Pavel Petrovich Svin’in first came to the attention of the American public in 1930 when Avrahm Yarmolinsky translated and published excerpts from his book; the volume also included fifty-two reproductions of Svin’in’s watercolours.¹ According to R.T.H. Halsey, who wrote the introduction, “seven years after the war ended, there was brought to me a large leather-bound folio containing fifty-two water colors.” The folio had been purchased in Russia by a Red Cross worker. The paintings were soon identified as those of Pavel Svin’in, the Russian painter, writer, and first publisher of the journalNotes of the Fatherland(1818...

  5. (pp. 55-121)

    According to the opinion of some learned people, Cabot¹ and other early travellers to the shores of North America were hastened there, as to Mexico and Peru, by the hope of obtaining gold and silver. However, it is known that the first colonies established there were formed by the Protestants, persecuted by brutal fanaticism during the time of James I. Their move to America saved England from terrible bloodshed and populated the United Provinces with hardworking, enterprising people. Despite the fact that the colonies were established through the initiative of common people, because of the colonists’ family connections, similarities in...