Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Varvara Bubnova, a Russian printmaker in Japan

Bubnova, Varvara Dmitriyevna
(St. Petersburg 17 May 1886 – 28 March 1983 St. Petersburg)

Painter, graphic artist, printmakers, art critic and art pedagogue.

Meeting adventurous Hilda May Gordon in before posting it is not that difficult to return to early Russian Modern (synonymous with St. Petersburg-school) printmaking with this artist.
In the Rice fields of japan

She was the daughter of Dmitry Kapitonovich Bubnov (?–1914), a bank clerk of lower rank and Anna Nikolaevna (maiden name Wolfe) (1854–1940) who descended from an old noble Russian family and was distantly related to Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837).

Rice Fields, Japan.
From 1903 to 1905, she studied in the studio of Art Promotion Society and 1907-1914 she studied in the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts and attended school with the soon-to-be famous Pavel Nikolayevich Filonov (1883-1941) and her future husband Voldemar Matvey (1877-1914) who was the first Russian researcher of African Art. 

In 1910 she became a member of the Youth Union and participated in art exhibitions with Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930), David (and Lyudmilla) Burlyuk, (1882-1967), Michael Larionov (1881-1964), Natalia Goncharova (1881-1981) Pavel Filonov (1883-1941), Dimitri Falileev (1878-1950) and Kasimir Malevich (1878-1935).

Varvara Bubnova also studied in the Archeological Institute of St. Petersburg (compare the career of Hilda May Gordon !) and graduated with the tittle of “full member of the Institute” working in the Moscow historical Museum 1917-1922 studying and organizing the first exhibition of Ancient Russian Miniatures in the Department of Ancient Manuscripts. While in Moscow she worked also for the Institute of Artistic Culture with avant garde artists like Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), Robert Falk (1886-1958), Ljoebov Sergejevna Popova (1889-1924), Varvara Stepanova (1894-1958), Alexander Rodchenko (1891-1956)

and also studied seriously the Art of Henri Matisse (1869-1954) (see above).

In 1923, she moved to Japan following her youngest sister Anna(*), where she lived until 1958. For her contribution to the development of Japanese culture she was awarded by the Emperor, as was her sister, “the order the Precious Crown of the fourth degree”.

(*) Bubnova-Ono, Anna Dmitriyevna
(St. Petersburg 1890-1979 St. Petersburg)

was a gifted violinist and one of the first who started to be engaged in teaching children playing the violin in Japan. Now regarded as the God-mother of violin teaching in Japan and aunt of legendary Yoko Ono (b. 1933) married to John Lennon (1940-1980).

All pictures borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use only. 


  1. Very interesting. Do you know how long she was active as a printmaker? Is the second, monochromatic Rice Fields print a woodblock print?

    1. Hello Darrel, I have no idea how long she was active. I scratched together what was available in the Internet and tried to sketch her short (artistic) biography here. The second picture is a drawing.
      All modern Russian printmakers seem to owe education and careers to one man in particular: Vasily Vasilyevich (Wilghelm Wilghelmovich) Matai (Mate) (1856 – 1917).