Natalia Murray - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Natalia Murray

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Dr Natalia Murray

Associate Lecturer

Natalia Murray was born in St Petersburg where she gained BA and MA in Art History at the Academy of Fine Arts before taking the PhD course at the Hermitage Museum (conducting research on the XVII century Dutch paintings and British reproductive mezzotint engravings of XVII-XIX centuries, and their connection with the development of artistic tastes in Britain).

In 2015 she has been awarded PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art.

In 2012 she wrote a book The Unsung Hero of the Russian Avant-Garde. The Life and Times of Nikolay Punin (Leiden-Boston: Brill Academic, 2012).

At present she is working as a visiting lecturer at the Courtauld Institute of Art and as a head of education and public programmes at GRAD (Gallery for Russian Art and Design). She is also curating a major exhibition ‘Revolution. Russian Art. 1917-1932’ which will take place at the Royal Academy of Arts in 2017 and editing her next book on post-revolutionary festivals in Petrograd. Natalia is also trustee of the Russian Avant-Garde Research Project – a UK-based charity which shares one of her aspirations to reduce the number of fakes on the Russian art market.



  • BA History of Art Year 3: Russian Art 1917-1932: Between the Revolution and the Breaking of the Avant-Garde
  • BA History of Art Year 2 and Graduate Diploma: Russian Art: 1863-1953. Innovations, Influences and the Roots of Modernity
  • Summer School: Russian Art: 1863-1921
  • Showcasing Art History: Revolution in Russian Art


Recent and Forthcoming Curatorial Projects

  • Curating the major centenary exhibition ‘Revolution. Russian Art. 1917-1932’, which will take place in February-April 2017 at eth Royal Academy of Arts, London.
  • ‘Superwoman. Work, Build and Don’s Whine’, GRAD, 18 June-17 September 2016.
  • ‘Jack of Diamonds and the Russian Avant-Garde’, The Courtauld Gallery, 18 September 2014 – 18 January 2015.
  • ‘Elena Polenova and Russian Arts and Crafts’, Watts Gallery, 18 November 2014 – 8 February 2015.

Forthcoming publications

  • Background, Origins and Development of Proletarian Art and its Manifestations in the Festive Decorations of Petrograd in 1917-1920
    This manuscript is due to be published by BRILL Academic Publishers in 2017. It examines the mythology and reality of post-revolutionary proletarian art in Russia as well as its expression predominantly in the festive decorations of Petrograd between 1917 and 1920. It covers this brief period chronologically, and so permits a close inspection of the development of artistic policies in Russia from the end of the Imperial period under the Provisional Government (still an under-researched period in the history of Russian art), to the end of War Communism. Specifically, this manuscript focuses on the pre and post-revolutionary discussions about the nature of proletarian art and its role in the new Socialist society, particularly focusing on festive decorations, parades and mass performances as expressions of Bolshevik artistic policies. It also examines the impact of the festivals on people’s memory and experience of the 1917 revolutions, which shook all aspects of Russian life and culture to their foundations.

Recent publications

  • The Unsung Hero of the Russian Avant-Garde. The Life and Times of Nikolay Punin (Leiden-Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2012) – a biography of Nikolay Punin, who in 1913-1932 was one of the most influential Russian art critics, writing about West-European, Russian, Byzantine and Japanese art, and forming artistic policy in Russia after 1917 October Revolution.
    In his writing and teaching Punin demonstrated the tendency so typical for Russian Art in the first half of 20th c. – to cross the geographical boundaries, and incorporate Western and Eastern influences in the very essence of Russian Modernism.
  • A Russian Fairytale: The Art and Craft of Elena Polenova (1850-1898), exhibition catalogue (London: Watts Gallery Trust, 2014).

 Essays, articles and reviews

  • ‘Russia and the Arts’ – review of the exhibition Russian and the Arts: The Age of Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky (National Portrait Gallery, London), in the Burlington Magazine, June 2016.
  • ‘Street theatre as propaganda: mass performances and spectacles in Petrograd in 1920’, in the magazine Studies in Theatre and Performance, volume 37, 23 May 2016.
  • Review of the book by Rosalind P. Blakesley and Margaret Samu, eds. From Realism to the Silver Age: New Studies in Russian Artistic Culture in CAA Reviews (2015).
  • ‘No Future for the Futurists? Art of the Commune and the Quest for a New Art in Post-Revolutionary Russia’ – essay, in the International Yearbook of Futurism Studies, ed. by Gunter Berghaus, Vol. IV (De Gruyter, 2014).
  • ‘Silver Age. Russian culture of Fin de Siècle.’ –  essay in the catalogue of the exhibition Silver Age. Russian Art in Vienna around 1900 (Vienna: Belvedere, 2014).
  • ‘The Winter Palace or Palace of the Poor? Hermitage Museum in 1917-1919’ – paper presented at the MGU-Courtauld conference EXHIBIT ‘A’. Russian art: Exhibitions, collections and archives, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, 21-22 March 2014.
  • ‘The Black Square and Beyond’ –  paper presented at the symposium Aftermath and Afterlife of the Russian Avant- Garde, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 16-17 January, 2014.
  • ‘Nikolay Punin and the Forgotten Exhibition of Russian Art in Japan. 1927’ – paper presented at the conference Cultural Exchange: Russia and the West, University of Cambridge, 10 December 2013.
  • ‘L’Académie Impériale des Arts (Petrograd) et son expérience bizarre dans l’art prolétarien’ –  paper presented at the conference Globalisation avant la globalisation le réseau mondial des Académies des Beaux-Arts. 1900-2013,  École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 6-7 November 2013.
  • ‘The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and the quest for the new art. The Proletarian Art Enigma’ – lecture given at the Pushkin House in London, 19 November 2013.
  • ‘Feast in a time of plague. The May Day celebrations of 1917-1918 – article, published in Stockholm, Sweden in the magazine Baltic Worlds (April 2013, Vol. VI:1, pp. 30-33)
  • ‘Art and Civic Spectacle in Russia – first state-sponsored festivities in Petrograd.’ – paper presented at the AAH conference, University of Reading, 13 April 2013.
  • ‘Nikolay Punin and Paul Cezanne: Life and Death in the name of Art’, paper presented at the conference at Moscow State University, 22 March 2013.
  • ‘The Black Icon’ – article published in the book Languages of Colour ed. by Alexandra Loske (The Frogmore Press, 2012).
  • ‘Celebrations on the Field of Mars, Petrograd: 1 May 1918’ – article published in the exhibition catalogue Rodchenko and His Circle, 20 January-19 April 2011 (Art Sensus Gallery, London).
  • Review of the book by Avril King ‘Isaak Levitan. Lyrical Landscape’ (The Antique Collectors Club, 2011), published in East-West Review, December 2012, pp. 41-44.
  • ‘Exile within: Nikolay Punin and the end of his romance with the Revolution’ – paper presented at the conference Russian Culture in Exile. 1921-1953, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, 2-3 November 2012.
  • ‘The Role of the ‘Red Commissar’- Nikolay Punin – in the re-discovery of icons’- paper presented at the conference On the Spiritual in Russian Art, Pembroke College, University of Cambridge, 7-8 September 2012.
  • ‘The Life and Oeuvre of Nikolay Punin’ – paper presented at the annual conference Private Lives, Public Personas: Memoirs, Diaries, Biography, and Personal Narrative under Communism – was presented at University College Dublin on 23 April 2010.
  • ‘The Man who Died for Cezanne. Nikolay Punin’, paper presented at the conference at the University of Bristol in April 2011; published on the website Russian Art and Culture, 22 November 2011.
  • ‘The Lyricism of Landscape’ – introductory article in the catalogue of the exhibition of paintings by Youry Bondarenko – Marvel Art, London, 2007.
  • ‘Poetic Realism in Art’ – introductory article in the catalogue of the exhibition Art from the Heart of Russia (London: Marvel Art, 2000), pp. 4-10.
  • ‘The Angel’s Wing that Wasn’t. Old Master Paintings and Eighteenth-century Mezzotints’ – Print Quartery magazine, London, XVII, 2000,  pp. 364-374

Recently Organised Conferences

  • April 2016 – in association with GRAD and Kino-Klassica Foundation organised an international conference Sergei Eisenstein: His Legacy in Film, Psychology and the Visual Arts at the Courtauld Institute of Art.
  • December 2014-January 2015 – organised (with Louise Hardiman (Cambridge University)) a two-part international conference ‘Art, Craft & The Fin-de-Siecle: Britain and Russia’: Part I: From Firebird to Fabergé: British-Russian Artistic Exchange, 1880-1917, The Department of History of Art, Cambridge, 5 December 2014; Part II: The End of Empire: Women Artists in Britain and Russia, 1880-1917, The Courtauld Institute of Art, 9 January 2015.
  • November 2012 – co-organised with Maria Kokkori (The Art Institute of Chicago) an international conference Russian Culture in Exile. 1921-1953 at the Courtauld Institute of Art.

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