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 influence on the development of artistic tastes in Britain).
In 2015 she has been awarded PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art.
At present she works as an independent curator and an associate lecturer at the Courtauld Institute of Art where she teaches MA course on the role of the exhibitions and private collections in Europe in 1863-1930. In 2017 she curated a major exhibition Revolution. Russian Art. 1917-1932 at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. She is currently working on several exhibition projects in Columbus (Ohio), London, Moscow and Paris. Her latest exhibition The World as Objectlessness. The Birth of a New Art which traces development of the avant-garde in Vitebsk from Chagall to Malevich, was opened with high acclaim at the Jewish Museum in Moscow in October 2022.
Her most recent books include Two Women Patrons of the Russian Avant-Garde. Nadezhda Dobychina and Klavdia Mikhailova (Unicorn, 2021) and Art for the Workers. Proletarian Art and Festive Decorations of Petrograd. 1917-1920 (Brill, 2018). In November 2018 the Russian translation of her 2012 book The Unsung Hero of the Russian Avant-Garde. The Life and Times of Nikolay Punin was published by Slovo in Moscow.

Her books and articles extend across the wide field of 19-20 century Russian and European art, and she has featured in films dedicated to the Hermitage Museum and the Russian revolution and in programmes for BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service. Natalia is also a trustee of The Avant-Garde Art Research Project – a UK-based charity which shares one of her aspirations to encourage and advance the wider understanding of the avant-garde art and to reduce the number of fakes on the art market.


  • MACollecting and Curating the Modern: European Art 1863-1930
  • BA Histories Year 2: Reality and Fantasy in French Art, 1863-97: From Haussmannisation to Enchanted Ground
  • BA History of Art Year 3: Russian Art 1905-1932: Between the Emergence 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: Making the Modern: Collectors, Exhibitions and Dealers and their role in the formation of Modern European art 1863-1920

Recent and Forthcoming Curatorial Projects

  • ‘The World as Objectlessness. The Birth of a New Art’, Moscow, Jewish Museum, 20 October 2022-19 February 2023
  • ‘Forgotten Avant-Garde’, Yeltsin Centre, Yekaterinburg, September 2020-January 2021
  • ‘Kandinsky and Malevich: Paths to Abstraction’, Maillol Museum, Paris, March-July 2020
  • ‘Revolution. Russian Art. 1917-1932’, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 11 February-17 April 2017
  • ‘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

Recent publications

  • Two Women Patrons of the Russian Avant-Garde. Nadezhda Dobychina and Klavdia Mikhailova (London: Unicorn Publishers, 2021)
  • ‘Great Female Artists of the Avant-Garde: From Embroidery to the Revolution’ – chapter in the book Soviet Women and their Art. The Spirit of Equality (London: Unicorn Publishers, 2019)
  • Art for the Workers. Proletarian Art and Festive Decorations of Petrograd. 1917-1920 (Leiden-Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2018) – analysis of 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.
  • 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.
  • Revolution. Russian Art. 1917-1932, exhibition catalogue (London: Royal Academy of Arts, 2017)
  • A Russian Fairytale: The Art and Craft of Elena Polenova (1850-1898), exhibition catalogue (London: Watts Gallery Trust, 2014)

Selected essays, articles and reviews

  • ‘Factory of the Human Spirit. Kazimir Malevich and the Birth of the New Art’ in World as Objectlessness. The birth of the New Art (Yekaterinburg: Yeltsin Centre, 2021 and Moscow: Jewish Museum, 2022)
  • Keynote speaker at the conference Collector Culture of the Russian Avant-Garde, Thessaloniki, 22-23.10.2021
  • ‘Avant-garde in the Service of the Revolution’ in Avant-Garde. On a Cart into the 21st Century, exhibition catalogues(Yekaterinburg: Yeltsin Centre, 2020 and Moscow: Museum of Impressionism, 2022)
  • ‘The role of the newspaper Art of the Commune in the development of proletarian art in Russia’ – paper presented at the conference Avant-Garde of the Life-Building, Moscow, 28-30 October 2019
  • ‘Impressionism and Modernity’ – paper presented at the conference Impressionism in the Avant-garde, Museum of Impressionism, Moscow, 7-8 June 2018
  • ‘The Role of the ‘Red Commissar’ Nikolai Punin in the Rediscovery of Icons’ – essay in the book Modernism and the Spiritual in Russian Art: New Perspectives, ed. by Louise Hardiman and Nicola Kozicharow (London: Open Book Publishers, 2017)
  • Invited speaker for the panel of experts at the International Symposium Art and the Revolution, Venice Biennale, 25 October 2017
  • ‘Revolutionary Spectacle: Street Performances in Petrograd in 1917-1920’ – essay for the catalogue of the exhibition Art Riot. Post-Soviet Actionism (London: Saatchi Gallery, 2017)
  • Presented a talk about my recent publications at the Isle of Wight Literary Festival, 15 October 2017
  • Introduction, timeline and essays in the exhibition catalogue Revolution: Russian Art. 1917-1932 (London: Royal Academy of Arts, 2017)
  • Lecture on curating exhibition at the RA at the Institute of Realist Art, Moscow, 15 October 2017
  • Lecture Art for the New Society, King’s College, University of Cambridge, 18 May 2017
  • ‘Nikolai Punin and the Hermitage Museum in 1917-1919’ – paper presented at the conference The Museum after the Revolution, Calvert 22, London, 28-29 April 2017
  • Art of the Commune and the quest for the new art in post-revolutionary Russia’ – paper presented at the joint conference with The Cambridge Courtauld Russian Art Centre (CCRAC), Yaroslavl State University, and Moscow State University The Role of Printed Media in Forming National Identity in Russia and Britain, 12-13 September 2016
  • ‘Russia and the Arts’ – review of the exhibition Russia 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

  • February 2017 – organised an international Royal Academy of Arts-Courtauld Institute of Art conference Art Born in the Revolution
  • 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