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Artwork on promotional banner: Ivan Kramskoi, The Mermaids, 1871, oil on canvas, 34.6 x 51.9 inches. Tretyakov Gallery. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

The rusalka is a female spirit from Slavic folklore that appears in poetry, theater, and the visual arts. Nineteenth-century Russian artists depicted rusalki to demonstrate their skill in rendering the female nude, an important theme in European art while portraying a distinctly national subject. In the 1870s, some artists traveled to Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire, for a greater sense of regional authenticity. In her talk, Margaret Samu will explore the connections between Russian imperialist narratives, ethnic stereotypes of Ukraine, and depictions of supernatural women.

The AGAS (Association of Graduate Art Students) lecture is sponsored by the Franklin College of Arts & Sciences, the Willson Center for Humanities & Arts, and the Lamar Dodd School of Art.

Lecturer bio: Margaret Samu works on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Russian art and design in a global context. Her work has been published in journals such as The Art BulletinIskusstvoznanieNineteenth-Century Studies, and Experiment, as well as a volume she co-edited, From Realism to the Silver Age (NIU Press, 2014). She has received grants from the Mellon Foundation, the Fulbright Program, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Library of Congress, among other institutions. Her current book project is titled Russian Venus: The Female Nude in the Art World of Imperial Russia. After serving as president of the Society of Historians of East European, Eurasian, and Russian Art and Architecture (SHERA) from 2013 until 2015, she is now on the Organizing Committee of the 19v Working Group on Russian Culture, Literature, and the Arts. Based in New York City, Margaret teaches at the Parsons School of Design and lectures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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  • Hanusia Higgins
  • Chloe Cox

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