The State Memorial and Natural Preserve "Museum-estate of Leo Tolstoy "Yasnaya Polyana"
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Photo Exhibition: Karl Bulla at Yasnaya Polyana

afishaJune 24 - July 23, 2017
Yasnaya Polyana Gallery 

The exhibition will open on June 23 at 17:00. During the opening, there will be a concert by the winner of national and international contests, Veronika Tkacheva (soprano), organized with the support of the Elena Obraztsova Cultural Center (St. Petersburg). The exhibition will feature original objects from the Tolstoy House and 45 photographs from the Karl Bulla Historical Photography Foundation (St. Petersburg). Postcards from Paul Rodzianko’s collection (USA) printed before the Revolution from Bulla’s photos taken at Yasnaya Polyana will also be displayed. 

The exhibition is scheduled for the 110th anniversary of the famous photographer’s visit to Yasnaya Polyana, as a result of which a series of unique photographs was added to the Tolstoy photo collection: photo portraits of the writer himself, his family, guests, and Yasnaya Polyana peasants, the interiors of the house, and views of the estate and its environs. 


On July 7, 1908, by prior arrangement, Karl Bulla arrived at Yasnaya Polyana with his son Victor; he was supposed to make a series of photographs of the great author by request of several publishers in the capital. Discussion of the possibility of photographing Tolstoy at his estate began in 1903 with the assistance of the critic and art historian V.V. Stasov. An important role for the positive decision was played by the fact that Tolstoy was acquainted with Karl Bulla’s work, including his photo story about Repin’s Penates estate published in Iskry magazine.

The photographers came to Yasnaya Polyana with photo and lighting equipment brought on two carts. During two days, about 100 photos were taken. Dushan Makovitsky, the Tolstoy family doctor, wrote in his notes on September 2, 1908: “Sophia Andreevna began showing Bulla’s wonderful photographs.” Those pictures were published in Russian and foreign illustrated newspapers and magazines and reproduced as postcards. A kind of an afterword to Bulla’s photo expedition to Yasnaya Polyana was his photo taken in 1910 in Penates in which the artist Ilya Repin and the critic Korney Chukovsky are reading the news about Tolstoy’s death in a newspaper. Victor Bulla, as a cameraman, filmed 140 meters of footage during Tolstoy’s funeral on November  9, 1910. 

Background information:


Karl Bulla (1855-1929) was a famous portrait photographer and master of documentary photography; he is rightly called “the father of ­­Russian photo reportage.”­ He was born in Prussia, came to St. Petersburg at the age of 11, and became a citizen of the Russian Empire at the age of 21. He took up photography in 1874, and ten years later received permission “to photograph views of the capital and its environs” as the first Russian photojournalist. He was the only photojournalist awarded the Photographer of St. Petersburg badge. Bulla photographed the celebrations in honor of the 200th anniversary of St. Petersburg and the 300th anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty. In 1907-08 he opened K.K. Bulla’s Photography on Nevsky Avenue 54 outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment; “all of St. Petersburg” and many guests of the capital went there to have their pictures taken. Beginning in the early 20th century, Bulla was the official illustrator of such magazines as NivaOgonyokSt. Petersburg Life, and The Capital and Estates, and contributed to a number of foreign publications. He was awarded over 30 orders, medals, and badges of the Russian Empire and other countries.

The exhibition can be visited from Tuesday to Sunday at 11:00 – 19:00. Cost of admission: free of charge for visitors under 16; 15 rubles for a discounted ticket; 30 rubles for a full-price ticket. Cost of a guided tour ticket: 30 rubles for visitors under 16 and for a discounted ticket; 45 rubles for a full-price ticket.

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