The State Memorial and Natural Preserve "Museum-estate of Leo Tolstoy "Yasnaya Polyana"
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Exhibition: Old ABC Book. Marina Khankova‘s Designer Handwritten Book

azbookaMay 6 - June 18, 2017
Yasnaya Polyana Gallery 

The exhibition opens on May 5 at 16:00.

The exhibition of works by Marina Khankova, Moscow, is dedicated to the 145th anniversary of the publication of the first edition of Leo Tolstoy‘s ABC Book. On display are sketches and watercolour illustrations to a Russian ABC Book done in the Art Nouveau style – all in all, 66 watercolours for 33 letters of the alphabet. For each letter, there are two drawings on a two-page spread: a large illustration with one or two fairy-tale characters on the right, and the letter itself in a framework of tiny pictures, herbs, forest birds, and everyday objects, with captions and explanations – on the left. 

Marina Khankova‘s ABC Book, like Tolstoy’s ABC Book, originates from the same source – folk poetry. Inspired by the great miriskusnik (i.e. member of the World of Art movement) Ivan Bilibin, it takes us back into the atmosphere of childhood – “bright, tender, affectionate, and mysterious,” and immerses us into the radiant world of fairy tales, and that of nature, communion with which Tolstoy called “the purest joy.”


Each letter in Marina Khankova‘s ABC Book contains a whole world. She invents a plot for each letter, and it is rich in numerous miniature details that a child can contemplate for a long time, sitting, instead of in front of the TV set, on his or her mother’s or father’s lap and listening to their quiet voice. Psychologists call it fairy-tale therapy; Tolstoy called it “comforting.“ He used to emphasize many times how important it is to comfort a child while playing with him. The presence of the adult, who becomes a participant in the child’s games and takes an interest in his problems, evokes the little one’s trust in the adult, which is so necessary in life.

Many memoirists write about the tradition of family readings in the Tolstoy family, when after having finished their daily occupations, the family gathered in the dining room and, by the light of an oil-lamp under a cozy lampshade, Tolstoy or someone else would read aloud stories by Chekhov, Gorky, Kuprin, and novels of Jules Verne.

Marina Khankova‘s handwritten ABC Book brings back to life this very tradition of family reading, joint creative work, and continuity of generations that is now almost forgotten and nearly buried under the “occupation cultural layer” of immediate and prestigious leisure entertainments.


The exhibition will last until June 18, 2017 and will be open from Tuesday to Sunday from 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 ticket for a guided tour: 30 rubles for visitors under 16 and for a discounted ticket; 45 rubles for a full-price ticket.

About the artist:

Marina Khankova is an artist and a book illustrator. Member of the Creative union of Artists of Russia. Born in Moscow, graduated from Moscow State Pedagogical University: “By education, I am a drawing teacher,” she says, “and it is very important for me. I teach both big and little ones to draw, and I try to give them not so much the technique, as the joy of creativity and self-confidence, good taste, and understanding of painting. In addition, I always draw, design books, paints for vernissages, and draw during my trips throughout Russia.” 

At present, the artist lives and works in Korolev. Participated in the ehibitions The Garden of Eden in Russian Art of the 17th-Early 20th Centuries (Izmailovo Estate-Museum, 2015), A Trip Through the Garden of Eden (Mytishchi Picture Gallery, 2015), and Russian ABC Book in Drawings by Marina Khankova (Russian Icon Museum, 2016).

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