Dobuzhinskii, Mstislav

Dobuzhinskii, Mstislav Valerianovich


Born Aug. 2 (14), 1875, in Novgorod; died Nov. 20, 1957, in New York. Russian artist.

Dobuzhinskii studied in St. Petersburg in the School of Drawing of the Society for the Promotion of the Arts (1885-87), in Munich (1899-1901) in the school of A. Azbe, and with S. Hollosy. He was a member of the Mir Iskusstva (World of Art) association. At the beginning of his artistic career (1902-05), Dobuzhinskii was influenced by Jugendstil and the artists A. N. Benois, and K. A. Somov. In 1905 he contributed to the satirical journal Zhupel (The Bogey), which printed his drawings deriding the autocracy (The October Idyll). Before the revolution, Dobuzhinskii was involved primarily in graphic art (this included the designing of the magazines The World of Art, The Golden Fleece, and Apollo) and also painted pictures devoted to historical subjects (for example, Peter the Great in Holland, 1910, Tret’iakov Gallery). Dobuzhinskii designed sets for plays (Turgenev’s A Month in the Country, 1909, and Nikolai Stavrogin after Dostoevsky, 1913—both for the Moscow Art Theater). In 1914 he began to design sets for the private theatrical ventures of S. P. Diaghilev.

Along with nostalgic architectural landscapes, the subject of the modern industrial city occupies an important place in Dobuzhinskii’s work. The city, as the artist sees it, occasion-ally acquires bizarre, phantasmic features and tragic, grotesque elements. Dobuzhinskii’s treatment of the urban theme is best expressed in the paintings Little Old House (gouache and lead pencil 1905), The Bespectacled Man (charcoal, watercolors, white paint, 1905-06), and Barber-shop Window (watercolors, gouache, charcoal, 1906); all of these are in the Tret’iakov Gallery.

Dobuzhinskii’s most important works executed during the Soviet period include the illustrations for Andersen’s TheSwineherd (published in 1922), Dostoevsky’s White Nights (published in 1923), and Olesha’s The Three Fat Men (published in 1928). Dobuzhinskii’s book designs and illustrations are particularly representative of the inclination toward stylization that had developed among artists of the World of Art association. His book illustrations faithfully correspond to the structure and the emotional tone of the literary work and are characterized by clear, graceful design. Beginning approximately in 1920, Dobuzhinskii’s art was distinguished by a heightened expressiveness of lines.

Dobuzhinskii taught in private art schools in St. Petersburg and was a professor during the Soviet period (from 1922) at the Academy of Art in Petrograd. In 1925 he moved to Lithuania (from 1929 to 1939 he lived in Kaunas and taught in the Kaunas School of Art). From 1939 he resided in England and the USA, working primarily in stage design.


Makovskii, S., and F. Notgaft. Grafika M. V. Dobuzhinskogo. Leningrad, 1924.
Gusarova, A. “Knizhnaia grafika M. V. Dobuzhinskogo.” In the collection Ocherkipo russkomu i sovetskomu iskusstvu. Moscow, 1965.
Istoriia russkogo iskusstva, vol. 10, book 1, Moscow, 1968, pp. 431-43; book 2, Moscow, 1969, pp. 194-99.
Mstislavas, Dobužinskis. Teatro dekoracijy, kostiumy, eskizy paroda. Katalogas, Vilnius, 1963. (In Lithuanian and Russian.)
“Mstislav, V. Dobujinsky.” 1875-1957. Memorial Exhibition, London, 1959.