Before meeting Igor Stravinsky in 1921 in Paris, Vera Arturovna Sudeikin-Stravinsky (1888-1982) was already known as the "Muse of the Muses" in what had been the bohemian, intellectual life of St. Petersburg-Petrograd. Hers was the "Silver Age" of Russian culture, when symbolism reigned in the cabarets and the artistic process itself was a form of celebration. As the habitués of this world fled the Bolsheviks, Vera, an artist and writer in her own right, managed to preserve their heritage in an extraordinary literary production: an album containing poems, sketches, fragments of music, and other dedications by some of the most influential Russian cultural figures of the day. The Album, reproduced here for the first time, is both a record of a cultural diaspora and a monument to the Russian fin de siècle.
In 1917 Vera fled to the south of Russia with her then-husband Sergei Sudeikin, a renowned painter and stage designer for the Ballets Russes. They traveled three years throughout the Crimea, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, organizing artistic gatherings at many of their stops. Vera recorded her impressions of the journey and along the way invited her famous friends to make creative offerings to her Album. Together they produced a "literature of loss"--of city and country, of childhood, of an entire era. The material, much of which has never been published, includes poems by Osip Mandelstam, Konstantin Balmont, and Mikhail Kuzmin; musical fragments by Vladimir Pol and Igor Stravinsky; and drawings and watercolors by Boris Grigoriev, Lado Gudiashvili, Sergei Sudeikin, the Zdanevich brothers, and Vera herself.
The Album survived war, revolution, and exile, but it was never published until now. In this edition, which reproduces every page of the Album in full color, John Bowlt uses Vera's diaries along with many other sources to explain the stories behind the entries. The biographical information, dates, and places, all accompanying each entry, will help today's readers form a vivid picture of a fascinating era, and an understanding of an extraordinary woman and the cultural liaisons that made up her world.