“Moses Nappelbaum. Portrait of the era” (13.09-15.10)

From 13, September to 15, October, 2019, for the first time the exhibition of the greatest portrait
photographer “Moses Nappelbaum. Portrait of the era” is held at Belarusian National History and
Culture Museum.
Moses Nappelbaum is one of the most significant names in the history of photography. When in
1918 the Bolsheviks needed to show the world the image of the leader of Soviet Russia, he was
commissioned to make the first art portrait of Lenin. Even this fact alone is enough to prove the
scope of the photographer’s talent.
Becoming the photographer of the Soviet cultural and political elite, Nappelbaum entered the
history of world photography as a master of psychological portraiture. More than 1,000 of his
works, including the portraits of Akhmatova, Blok, Gorky, Dzerzhinsky, Yesenin, Plekhanov, Wells,
Pasternak, Meyerhold, Lenin, Sverdlov, Budyonny and others, became a part of the “golden” art

Nappelbaum was born in Minsk, and it was also here when he opened his first portrait studio. In
search of knowledge and experience, Nappelbaum travelled all around the world: to Smolensk,
Moscow, Odessa, Yevpatoriya, Vilnius, Warsaw, and later New York, Pittsburgh and other
American cities. His studio in St. Petersburg was a real creative hub attended by such outstanding
people as Gumilev, Pasternak, Yesenin, Blok, Mandelstam, Akhmatova and many others.
Nappelbaum is considered to be one of the pioneers of portrait photography, having created his
own unique technique of photographing people which resulted from his experiments with lighting
– revolutionary for that time. At the very beginning of the century, it was of an unprecedented
courage to make a portrait where only half of one’s face was shown and the viewers’ attention
directed to the sitter’s face, look and hands. Moses Nappelbaum, according to his own definition,
was a photographer and an artist at the same time.

For the first time in Belarus, Nappelbaum’s original prints are going to be shown among which –
the iconic portraits of the most famous culture, science and politics representatives: Anna
Akhmatova, Alexander Blok, Sergei Yesenin, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Maxim Gorky, Alexei Tolstoy,
Dmitri Shostakovich, Boris Pasternak, Vladimir Lenin, Semyon Budyonny, Anatoly Lunacharsky,
Galina Ulanova, Lev Landau, Otto Schmidt and many others. These works are shown in museums,
included in textbooks on photography and history. The exhibition will feature about 100 famous
portraits Nappelbaum made.

The exhibition is organized by Belarusian-Jewish Cultural Heritage Center. The photographs are
presented by the Borodulin Collection – one of the largest collections of classic Soviet
photography in the world.

Personal documents and early works of the Minsk period are going to be shown as a part of the
exhibition from the Belarusian National History and Culture Museum funds and National
Historical Archives of Belarus, as well as Nappelbaum’s personal camera brought by RUSS PRESS
PHOTO (Moscow). It is “Acme” camera by “W. Watson & Sons, Ltd.” (London, Great Britain),
production period 1900-1907. Nappelbaum used it when shooting Lenin’s famous portrait in 1918.

The exhibition is dedicated to the 150th anniversary of Moses Nappelbaum.
A set of postcards is going to be published to be presented together with the exhibition.
Moses Nappelbaum’s heirs will be invited for the opening.
The project is curated by Maya Katznelson.
A series of lectures from leading art historians and historians on the cultural heritage of Belarus
and the history of Belarusian photography is going to be held as a part of the education program
accompanying the exhibition. The latter will also feature various events, including excursions
along the historic Jewish streets of Minsk. Follow the program on Belarusian-Jewish Cultural
Heritage Center Facebook page: @bjch.center

Organizer: Belarusian-Jewish Cultural Heritage Center
Borodulin collection
In cooperation with:
Belarusian National History and Culture Museum
National Historical Archives of Belarus