Anna Winestein, Harvard University, Boston University

Transmental Games and Travestied Experiments: Costumed Balls, Cross-Dressing, Role-Playing, Theatricality, and More Among Russian Artists in Paris 1870-1930


The period 1870 to 1930 was the heyday of visual artistic exchange between France and Russia, during which countless Russian and later Soviet artists traveled to Paris to visit, study, create, advance their careers, and simply live. Usually, they gravitated towards their creative compatriots—other artists, poets and writers, musicians, scholars and scientists—as well as either political emigres and revolutionaries, or diplomats and other representatives of Russian officialdom. Often, these networks led to the creation of informal and official circles as well as artistic associations that helped mediate between the Russian and French art milieus. The present paper examines how The Society of Russian Artists in Paris (1874/77-1930s), The Russian Artist Circle Montparnasse (1902/3-1908), the Russian Academies of Paris (1908/9-1914/1917) , the Union des Artistes Russes (1920s) and the members of Mir Iskusstva and the Ballets Russes (active in Paris 1890s to 1930s) used the greater social and creative freedom of Paris compared to Russia to ‘play’ with their artistic and personal identities and experiment with different cultural traditions, gender roles, political orientations and more. I will also look at efforts by Russian government and police authorities to monitor, control and intervene in the activities of these groups and consider whether their experimentation and play were in themselves viewed as a threat to stability and social order.

Speaker Biography

Anna Winestein is an historian of art and theater, independent curator, and cultural entrepreneur. She is Executive Director of the Ballets Russes Arts Initiative (, a non-profit organization in Boston that follows in the tradition of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes by promoting international creative exchange in the fine and performing arts, especially between the US and the post-Soviet region. An associate of the Davis Center at Harvard and the Center for the Study of Europe at Boston University, she also consults collectors, dealers and museums and previously served as Creative Director for the Hermitage Museum Foundation. Her scholarly research interests include Russian art 1850 to today, European modernism, 20th century dance and theater history, cultural exchange between Russia and Europe in late imperial times, and the Russian emigration.

She has curated several exhibitions, including "Danser Vers La Gloire: L’Age d’Or des Ballets Russes" (2008), for Sotheby’s Galerie Charpentier in Paris, and "The Magical Reality of Alexandre Benois" (2006) at the Boston Public Library, for both of which she wrote the catalogues, and is curating the exhibition "Migration and Memory: Jewish Artists from the Russian and Soviet Empires," opening at the Museum of Russian Icons in October 2017. Co-editor and co-author of The Ballets Russes and the Art of Design (2009), as well as Loyalties and Solidarities in Russian Society, History and Culture (2013), Ms. Winestein has had articles published in peer-reviewed journals and publication series and is the translator of Alexander Tcherepnin: Saga of an Emigre Composer (2007). She has also authored or contributed essays to numerous exhibition catalogues and joint volumes such as Dance and Fashion (Yale University Press & MFIT 2014), Migration and Mobility in the Modern Age (Indiana University Press, 2017) and Revolutions in Russian Painting (Bonnefanten Museum Maastricht 2013).

As a cultural entrepreneur she works with the visual arts, dance, music and film. She has been a Cultural Envoy for the US State Department and is a former Fulbright Scholar. Ms. Winestein is in the final stages of a doctorate in Modern History at Oxford University; her dissertation examines social and professional networks among Russian artists in Paris 1870-1917. She holds a masters degree in Economics and separate undergraduate degrees in painting and art history.

Cosponsored by the Advanced Training in Greek Poetry Translation and Performance Workshop