Brumfield, William Craft 1944–
BRUMFIELD, William Craft 1944– (William C. Brumfield)
PERSONAL: Born June 28, 1944, in Charlotte, NC; son of Lewis (an agronomist) and Pauline Elizabeth (a teacher; maiden name, Craft) Brumfield. Education: Tulane University, B.A., 1966; University of California—Berkeley, M.A., 1968, Ph.D., 1973.
CAREER: Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, assistant professor of Russian literature, 1974–79, fellow at Russian Research Center, 1980–81; Tulane University, New Orleans, LA, assistant professor, 1981–83, associate professor, 1984–91, professor of Slavic studies, 1992–. University of Wisconsin—Madison, visiting lecturer, 1973–74; American Council of Teachers of Russian, resident director of semester program at Pushkin Institute in Moscow, U.S.S.R. (now Russia), 1979–80; University of Virginia, visiting associate professor, 1985–86; Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies, fellow, 1989; National Humanities Center, fellow, 1992–93; Russian Institute of Art History, seminar presenter; researcher at University of Moscow, University of Leningrad, and Russian Institute of Art History, Moscow; guest lecturer at numerous other institutions. Exhibitions: Photographer, with work exhibited in "The Russian Art of Building in Wood," National Humanities Center, 1992, then on tour, and "Lost Russia: Photographs of William Brumfield," Museum of Art, Duke University, Durham, NC, 1996, then on tour. Work also featured at museums and galleries, and represented in Photographic Archives, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
MEMBER: American Association for the Advance of Slavic Studies, Society of Historians of East European and Russian Art and Architecture, Society of Architectural Historians, American Council of Teachers of Russian, Institute of Modern Russian Culture (head of photography section).
AWARDS, HONORS: Woodrow Wilson fellow, 1966; senior exchange scholar in the U.S.S.R., International Research and Exchanges Board and American Council of Learned Societies, 1983–84; Outstanding Academic Book selections, Choice, 1983, for Gold in Azure: One Thousand Years of Russian Architecture, and 1992, for Origins of Modernism in Russian Architecture; A History of Russian Architecture was named a notable book of the year by the New York Times Book Review, 1993; recipient of grants from Samuel H. Kress Foundation, 1996–97, and National Council for Eurasian and East European Research, 1999–2000; Guggenheim fellow, 2000–01.
(And photographer) Gold in Azure: One Thousand Years of Russian Architecture, David R. Godine (Boston, MA), 1983.
(With Blair A. Ruble and Anatole Kopp) Architecture and the New Urban Environment: Western Influences on Modernism in Russia and the U.S.S.R, Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies (Washington, DC), 1988.
(Editor, under name William C. Brumfield, with Milos M. Velimirovich, and contributor) Christianity and the Arts in Russia, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1991.
(And photographer) The Origins of Modernism in Russian Architecture, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1991.
(Editor, with Blair A. Ruble, and contributor) Russian Housing in the Modern Age: Design and Social History, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1993.
(And photographer) A History of Russian Architecture, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1993.
(Compiler) An Architectural Survey of St. Petersburg, 1840–1916: Building Inventory, Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies (Washington, DC), 1994.
(And photographer) Lost Russia: Photographing the Ruins of Russian Architecture, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 1995.
(And photographer) Landmarks of Russian Architecture: A Photographic Survey, Gordon & Breach (Australia), 1997.
(Editor, with Boris V. Anan'ich and Yuri A. Petrov) Commerce in Russian Urban Culture, 1861–1914, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 2001.
Author and photographer for exhibition catalogs published in English and Russian. Contributor to books, including Cambridge Encyclopedia of Russia, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY). Contributor to academic journals and popular magazines, including Comparative Literature, Saturday Evening Post, Historic Preservation, Slavic Review, Slavic and East European Journal, Canadian-American Slavic Studies, Architectural Digest, Visual Resources, Ideas, and Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts.
SIDELIGHTS: William Craft Brumfield has combined an interest in architecture with his expertise in Russian studies to produce several books successfully merging the two themes. A professor of Russian literature since the early 1970s, Brumfield has written and edited volumes about both past and present Russian architecture. He shouldered a subject of great scope for his first published title, Gold in Azure: One Thousand Years of Russian Architecture. The 1983 work is a ten-century survey of that land's religious and public buildings, comprised of scholarly text amply complemented by Brumfield's own photographs. Brumfield conducted research for the book during a difficult period in contemporary Soviet history, when relations between the U.S.S.R. and the West were sometimes strained: foreign scholars such as Brumfield were not allowed to casually roam the Russian countryside to photograph medieval religious edifices. Gold in Azure is structured chronologically and divided into chapters on specific locales that represent the developmental periods of Russian architecture from the eleventh century onward. The geographic regions highlight the different epochs and styles of architecture, such as medieval monasteries outside Kiev and Baroque palaces of St. Petersburg.
The title Gold in Azure refers to the use of color as a strong decorative element in the landscape of Russian architecture. A large portion of the book concentrates on religious architecture—especially extant, well-preserved examples from medieval times—and also analyzes the Byzantine Empire's influence on the genre. A sixth chapter is devoted to twentieth-century styles, concentrating primarily on the city of Moscow.
Gold in Azure also chronicles the impact of various European architectural styles and the role of foreign architects in Russia. In his study of the subject, Brumfield stresses that, in general, Russian architecture was less derivative of Western trends than commonly perceived and notes the influence of several important Russian masters in the field. The volume devotes nearly one hundred pages to the tremendous undertaking involved in the eighteenth-century construction of St. Petersburg, a city famed for its opulently monumental buildings. Named after its founder, Peter the Great, the seaport was literally carved out of the wilderness over the space of a century, and the Russian Empire spared no expense in creating St. Petersburg's lavish public structures. The final chapter examines the rapid modernization of Russia, especially in Moscow, which was part of the tremendous changes wrought by the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. In this section Brumfield analyzes the innovative styles that later devolved into infamous edifices that gave rise to the pejorative term "Stalinist architecture."
Gold in Azure received positive reviews for its formidable scope. James H. Billington of the Times Literary Supplement noted the neglected discussion of military fortresses as an influential force in Russian architecture, but observed that, among the sections devoted to the early churches, "the illustrative material from this period would itself make the book worth owning." The critic also described the "invaluable series of readable, cross-sectional plans [that] make the special features and terminology of Russian church construction intelligible even to the lay reader." In summing up the final effect of Gold in Azure, Billington commented that "Brumfield has captured much of the beauty and many important details of the stylistic development of Russian architecture in this book."
Brumfield has published other works along similar themes. In The Origins of Modernism in Russian Architecture, Brumfield surveys an influential fifty-year period of development in Russian building design, from the late 1860s to the Bolshevik Revolution. He discusses the dramatic architectural evolution during this era, a shift that was propelled by Russia's expanding empire, ties with the West, and growing political and economic importance. The work is illustrated with forty color plates of the author's own photographs, combined with archival reproductions taken of the structures when they were new. One chapter dissects the divergence of building styles between Russia's two main cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg, while other areas of the book analyze the admixture of certain Russian elements into transplanted European designs. Into the text Brumfield also incorporates previously published historical commentary on Russian urban architecture, such as the disparaging remarks on newly-erected buildings in St. Petersburg written by the eminent nineteenth-century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Polly Walcot-Stewart of the Times Literary Supplement questioned some aspects of Brumfield's critical input, but commented favorably on the tome's overall effort by stating "The Origins of Modernism in Russian Architecture is a rich and essential reference work on the period." Walcot-Stewart further remarked that "to those with some knowledge of the material, this will bring a new perspective. Anyone new to the period will find it an eye-opener."
Brumfield also edited, with Blair Ruble, the volume Russian Housing in the Modern Age: Design and Social History, which provides a comprehensive study of the topic in the English language. He also published A History of Russian Architecture, which expands greatly on the treatment of the subject initially presented in Gold in Azure. The compendium contains fifteen chapters, almost 700 of his black-and-white photographs, eighty color pictures, and a number of architectural drawings. In her review of the volume in the New York Times Book Review, Suzanne Massie complimented the author on his work, noting that "in scope, information and visual beauty Mr. Brumfield's book far surpasses the former English-language mainstay in the field, George Heard Hamilton's Art and Architecture of Russia (1954)."
Photography remains an important part of Brumfield's work, not only in his publications on Russian architecture but also in exhibits of his photographs. "The Russian Art of Building in Wood" opened in 1992 at the National Humanities Center and later became a traveling exhibition. Over 7,000 of Brumfield's black-and-white prints are also in the collection of the Photographic Archives of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, October, 1994, Linda Gerstein, review of A History of Russian Architecture, p. 1360.
Catholic Historical Review, October, 1994, Charles Timberlake, review of Christianity and the Arts in Russia, p. 769
Choice, June, 1994, J. M. Curtis, review of A History of Russian Architecture, p. 1568; July-August, 1995, J. M. Curtis, review of Lost Russia: Photographing the Ruins of Russian Architecture, p. 1718; November, 2001, J. M. Curtis, "The Art of the Russian North," p. 496.
Church History, December, 1995, Charles A. Frazee, review of Christianity and the Arts in Russia, p. 729.
Design Book Review, spring, 1984, p. 38.
Journal of Government Information, November, 1995, review of An Architectural Survey of St. Petersburg, 1840–1916: Building Survey, p. 518.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 30, 1983; April 30, 1995, review of Lost Russia, p. 13.
New York Times Book Review, December 11, 1983, p. 37; October 31, 1993, Suzanne Massie, review of A History of Russian Architecture, p. 32.
Publishers Weekly, June 14, 1993, p. 58.
Reference and Research Book News, May, 1998, review of Landmarks of Russian Architecture: A Photographic Survey, p. 143.
Russian Review, January, 1995, review of A History of Russian Architecture, p. 133; July, 1995, review of Christianity and the Arts in Russia, p. 452; April, 1999, review of Landmarks of Russian Architecture, p. 311.
Slavic and East European Journal, fall, 1994, John E. Bowlt, review of Russian Housing in the Modern Age: Design and Social History, p. 529; summer, 1998, Brigit Farley, review of Lost Russia, p. 332.
Slavic Review, summer, 1994, Janet Kennedy, review of A History of Russian Architecture, p. 578; spring, 1995, Wendy R. Salmond, review of Russian Housing in the Modern Age, p. 185; summer, 1996, Albert J. Schmidt, review of Lost Russia, p. 503.
Slavonic and East European Review, April, 1995, Lindsey Hughes, review of A History of Russian Architecture, p. 330; January, 1997, Lindsey Hughes, review of Lost Russia, p. 151.
Times Literary Supplement, December 9, 1983, James H. Billington, review of Gold in Azure: One Thousand Years of Russian Architecture, p. 1369; November 6, 1992, Polly Walcot-Stewart, review of The Origins of Modernism in Russian Architecture, p. 19.
Washington Post Book World, May 21, 1995, review of Lost Russia, p. 12.