"James H. Billington" is currently the Librarian of Congress. Before that, he served as director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He has been a leading figure in American academic exchange programs, and served as past chairman of the Board of Foreign Scholarship, which directs the Fulbright Program. He is author of "Mikhailovsky and Russian Populism and The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture. "
Reviews - What do customers think about The Face of Russia: Anguish, Aspiration, and Achievement in Russian Culture?
An Analysis of Creativity and Political Development in Russian History Oct 12, 2008
From Front Jacket:
"In 'The Face of Russia', the renowned scholar James H. Billington explains how Russia's rich tradition of art, spirituality, and culture has affected the country's political processes and its struggle toward democracy. Through profiles of Russia's supreme practitioners of art and culture - medieval icon painter Andrei Rublev, architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli, author Nicholas Gogol, composer Modest Musorgsky, and filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein - Billington has identified a recurring pattern in the Russian creative process.
First, the Russians, a seemingly proud and self-centered people, suddenly take over a new form of creative enterprise lock, stock, and barrel from a more advanced foreign civilization they had previously reviled. Second, having acquired in finished form a new and foreign medium of expression, the Russians produce stunningly original, more ambitious works, essentially re-creating the art form. This is often done at the very moment that people elsewhere have concluded that the new medium had exhausted its creative possibilities. Then, having lifted the new art form to a higher level, the Russians themselves cast it down and break it apart, leaving behind only fragments of their best creations for future generations.
Does this pattern of creativity provide any hint as to how Russians might solve their present problems? In exploring these cycles of explosive creativity followed by apparent destruction, we may discover what the legacy of Russian art and culture portends for the future of Russia's political institutions.
'The Face of Russia' features a stunning selection of color illustrations, providing a remarkable gallery of Russian art and architecture."
The Rich Cultural Legacy of Russia Nov 21, 2001
This book is similar in approach to the better known heaven and Hell by Bruce Lincoln. However, Billington concentartes more on the art and includes a beautiful section of plates. Unlike Lincoln's book, it is easily approached and is a reasonable 260 pages. Billington shows the connections between Russia's spiritual, historical and political traditions have played a direct role in defining its cultural and artistic production. He profiles individual artists and art forms. The painting of Rublev and the medieval stile on firewood, the architect Rastrelli, Gogol, Mussorsgki and Eisenstein primarily. the main point is that Russians learned from others, imitated and then transformed the art into a uniqe interpretation that reflected their reality that is often more ambitious and beautiful. anyone who's heard Rachmaninov's 2nd piano concerto or seen a painting by Repin should have no problem sahring this view.