Art collection – early XX c Russian Art. Part 1

Art collection – early XX c Russian Art

My first pieces of original art

Natalia Gontchava “In the fields” painting on wooden panel, original framed size: 66.5×48.5 cm

Most of the artists featured in my collection have gained international recognition as theatre artists. The basis of the collected works, which are presented at auctions, are sketches of scenography, sketches of theatre costumes for ballet, opera, drama productions, circus performances, motion pictures, cabaret and others.

Beginning: how I bought my first pieces of original art

How I get started:

I began in 2000, when Russian costume sketches and theatre set designs of Russian artist Nikolai Zelinski appeared on the Lithuanian market. They came in large quantities and nobody bought even for one litas per piece ($ 0.25). I started buying them before I knew how far it would go. With interest in the history of Kaunas Theater, I discovered that many well-known Russian theater artists worked in state theater before World War II.

Then, step by step, I started looking for survivors or their relatives who worked in the theater or were otherwise associated with the theatre.

I found N. Zelinski’s son who had a huge bunch of theater sketches left by his father. He sold me everything for a symbolic price of 100USD. There were over 4000 pieces of various stage designs, costume sketches and more. Among them were works by Benua, Goncharova and other Russian artists.

Zelinsky Zelinskis Nikolay Ksenofontovith /ЗЕЛИНСКИЙ Зелинскис Николай Ксенофонтович/ (1918 Alta Siberia, Russia – 1984 Minsk Belarus)

He was a Russian theatre artist, and came to Lithuania 1946.

Active in Kaunas State Music Theatre 1946 – 1954.

Moved to Yakutia (Sakha Republic), active in Russian drama theatre  1957 – 1966

Moved to Ivano-Frankovsk (now Ukraine Ivano-Frankivsk) Music theatre 1966 -1974

Then was active in Russian Drama theatre, Mukachevo Zakarpattia in West Ukraine, back in Lithuania Kaunas State music theatre 1981 – 1982

Moved to Belorus and died in Minsk 1984.

I started to sell on line and found what people like theatre art.

Then I figured out what to do. I got the names and addresses of all the people who worked in Kaunas State Theatre when I went there.

Kaunas State Theatre

So began a search that took over 10 years.

I learn more about Kaunas State Theatre connections with Sergei Diaghilev and Ballet Russe

Natalia Gontcharova
in Kaunas State Theatre published “Naujoji Romuva” 1932

The Ballets Russes was an itinerant ballet company based in Paris that performed between 1909 and 1929 throughout Europe and on tours to North and South America. The company never performed in Russia, where the Revolution disrupted society. After its initial Paris season, the company had no formal ties there. Originally conceived by impresario Sergei Diaghilev, the Ballets Russes is widely regarded as the most influential ballet company of the 20th century, in part because it promoted ground-breaking artistic collaborations among young choreographers, composers, designers, and dancers, all at the forefront of their several fields. Diaghilev commissioned works from composers such as Igor Stravinsky, Claude Debussy, Sergei Prokofiev, and Maurice Ravel, artists and costume designers such as Vasily Kandinsky, Alexandre Benois, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Mikhail Larianov, Natalia Goncharova, Léon Bakst and Coco Chanel. The company’s productions created a huge sensation, completely reinvigorating the art of performing dance, bringing many visual artists to public attention, and significantly affecting the course of musical composition. It also introduced European and American audiences to tales, music, and design motifs drawn from Russian folklore.

The hard job I did. Most addresses were different when I got them. People moved or something happened. I tried to reach by phone, visited every single home in Kaunas, Vilnius in Lithuania and then my geography has expanded from Lithuania to Latvia, Belarus and part of Poland.

I met a lot of interesting people, heard many stories about the theatre, some even knew some famous Russian artists of that time. Something I bought, paid money, sometimes I paid too much keeping in my mind what it will be helpful for future relationships and purchases. Sometimes people just gave me gifts, some sketches or gave me all the collection because they were not interested in theatre or prefered to leave to someone who has interest in this. I took everything I could buy, or got like a gift or trade off with collectors to some other art they wanted.

continued to part2

Follow me about news before auctions:



Check out my items in my or shop:

Check out my items in my OnBuy shop:

Check out my items in my Etsy shop:

I found N. Zelinski’s son who had a huge bunch of theater sketches left by his father. He sold me everything for a symbolic price of 100USD. There were over 4000 pieces of various stage designs, costume sketches and so on. Among them were works by Benua, Goncharova and other Russian artists.


  • So happy to see you writing your fantastic story down and letting the world know – I certainly enjoyed hearing it in person…

  • Dear Sir,
    I just discovered your blog yesterday and would like congratulate you for your great work.
    I am also very interested in paintings since my grandfather was an artist. He was very talented but unfortunately he never signed not sold any of his work.
    My dream is to create a small collection and Goncharova is one of the artist I am looking for. Could you give me some advices and do you have any to sell? At what price?
    Thank you so much and kind regards
    Patrick Haymoz
    +41 78 950 15 99 (WhatsApp)

  • 😮
    Sorry… I wrote on the wrong place

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *