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Nikolai Peroff

  • Given name:
    Nikolai
  • Last name:
    Peroff
  • Alternative names:

    Николай Перов, Nikola Peroff, Nikola Perof, Nikolay Peroff

  • Date of Birth:
    1883
  • Place of Birth:
    Dolginino (RU)
  • Date of Death:
    1963
  • Place of Death:
    Istanbul (TR)
  • Profession:
    Art restorerCharitable Society’s ChairmanChoir DirectorIconographerPainterScene Designer
  • Introduction:

    Nikolai Peroff lived in Istanbul until the end of his life. He was engaged in restorations, carried out scene decorations, and did a lot for the Russian churches in Karaköy.

    Word Count: 31

  • Signature Image:
    Nikolai Peroff, 1941 (Hagop Ayvaz Collection, Hrant Dink Foundaiton Archive, Istanbul).
  • Content:

    Russian émigré painter Nikolai Peroff lived in Istanbul until the end of his life. He was engaged in restorations, carried out theatre decorations, and did a lot for the Russian churches in Karaköy.
    Before his arrival in Istanbul, Peroff lived in the Russian Empire. He was born in the Ryazan region and grew up in a poor family of a local deacon. He first attended classes at the Ryazan Theological Seminary and then at Kharkiv Art School, where he met his future wife (at the same time he studied at the History and Philology Faculty at Kharkiv University, but eventually realised that his true vocation was painting). According to his wife, the school was run by Imperial Academy of Arts of the Russian Empire from 1912. After having graduated from Kharkiv Art School he not only gave drawing lessons but was also a member of the Association of Kharkiv Artists. According to experts, in his works of the Kharkiv period, “the influence of both impressionism and decorative painting of modernism and symbolism can be traced” (Dyakonova, "Nikolai Peroff – Russkiy Hudojnik v Konstantinopole", n.d.). During the First World War, he served at the front and was awarded a medal. After the 1917 revolution, he fought in the ranks of the White Army and was evacuated from the Crimea to Istanbul.
    In Istanbul, Nikolai Peroff initially worked as a porter. Then his situation improved and he, as an artist, started to participate in exhibitions of the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople including First Russian émigré artists in Istanbul exhibition and Exhibition of Russian émigré artists at Taksim Military Barracks (in newspaper reports about the exhibitions of the Union his self-portrait is especially noted; it is also said that his landscapes are good, but his genre works are stronger, and the works themselves resemble Mikhail Nesterov's drawings). As a restorer, he worked on the murals in the St. Louis Church of San Stefano in Istanbul. He was not able to reunite with his family, wife and son Levushka (Levushka died in 1941), until 1923, when they moved from Kharkiv to Istanbul. In 1928–1929 Peroff completed wall paintings for churches of the Russian settlements in Karaköy (at Aya Panteleymon murals, at Aya Andrea murals and iconostases) and painted the walls of one of the Greek cathedrals (Panayia) in the city. Nikolai became the scene designer of the Istanbul Theatre by good fortune. Judging by information from various periodicals, Muhsin Ertuğrul, who devoted his entire life to Turkish theatre, by chance noticed the panel paintings made by Peroff in the photo studio of Jules Kanzler, an émigré photographer from the Russian Empire. Ertuğrul was so impressed that he decided to invite Peroff to the Istanbul Theatre as a designer. For many years (from 1927 to 1963) they worked together harmoniously. Here is how Peroff's wife remembers this period of his life: “At first it was not easy for him to work at the theatre. He had no assistants, he had to boil glue himself, rearrange the stage settings, and besides the artistic work, he did a lot of purely physical work. He left early, came home late. We did not live in the city, so every day he had to travel both by train and by boat. Sometimes he even had to stay at the theatre and work at night. Muhsin Bey was so consumed that he put on a new play every week, and therefore N.K. was always up to his eyes in work. Of course, over time, assistants appeared, and plays were staged for at least a month.” In the 1950s, the artist worked for some time at the State Opera and Ballet Theatre in Ankara. According to Ayşegül Oral Özer, during the Istanbul period of his life, he was, as an artist, inclined towards post-impressionism, and as a theatre designer towards realism. In the same years, he also became one of the founders and chairman of the Russian charitable society, which helped the Russian-speaking émigrés of Istanbul. It is also known that he sang in the church choir and was the choir director at Aya Panteleymon. Unfortunately, he suffered a heart attack when he rushed to help his neighbours during a fire, at that time he was already 80 years old. He was buried in the Russian section of the Greek cemetery in the Şişli district. According to the émigré journalist Nadir Bek (pen name of Nikolai Liodorovich Khlebnikov), the funeral was incredibly solemn. This was due not only to his merits as an artist but also to the fact that he was an extremely kind person.
    As Yulia Dyakonova rightly says in her article: “The biography of Nikolai Konstantinovich Peroff is an example in the history of art in which the artist leaves behind a surprisingly rich life story with a dramatic and heroic ending, described by his contemporaries, and his legacy, with the exception of a few works in private collections, is unknown” (Dyakonova,"Nikolai Peroff – Russkiy Hudojnik v Konstantinopole", n.d.).

    Word Count: 835

  • Media:
    Nikolai Peroff, 1941 (Hagop Ayvaz Collection, Hrant Dink Foundaiton Archive, Istanbul).
    Nikolai Peroff (Tarih ve Toplum, no. 150, June 1996).
    Photograph of Nikolai Peroff's work, Istanbul, 1921. Source: Scrapbook “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from Russian Painters”, p. 7 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).
    One of the works by Nikolai Peroff as a scene designer (Tarih ve Toplum, no. 150, June 1996).
    "Dekor: N.Peroff", Şehir Theatre, Istanbul (Akşam, 16 December 1954, p.4).
    "Dekor: Peroff", Şehir Theatre, Istanbul (Akşam, 17 February 1955, p. 7).
    Father Viktor in front of the wall that was painted by Nikolai Peroff, Aya Andrea Russian Orthodox Church (Photo: Ekaterina Aygün, 2019).
    Church (Aya Andrea) parishioners at the beginning of the 1960s, Nikolai Peroff is the fourth from the right (© Aya Andrea Russian Orthodox Church’s archive).
  • Bibliography (selected):

    Anonymous. “Odnodnevnaya Vystavka Kartin.” Presse du Soir, 10 October 1921, p. 4.  

    Anonymous. “Vystavka Soyuza Russkih Hudojnikov.” Presse du Soir, 19 June 1922, n.p.  

    Bek, Nadir. “Pamyati N.K. Perova.” Russkaya Mysl' (Paris), 26 December 1963, n.p.

    Dyakonova, Yulia. "Nikolai Peroff – Russkiy Hudojnik v Konstantinopole." gosniir.ru, https://www.gosniir.ru/activity/expert/perov.aspx. Accessed 10 June 2020.

    Ertuğrul, Muhsin. “Dekorcumuz Nikola Perof.” Türk Tiyatrosu, no. 354, January–February 1964, n.p.

    Leykind, Oleg, et al. Hudojniki Russkogo Zarubej’ya (2). Izd.dom “Mir”, 2019, p. 229.

    Musahipzade, Celal. Mum Söndü. Kanaat Kitabevi, 1936.

    Oral Özer, Ayşegül. “Ressam-Dekoratör Nikola Perof.” Tarih ve Toplum, no. 150, June 1996, pp. 26–29.

    Sığırcı, Marina. Spasibo, Konstantinopol’! Po sledam beloemigrantov v Turtsii. “Yevropeyskiy Dom”, 2018.

    Ted’. “K Vystavke Hudojnikov.” Presse du Soir, 29 June 1923, n.p.

    Word Count: 122

  • Archives and Sources:

    Aya Andrea Russian Orthodox Church’s archive/museum (Istanbul).

    Hrant Dink Foundaiton Archive (Istanbul).

    Slavonic Library (Slovanská knihovna) in Prague.

    Archives & Special Collections at the College of the Holy Cross (Worcester, Massachusetts).

    The letter of Peroff’s wife about his life was found at Bakhmeteff Archive of Russian and East European Culture (New York) by Türkan Olcay.

    Word Count: 59

  • Acknowledgements:

    My deepest thanks go to Viktor Kopuşçu and Evelina Davydova.

    Word Count: 11

  • Author:
    Ekaterina Aygün
  • Exile:

    Istanbul, Ottoman Empire/Turkey (1921–1963).

  • Known addresses in Metromod cities:

    Küçük Yazıcı 4 (now presumably Tarlabaşı Blv. 79), Hüseyinağa, Beyoğlu, Istanbul (studio); Bursa Street 40 (now Sadri Alışık 40), Beyoğlu, Istanbul (studio); Theatre des Petits Champs, Mezarlık Street 500 (now Meşrutiyet Caddesi 50), Beyoğlu, Istanbul (place of work); Aya Andrea Church (now Mumhane Caddesi 39), Beyoğlu, İstanbul ("place of work").

  • Metropolis:
    Istanbul
  • Ekaterina Aygün. "Nikolai Peroff." METROMOD Archive, 2021, https://archive.metromod.net/viewer.p/69/2949/object/5138-10439086, last modified: 16-09-2021.
  • Jules Kanzler
    PainterPhotographer

    Kanzler spent part of his life in the Russian Empire as a painter and the other in Turkey as a photographer who “documented” the early years of the Turkish Republic.

    Word Count: 30

    Jules Kanzler (Les Russes sur le Bosphore Almanac, 1927).
    Jules Kanzler (Les Russes sur le Bosphore Almanac, 1927).Valentina Taskina, by Jules Kanzler (Güneş, 9 August 1990).Photographs of artworks by young Turkish painters, Jules Kanzler, 1929 (Uyanış, 19 September 1929, p. 42).Photo by Jules Kanzler of one of the participants in the beauty contest (Cumhuriyet, 15 May 1929, n.p.).Photographs by Jules Kanzler (Uyanış, 18 April 1929, p. 1).Advertisement for Jules Kanzler's photo studio in Istanbul (Derjavnaya Rus', n.d., p. 21).Advertisement for Jules Kanzler's photo studio in Burlingame, California (The Times (San Mateo, California), 6 February 1948, p. 6).
    Istanbul
    Vladimir Bobritsky
    PainterScene DesignerGraphic ArtistMusician

    Bobritsky worked at the Theatre des Petits Champs, where he successfully dealt with stage designs and costumes, at the same time he participated in the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople.

    Word Count: 31

    Promotional photograph of Vladimir Bobri (1898–1986), illustrator, author and editor of Guitar Review magazine, 1950. Self-scan from Guitar Review magazine, Winter 1987, no. 8 (The entire contents of the GUITAR REVIEW unless otherwise noted are copyrighted © 1985 by ALBERT AUGUSTINE LTD).
    Promotional photograph of Vladimir Bobri (1898–1986), illustrator, author and editor of Guitar Review magazine, 1950. Self-scan from Guitar Review magazine, Winter 1987, no. 8 (The entire contents of the GUITAR REVIEW unless otherwise noted are copyrighted © 1985 by ALBERT AUGUSTINE LTD).Vladimir Bobritsky decorates the shawl of Vera Strelsky, a former member of the Russian Imperial Ballet (Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota), 13 January 1924, p. 86).Illustrations by Vladimir Bobritsky, Mentor, June 1930 (Chris Mullen, fulltable.com).
    Istanbul
    Leonid Tomiloff
    Scene DesignerDecorator

    As a professional scene-designer, Leonid Tomiloff was in high demand in Istanbul. For many years, he worked at the Theatre des Petits Champs and was the chief decorator of the Constantinople Commercial Club.

    Word Count: 33

    Short note about Leonid Tomiloff (Radio, 30 January 1927, n.p.).
    Entertainment program of the Constantinople Commercial Club as listed in the Zarubezhnyi Klich almanac, April 1925.
    Istanbul
    Roman Bilinski
    PainterSculptorCollectorArt restorer

    At the beginning of the 1920s, a member of the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople, Roman Bilinski was known as a sculptor. At the end of the 1920s–beginning of the 1930s – as a sculptor, painter and connoisseur of local antiques.

    Word Count: 42

    Self-portrait by Roman Bilinski. Turkey, 1936 (Private Archive of Diana Bilinski).
    Painter Dimitri Ismailovitch with his bust created by Polish sculptor Roman Bilinski, Istanbul, Summer 1922. Source: Scrapbook “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from Russian Painters”, p. 8 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).Formal letter of thanks to Martha Stearns from the members of the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople, 1922. One of the signatures is Roman Bilinski’s. Source: Scrapbook “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from Russian Painters”, p. 9 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).Bilinski's monument to the Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz in Polonezköy was demolished but its plaque has been preserved (Postcard from Polonezköy, 2021).Adampol (Polonezköy) by Roman Bilinski (Private Archive of Diana Bilinski).Adampol (Polonezköy) by Roman Bilinski. Turkey, 1935 (Private Archive of Diana Bilinski).Adampol (Polonezköy) by Roman Bilinski. Turkey, 1936 (Private Archive of Diana Bilinski).Adampol (Polonezköy) by Roman Bilinski. Turkey, 1936 (Private Archive of Diana Bilinski).Adampol (Polonezköy) by Roman Bilinski. Turkey, 1936 (Private Archive of Diana Bilinski).Adampol (Polonezköy) by Roman Bilinski. Turkey, 1936 (Private Archive of Diana Bilinski).Work by Roman Bilinski. Turkey, 1936 (Private Archive of Diana Bilinski).Work by Roman Bilinski. Yugoslavia, 1936 (Private Archive of Diana Bilinski).The cover of the book by Marco Farotto, Roman Bilinski - Un artista cosmopolita nel Ponente ligure. According to the author, Bilinski used to walk around dressed in this way.
    Istanbul
    Les Russes sur le Bosphore
    Almanac

    The almanac Les Russes sur le Bosphore is a joint work of Russian-speaking émigrés in Istanbul who were faced with the challenge of leaving the country or becoming naturalised.

    Word Count: 30

    Cover of Les Russes sur le Bosphore Almanac, 1927.
    Cover of Russians on the Bosphorus (Les Russes sur le Bosphore Almanac, 1927).Newspaper announcement concerning the publication of the almanac (Radio Newspaper, 1927, n.p.).Newspaper announcement concerning the almanac’s publication and its points of sale (Radio Newspaper, 1927, p. 3).Self-portrait by Nikolai Saraphanof who created an elegant cover for the almanac, 1927 (Russkiye na Bosfore. Les Russes sur le Bosphore Almanac, 1928, n.p.).
    Istanbul
    First Russian émigré artists in Istanbul exhibition
    Exhibition

    The first Russian-speaking émigré artists in Istanbul exhibition was a one-day event but its success led to the formation of the Union and paved the way for other exhibitions.

    Word Count: 29

    Portrait of the poet Maximilian Voloshin (one of the representatives of the Symbolist movement in Russian culture and literature) by Boleslav Cybis that was presented at the exhibition. Boleslav Cybis was an émigré artist from the Russian Empire and a member of the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople who was fond of representing truths symbolically, combining figurative thinking with ideas of the avant-garde (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).
    Members of the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople, Summer 1922. Source: Scrapbook “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from Russian Painters”, p. 8 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).Portrait of the poet Maximilian Voloshin (one of the representatives of the Symbolist movement in Russian culture and literature) by Boleslav Cybis that was presented at the exhibition. Boleslav Cybis was an émigré artist from the Russian Empire and a member of the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople who was fond of representing truths symbolically, combining figurative thinking with ideas of the avant-garde (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).
    Istanbul
    Exhibition of Russian émigré artists at Taksim Military Barracks
    Exhibition

    The exhibition of Russian-speaking émigré artists at Taksim Military Barracks was the first major exhibition organised by the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople.

    Word Count: 24

    Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople exhibition foyer, Taksim military barracks, Summer 1922. Source: Scrapbook “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from Russian Painters”, p. 11 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).
    Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople exhibition foyer, Taksim military barracks, Summer 1922. Source: Scrapbook “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from Russian Painters”, p. 11 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).Members of the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople, Summer 1922. Source: Scrapbook “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from Russian Painters”, p. 8 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople exhibition at Taksim military barracks, Summer 1922. Source: Scrapbook “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from Russian Painters”, p. 10 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).Sculptures at the Union of Russian Painters exhibition in Constantinople, Taksim military barracks, summer 1922. Source: Scrapbook “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from Russian Painters”, p. 5 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).Works of the Artel of Russian Craftsmen in Constantinople, Taksim military barracks, Summer 1922. Source: Scrapbook “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from Russian Painters”, p. 6 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople exhibition at Taksim military barracks, Summer 1922. Source: Scrapbook “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from Russian Painters”, p. 7 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople exhibition at Taksim military barracks, Summer 1922. Source: Scrapbook “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from Russian Painters”, p. 8 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).
    Istanbul
    Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople
    Association

    The Union existed for less than two years but in that short space of time a tremendous amount of work was done by its members, refugees from the Russian Empire.

    Word Count: 30

    Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople logo from 1922 membership card of the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople (Private Archive of Dimitri Ismailovitch that belongs to Eduardo Mendes Cavalcanti).
    Members of the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople, Summer 1922. Source: Scrapbook “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from Russian Painters”, p. 8 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).1922 membership card of the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople (Private Archive of Dimitri Ismailovitch that belongs to Eduardo Mendes Cavalcanti).Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople logo painted by T. Sabaneeff, 1922. Source: Scrapbook “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from Russian Painters”, p. 1 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).One of the exhibitions of the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople, Summer 1922. Source: Scrapbook “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from Russian Painters”, p. 10 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).Exhibition of the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople at Taksim military barracks, Summer 1922. Source: Scrapbook “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from Russian Painters”, p. 6 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).
    Istanbul