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Foster Waterman Stearns

  • Given name:
    Foster
  • Middle name:
    Waterman
  • Last name:
    Stearns
  • Alternative names:

    Foster W. Stearns, Foster Stearns

  • Date of Birth:
    29-07-1881
  • Place of Birth:
    Hull (US)
  • Date of Death:
    04-06-1956
  • Place of Death:
    Exeter (US)
  • Profession:
    CollectorDiplomatLibrarianPolitician
  • Introduction:

    Foster W. Stearns not only actively supported Russian-speaking émigré artists in Istanbul but also assembled a collection of their works which has survived to this day.

    Word Count: 26

  • Signature Image:
    Foster Waterman Stearns, by Nikolai Becker, 1923. Foster Waterman Stearns was the third secretary of the American Embassy in Istanbul from 1921 to 1923 (© Courtesy of the Holy Cross Archives, Worcester, MA. All Rights Reserved).
  • Content:

    Foster W. Stearns was in Istanbul with his wife from 1921 to 1923 in connection with his work as third secretary at the American Embassy. An art connoisseur, he not only actively supported Russian-speaking émigré artists in Istanbul but also assembled a collection of their works which has survived to this day.
    From the brief biography of Foster W. Stearns written for the College of the Holy Cross’s Stearns Family Papers collection, we learn that Foster W. Stearns was a native of Hull, Massachusetts, and graduated from Amherst College in 1903, Harvard University in 1906, and Boston College in 1915. Interestingly, most of his working life thereafter consisted of alternating between two rather different professions: librarian and diplomat (he later became a politician). Obviously, he was deeply engaged in both, but his heart was probably given to art and literature, for his professional path began with the position of librarian at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, a  position he returned to in 1925, this time at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester. This despite three years in Istanbul as third secretary at the American Embassy (1921–1923) and almost two years at the American Embassy in Paris as second secretary (1923–1924). After five years at the College of the Holy Cross and studies in Rome (where he reorganised the Vatican Library), he would again change profession, this time from librarian to politician. His natural ability as a collector was noted by many. The fact that such an art connoisseur diplomat should come to Istanbul in the 1920s, at a time when Russian émigré artists were in dire need of help and support, cannot be called other than fateful.
    Stearns's name is first mentioned in connection with Russian émigré artists in the Russian press in Istanbul on June 19, 1922. It was at this time and with his aid that a major exhibition of Russian-speaking émigré artists was first organised in Istanbul. It was held at the Taksim military barracks and featured about 500 works by almost 60 members of the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople. According to a Russian journalist of the time, it was organised “despite extremely difficult economic conditions and a half-starved existence” of the Russian artists (Anonymous, “Vystavka Soyuza Russkih Hudojnikov”, 1922). As a result of this exhibition, he himself and his wife, Martha Stearns (maiden name, Genung), “who had taken a cordial part in the exhibition” (Anonymous, “V Soyuze Hudojnikov, 1922) were unanimously elected as new honorary members of the union, which indicates that Martha and Foster Stearns supported the Russian émigré artists of Istanbul together. In addition, at the end of November 1922, the Russian artists invited Foster W. Stearns to their studio (opened by dint of the Stearns family’s efforts) to express their gratitude for all the help he had given the union over the previous year and to present him with an album created by the union members especially for him and his wife (Anonymous, “Témoignage de sa gratitude de l'Association des Peintres russes à M. Stearns”, 1922). Judging by the fact that the College of the Holy Cross archives contain works by Russian émigré artists from exhibitions of the years 1921 to 1923, it would appear that Foster W. Stearns was deeply interested in and helped the union throughout its existence. In addition, it is clear that some artists in the union (such as Alexandre Pankoff and Nikolai Becker) created a number of works at his personal request. Foster Stearns was also in close contact with Dimitri Ismailovitch. The works created by Russian émigré artists in Istanbul (both those given to him as gifts and those purchased by him) were donated by him and his wife to the College of the Holy Cross in the mid-20th century.

    Word Count: 614

  • Media:
    Foster Waterman Stearns, by Nikolai Becker, 1923. Foster Waterman Stearns was the third secretary of the American Embassy in Istanbul from 1921 to 1923 (© Courtesy of the Holy Cross Archives, Worcester, MA. All Rights Reserved).
    Formal letter of thanks to Foster Waterman Stearns from the members of the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople, 1922. Source: Scrapbook “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from Russian Painters”, p. 2 (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. Source: Scrapbook “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from Russian Painters”, p. 9 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).
    Portrait by Mikhail Starikoff, Istanbul, most likely 1921/1922. Mikhail Starikoff was a Russian émigré artist who first settled in Istanbul where he was a member of the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople and later moved to France (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).
    Work by Alexandre Pankoff, Istanbul, 1922. Alexandre Pankoff was an émigré artist from the Russian Empire and a member of the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople who is famous for his colour frontispiece for Memoirs of Halide Edib (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).
    Landscape by Pavel Kravchenko, Istanbul, 1922. The writing on the back is indecipherable, but most likely says: “The Asian Shore of the Bosphorus”. Pavel Kravchenko was an émigré artist from the Russian Empire and a secretary of the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople. His fate is unknown (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).
    Christos Pancratos (Zeyrek Mosque / Monastery of the Pantocrator) by P. Fedoroff, Istanbul, 1922. P. Fedoroff was an émigré artist from the Russian Empire and a member of the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople. Presumably he was Pyotr Fedoroff, who settled in Paris in 1924 and mainly worked as a painter of icons (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).
    Caricature by Mitritch Karelin, Istanbul, 1922. Mitritch Karelin was an émigré artist from the Russian Empire and a member of the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople. Presumably, Mitritch is a pseudonym, and this caricature (as well as others from this series on Istanbul) was created by Vladimir Kadulin, who liked to use different brush names (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).
    Letter from Pyotr Wrangel to Foster Waterman Stearns, Box 2, Folder 2 of Stearns Family Papers (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).
  • Bibliography (selected):

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

    Anonymous. “V Soyuze Hudojnikov.” Presse du Soir, 29 June 1922, n.p.

    Anonymous. “Témoignage de sa gratitude de l’Association des Peintres russes à M. Stearns.” Presse du Soir, 27 November 1922, n.p.

    Bournakine, Anatoliy, and Dominic Valery, editors. Al’manah Na Proschaniye. The Farewell Almanac. L’Almanach Nos Adieux (1920–1923). Imp. L. Babok & fils, 1923.

    Word Count: 63

  • Archives and Sources:

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

    Slavonic Library (Slovanská knihovna) in Prague.

    Word Count: 19

  • Acknowledgements:

    I wish to express my most sincere gratitude to the representatives of the Archives & Special Collections at the College of the Holy Cross (Worcester, Massachusetts) for their enormous assistance.

    Word Count: 30

  • Author:
    Ekaterina Aygün
  • Known addresses in Metromod cities:

    Kabristan Street 570 (now Meşrutiyet Caddesi 56), Beyoğlu, Istanbul (place of work, 1921–1923).

  • Metropolis:
    Istanbul
  • Ekaterina Aygün. "Foster Waterman Stearns." METROMOD Archive, 2021, https://archive.metromod.net/viewer.p/69/2949/object/5138-11017193, last modified: 15-04-2021.
  • Nikolai Becker
    PainterGraphic Artist

    Nikolai Becker worked tirelessly in Turkey for three years. He created at least 168 portraits of men and women (among them admirals and their families, commanders-in-chief, diplomats, etc.).

    Word Count: 27

    Nikolai Becker (Teatr i Jizn’, no.10, 1929).
    Nikolai Becker (Teatr i Jizn’, no.10, 1929).Photograph of the portrait (Natalia Khomyakova Deleon) by Nikolai Becker, Istanbul, 1922. The same portrait, but in colour, was published on the cover of Jak Deleon's Beyoğlu'nda Beyaz Ruslar 1920-1990 (Istanbul Kütüphanesi Yayınları, 1990). Source: Scrapbook “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from Russian Painters”, p. 12 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).Foster Waterman Stearns, by Nikolai Becker, 1923. Foster Waterman Stearns was the third secretary of the American Embassy in Istanbul from 1921 to 1923 (© Courtesy of the Holy Cross Archives, Worcester, MA. All Rights Reserved).
    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
    Pera Palace Hotel
    Hotel

    The Pera Palace was the gem of Pera district where people gathered to wine and dine and be entertained, as well as to discuss the issues of the day.

    Word Count: 29

    Pera Palace Hotel, Tepebaşı (SALT Araştırma, Fotoğraf ve Kartpostal Arşivi, Istanbul).
    Pera Palace Hotel, Tepebaşı (SALT Araştırma, Fotoğraf ve Kartpostal Arşivi, Istanbul).Image of Pera Palace Hotel (Güneş Newspaper, 14 April 1991).Jazz-Band du Pera Palace by photographer Jean Weinberg (Les Russes sur le Bosphore Almanac, 1928).
    Istanbul
    Dimitri Ismailovitch
    PainterArt Historian

    In Istanbul, Ismailovitch became one of the leaders of the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople, organised three solo exhibitions, and made contribution to the study of Byzantine art.

    Word Count: 29

    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).
    Dimitri Ismailovitch, 1907, Sumy Cadet Corps (with permission from https://www.ria1914.info/).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).Reproduction of the Kariye Mosque’s mosaic. In the foreground is its author, Dimitri Ismailovitch (Russkiye na Bosfore. Les Russes sur le Bosphore Almanac, 1928, n.p.).Photographs of the artworks by Dimitri Ismailovitch, 1923. Source: Album “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from D. Ismailovitch”, XII–XI, p. 11 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).Photographs of the artworks by Dimitri Ismailovitch, 1924. Source: Album “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from D. Ismailovitch”, 9–10, p. 24 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).Photographs of the artworks by Dimitri Ismailovitch. Source: Album “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from D. Ismailovitch”, p. 36 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).Front cover of the 1948 Dimitri İsmailovitch exhibition catalogue (© Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux).Ekaterina Aygün chanced upon Dimitri Ismailovitch's visiting card at the Avni Lifij exhibition in Istanbul. This is further evidence of contact between Ismailovitch and Turkish painters (Photo: Ekaterina Aygün, 2019).The Piyale Pasha Mosque (was designed by Mimar Sinan and rebuilt in the mid. of the 19th century) was depicted by Dimitri İsmailovitch and Alexis Gritchenko in 1920 (Photo: Ekaterina Aygün, 2021).
    Istanbul