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Ivan Kounin

  • Given name:
    Ivan
  • Last name:
    Kounin
  • Alternative names:

    Иван Игнатьевич Кунин

  • Date of Birth:
    29-10-1896
  • Place of Birth:
    Tambov (RU)
  • Date of Death:
    23-11-1964
  • Place of Death:
    Asunción (PY)
  • Profession:
    JournalistPublisher
  • Introduction:

    A self-driven journalist and a self-funded publisher, Ivan Kounin created several illustrated albums focused on the life of Shanghai’s international community, which highlighted the work of Russian artists.

    Word Count: 29

  • Signature Image:
    Kounin, Ivan and Alexander Yaron, editors. Diamond Jubilee of the International Settlement of Shanghai. Post mercury Co. fed. Inc. U.S.A.,1940. Ivan Kounin in the office of Adcraft Studios, photography, Diamond Jubilee of the International Settlement of Shanghai, 1940.
  • Content:

    Born into a large merchant family in Tambov Province, Ivan Kounin started his journalistic career in Saint Petersburg, in 1915, where he was known for his exceptional knowledge of English, German and French. While on a writing assignment in the Russian Far East, the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 compelled him to cross the Chinese border and settle in Harbin. There he worked as an agent for the opera tenor A. Labinsky and as a journalist at the China East Railway Herald. The newspaper sent Kounin on research assignments to Europe and the United States, where he interviewed top government officials and cultural icons, such the US President Calvin Coolidge, the French dancer Mistinguett, the cinema actors Ivan Mosjoukine and Vera Kholodnaya, and many others.

    Kounin spent close to a decade travelling, lecturing on modern culture and publishing his reports in international magazines; all that time he remained stateless. In autumn 1933, he settled in Shanghai, where he started to collaborate with the commercial artist Alexander Yaron, eventually forming a company with him, Adcraft Studios. The company produced photographic reports of events, studio photography, graphic advertising, design, book illustrations and cultural promotions. Among their products were the programmes and booklets for the Russian Light Opera and posters for performances. All their publications were renowned for their creative design, high-quality binding and tasteful presentation.

    The visit to Shanghai of the world-famous opera singer Fedor Chaliapine, in January 1936, prompted Kounin to produce an illustrated book with recollections of his encounters with the celebrity, going back to his childhood. The bilingual Russian-English volume took one month to finish, and although none of the Chinese typesetters knew foreign languages, they successfully saw the production to its completion. The book was positively received by the public and by Chaliapine himself.

    In 1936, Kounin and Yaron published a large hardcover volume commemorating 85 years of the Shanghai Volunteer Corps, which contained historic essays and rare photographic documentation. In 1937, Kounin travelled to the USA to pitch a screenplay about the Chinese Republic, titled Cavalcade in China, intended for production in Hollywood. The project was not realised, and Kounin returned to Shanghai, immersing himself in publishing again.

    At the end of 1938, Kounin and Yaron published their first illustrated magazine – Highlights of Art. The back pages of the magazine announced the upcoming release of a new almanac, dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the founding of Shanghai’s International Settlement. Although that event passed without celebration, its significance was lavishly recorded in the pages of the Diamond Jubilee of the International Settlement of Shanghai (1940), the crowning achievement of Adcraft Studios, which took two years to finish. Aside from detailed essays and photographic reports, the 342-page book contained 138 original artworks, mostly by Russian émigré artists, with Mikhail Kichigin, Vera Kuznetzova, Alexander Yaron, Victor Podgoursky and Vasily Zasipkin among them.

    When the Chinese Communists came to power in 1949, Shanghai’s émigré society dispersed. Ivan Kounin, his wife Galina and son Alexander found their way Paraguay, where Kounin died in 1964. His brothers and sisters, who had stayed in the Soviet Russia, knew nothing about his life, career success and legacy, except from a brief exchange of letters in the early 1950s. It is only in recent years, with the emergence of Kounin’s publications at antique auctions worldwide, that the growing value of his chronicling of Shanghai’s cultural life came back into the spotlight. Irina Kounin Kirk (1926–1992), his daughter from his first marriage, in Harbin, followed in her father’s footsteps; she authored several books, some of which recalled her life in China.

    Word Count: 586

  • Media:
    Kounin, Ivan and Alexander Yaron, editors. Diamond Jubilee of the International Settlement of Shanghai. Post mercury Co. fed. Inc. U.S.A.,1940. The staff of Adcraft Studios, photography, Diamond Jubilee of the International Settlement of Shanghai, 1940.
    Ivan Kounin, cover print, F. Chaliapine, 1936 (© Amir Khisamutdinov).
    Kounin, Ivan and Alexander Yaron, editors. Diamond Jubilee of the International Settlement of Shanghai. Post mercury Co. fed. Inc. U.S.A.,1940. Advertisement for Adcraft Studios, Diamond Jubilee of the International Settlement of Shanghai, 1940.
  • Bibliography (selected):

    Kounin, Ivan. Moi vstrechi s Chaliapinym (F. Chaliapine). Shanghai, 1936.
    Kounin, Ivan, editor. Eighty-Five Years of the Shanghai Volunteer Corps. Shanghai, 1938.
    Kounin, Ivan, and Yaron, Alexander (editors). The Diamond Jubilee of the International Settlement of Shanghai. Shanghai, 1940.
    Kouniny, Selo Ilovay-Dmitrievskoe. Istoria semi dlinnoiu v vek (The Kounins. A century of family history). http://zhais.ru/R-tambov-kunin.htm. Acsessed 3 March 2021.

    Word Count: 58

  • Author:
    Katya Knyazeva
  • Exile:

    Harbin, China (1917–1933); Shanghai, China (1933–1953)

  • Known addresses in Metromod cities:

    23 Erin Villas, Lane 51 Route Grouchy, Shanghai (now 51 Yanqing Road) (residence); 125 Route Vallon (now Nanchang Road) (residence); 317 Route Cardinal Mercier (now South Maoming Road); Adcraft Studios7 Avenue Edward VII (now East Yan’an Road) Shanghai

  • Metropolis:
    Shanghai
  • Katya Knyazeva. "Ivan Kounin." METROMOD Archive, 2021, https://archive.metromod.net/viewer.p/69/2952/object/5138-11304842, last modified: 08-05-2021.
  • Alexander A. Yaron
    DesignerJournalistArtistPhotographer

    An autodidact and a versatile commercial artist, Alexander Yaron applied his talent in portraiture, photography, interior design, advertising, layout and illustration. His best known projects were illustrated art magazines and books produced as part of Adcraft Studios, in tandem with Ivan Kounin.

    Word Count: 42

    Kounin, Ivan, and Alexander Yaron, editors. The Diamond Jubilee of the International Settlement of Shanghai. Shanghai, 1940. Portrait of Alexander A. Yaron, photography.
    Alexander Yaron, Along the ancient channel, print, Ponedelnik (Monday),1933 (© Amir Khisamutdinov).Alexander Yaron, portraits, drawings, Highlights of Art, 1938 (© Natalia Kounin).Alexander Yaron, poster for the Russian Ballet, 1936 (© Amir Khisamutdinov).Kounin, Ivan and Alexander Yaron, editors. Diamond Jubilee of the International Settlement of Shanghai. Post mercury Co. fed. Inc. U.S.A.,1940. The double page shows the covers of Adcraft Studios’ magazines, including Highlights of Art, and others.Yaron Studios, advertisement for Central Air Transport Corporation, China Weekly Review, 20 September 1947.
    Shanghai
    Mikhail Kichigin
    ArtistDesignerTeacher

    Mikhail Kichigin was Shanghai’s preeminent émigré artist in the 1930s and 1940s. He travelled extensively around China and Eastern Asia, exhibiting his work and conducting visual studies. A versatile professional and a respected art instructor, he influenced a number of young artists from the Russian diaspora.

    Word Count: 47

    Mikhail Kichigin, photography, 1968 (© Yaroslavl Art Museum).
    Mikhail Kichigin, Self-portrait, drawing, around 1920 (© Yaroslavl Art Museum).Mikhail Kichigin in his studio at 10 Avenue Dubail, photography, Shanghai (© Yaroslavl Art Museum).Mikhail Kichigin, Model in Traditional Costume, painting, Shanghai (© Yaroslavl Art Museum).Mikhail Kichigin, Abandoned Temple, oil painting, Shanghai (© Yaroslavl Art Museum).Vera Kuznetzova and Mikhail Kichigin in Yaroslavl, photography, 1968 (© Yaroslavl Art Museum).
    Shanghai
    Vera Kuznetzova
    ArtistDesignerIllustrator

    A native of Harbin and a resident of Shanghai in the 1930s and 1940s, Vera Kuznetzova was among the most accomplished female artists of the Russian diaspora. Together with Mikhail Kichigin, she travelled extensively around China and Eastern Asia, exhibiting her work and conducting visual studies.

    Word Count: 46

    Vera Kuznetzova, photography (© Yaroslavl Art Museum).
    Painters Vasily Zasipkin, Vera Kuznetzova and Jacob Lehonos in the Salle des Fetes of the French Municipal College at the Russian art exhibition, photography, June 1931, The China Press, 5 July 1931.Vera Kuznetzova, Official’s Tour, water colour, 1933–1936 (© Yaroslavl Art Museum).Vera Kuznetzova, illustration on the cover of the Projector Weekly Magazine, Vol. 41, 6 October 1934 (© Mikhail Drozdov).Vera Kuznetzova, Old Man with a Pipe, charcoal and sanguine drawing, 1937, Shanghai (© Yaroslavl Art Museum).Kounin, Ivan and Alexander Yaron, editors. Diamond Jubilee of the International Settlement of Shanghai,1940, p. 35. Vera Kuznetzova, Court Scene, illustration.Vera Kuznetzova and Mikhail Kichigin in Yaroslavl, photography, 1968 (© Yaroslavl Art Museum).
    Shanghai
    John L. Isaack
    DesignerArtist

    John Isaack studied for a year and a half at the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin before joining an advertising, stage and fair design company. He arrived in Shanghai in 1939 and found work as a graphic artist at Adcraft an advertising agency before being forced to move into the designated refugee area in Hongkou.

    Word Count: 55

    My Cat, Berlin and Little Sculpture, series 4, photographic materials 1931–1964 (bulk 1939–48), photograph album 2, Shanghai, 1939–1947, John and Harrier Isaack papers (© United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of John and Harriet Isaack).
    John Isaack, drawing urging the authorities to act on behalf of the Jewish refugees in Shanghai, series 2, original artwork, 1946, John and Harrier Isaack papers (© United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of John and Harriet Isaack).Graphiker Mr. Fischer, series 4, photographic materials 1931–1964 (bulk 1939–48), photograph album 4, Shanghai and Berlin, 1939–47 (bulk 1946–1947), John and Harrier Isaack papers (© United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of John and Harriet Isaack).Igor Ossipof. Artist and Coworker at “Adcraft Studio”, Shanghai 1940–1942, series 4, photographic materials 1931–1964 (bulk 1939–48), photograph album 2, Shanghai, 1939–1947, John and Harrier Isaack papers (© United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of John and Harriet Isaack).Letter from Good Friends Elly and Fred Singer 1946, series 4, photographic materials 1931–1964 (bulk 1939–48), photograph album 4, Shanghai and Berlin, 1939–47 (bulk 1946–1947), John and Harrier Isaack papers (© United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of John and Harriet Isaack).Advertising Design for a Business in English Sector of Shanghai, series 4, photographic materials 1931–1964 (bulk 1939–48), photograph album 2, Shanghai, 1939–1947, John and Harrier Isaack papers (© United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of John and Harriet Isaack).Art Work for Magazine Cover, series 4, photographic materials, 1931–1964 (bulk 1939–48), photograph album 1, Berlin Shanghai and San Francisco, 1931–1964 (bulk 1945–1948), John and Harrier Isaack papers (© United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of John and Harriet Isaack)Broadway Mansion under Japanese Flag, series 4, photographic materials 1931–1964 (bulk 1939–48), photograph album 3, Shanghai and Berlin, 1931-1964 (bulk 1945–1948), John and Harrier Isaack papers (© United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of John and Harriet Isaack).Our “Children”, series 4, photographic materials 1931–1964 (bulk 1939–48), photograph album 4, Shanghai and Berlin, 1939–47 (bulk 1946–1947), John and Harrier Isaack papers (© United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of John and Harriet Isaack).Shanghai Jail, series 4, photographic materials 1931–1964 (bulk 1939–48), photograph album 4, Shanghai and Berlin, 1939–47 (bulk 1946–1947), John and Harrier Isaack papers (© United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of John and Harriet Isaack).Street Scenes, Shanghai Central Jail, series 4, photographic materials 1931–1964 (bulk 1939–48), photograph album 2, Shanghai, 1939–1947, John and Harrier Isaack papers (© United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of John and Harriet Isaack).YIVO Art Exhibit at Shanghai Jewish School, My Exhibit Section, series 4, photographic materials 1931–1964 (bulk 1939–48), photograph album 4, Shanghai and Berlin, 1939–47 (bulk 1946–1947), John and Harrier Isaack papers (© United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of John and Harriet Isaack).Advertisement, John Isaack, commercial artist and block designer, Shanghai Echo, 25 September 1946, no. 266, p.10.Future, vol. 1, no. 12, January 1948, series 5, printed materials, 1939–1988, Future, 1948, John and Harrier Isaack papers (© United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of John and Harriet Isaack). Published by the Shanghai Jewish Youth Community Center. Cover lettering print by John Isaack, cover print by David Ludwig Bloch. Last issue “our magazine has served as a binding link between those of our members who have gone abroad and those who will remain in Shanghai.”
    Shanghai
    Highlights of Art
    Magazine

    Highlights of Art was an illustrated magazine published by the creative duo Ivan Kounin and Alexander Yaron, working under the name Adcraft Studios. Although the magazine stopped publication after one issue, it launched a series of art-focused periodicals, praised for their high quality of design and their thematic coverage.

    Word Count: 49

    Double page, Highlights of Art, 1938 (© Natalia Kounin). Dedicated to the Russian opera and ballet, the conductor Alexander Sloutsky and his stage director daughter Helen Sloutsky (Mme Crosnier).
    Double page, Highlights of Art, 1938 (© Natalia Kounin). Dedicated to the Russian opera and ballet, the conductor Alexander Sloutsky and his stage director daughter Helen Sloutsky (Mme Crosnier).Kounin, Ivan and Alexander Yaron, editors. Diamond Jubilee of the International Settlement of Shanghai. Post mercury Co. fed. Inc. U.S.A.,1940. The double page shows the covers of Adcraft Studios’ magazines, including Highlights of Art, and others.
    Shanghai
    Victor Podgoursky
    ArtistDesignerTeacher

    Victor Podgoursky spent more than twenty-five years in Shanghai, working as an artist, teacher and designer. As a long-standing member of the Shanghai Art Club, he acted as the resident art critic and an instructor in life drawing and painting for the members.

    Word Count: 43

    Victor Podgoursky, photography (© Nikolay Kradin).
    Street plan of the corner of Avenue Dubail and Avenue Joffre, where Podgoursky’s studio was located (© Institut d’Asie Orientale).Interior showing the card room of the French Club, postcard, collection of the author. The murals were made by Victor Podgoursky.Victor Podgoursky, Peking Street Scene, oil painting, 1938 (© Podgourski Family Club).Musicians, oil painting, photographed in Podgoursky’s studio, Shanghai, 1940 (© 2012 Mei-Fang Elrick and Tess Johnston, Historical Photographs of China, www.hpcbristol.net).Victor Podgoursky's studio at 6 Avenue Dubail, 1940, Shanghai (© 2012 Mei-Fang Elrick and Tess Johnston, Historical Photographs of China, www.hpcbristol.net).
    Shanghai
    Vasily Zasipkin
    ArtistDesigner

    Vasily Zasipkin was a prolific artist and and influential teacher, much loved in the diaspora. Having lost his studio and all his work in wartime Shanghai, he started over in Singapore.

    Word Count: 31

    Vladimir Tretchikoff, Portrait of Zasipkin, Projector, 5 May 1934. Vladimir Tretchikoff was a student of Zasipkin.
    Vasily Zasipkin, Study, Ponedelnik (Monday), around 1930.Advertisement for V. A. Zasipkin’s Art Studio at 542 Avenue Joffre, Parus, 1937.Vasily Zasipkin, interior design for Cathay Café, drawing, Singapore, The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, 8 December 1939.
    Shanghai