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Thais Jaspar

  • Given name:
  • Last name:
  • Alternative names:

    Таисия Павловна Жаспар

  • Date of Birth:
  • Place of Birth:
    Tobol’sk (RU)
  • Date of Death:
  • Place of Death:
    Kiev (UA)
  • Profession:
  • Introduction:

    Combining the vocation of philanthropist with that of an artist, Thais Jaspar was equally at ease among the foreign elites and Soviet diplomats in Shanghai. Her pleasing portraiture was much in demand by her friends and clients.

    Word Count: 37

  • Signature Image:
    Thais Jaspar, Self-portrait, drawing, around 1938, Shanghai (© Central State Archive of the Museum of Literature and Art, Ukraine).
  • Content:

    Thais Jaspar (nee Philippovitch) was born into an aristocratic family in Tobolsk, Siberia. When the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 imperilled their livelihood, the family with two young daughters relocated to Harbin, China. Taisia studied art sporadically, first in Harbin, then in Shanghai, with Mikhail Kichigin and Victor Podgoursky.

    Endowed with beauty and social graces, Taisia moved to Shanghai and mingled with the foreign elite. She relentlessly solicited funds for benevolent projects, focused on the women of the diaspora, initiating the creation of the Russian Women's Hostel in the French Concession and the expansion of the Russian Women’s Professional School. In 1938, she married the French diplomat Andre Jaspar and used her high position in society to continue fundraising for charitable causes.

    Aside from her benevolent work, Thais Jaspar also worked at perfecting her painting skills. She spent several months studying art in France, then returned to Shanghai to become a student of Mikhail Kichigin. Thanks to his tutelage, she started to exhibit at Shanghai’s art shows alongside Victor Podgoursky, Vera Kuznetzova and others. Her solo exhibition at the French Club, in November 1940, had newspaper critics call her “a hardworking, consistent and talented artist.” Jaspar’s portraits, executed in a florid, flattering style, were favoured by her Chinese and foreign clients and became another instrument of influence in her charity work.

    In the 1940s, as her husband was secretly aiding the Free France movement, Thais Jaspar was helping Shanghai artists survive the wartime. Among her protégés was the singer Alexander Vertinsky, who struggled to stay afloat in Japanese-occupied Shanghai. For Mikhail Kichigin and Vera Kuznetzova she found clients for their artworks and solicited a lucrative commission to redecorate the French Club. Together with Kuznetzova, Jaspar worked for the Soviet Consulate, creating propaganda tableaux, portraits of political leaders and patriotic scenes. She also began to teach art clases.

    In 1947, Thais Jaspar followed her husband to Paris, but remained keen to pursue repatriation to the USSR. Having returned to Shanghai in 1949, she succeeded in obtaining Soviet citizenship and in 1952 moved to Kiev. There she remarried and worked as an artist, illustrator and author of children’s books.

    Word Count: 356

  • Media:
    Thais Jaspar at her Shanghai home, photography 1930 (© Central State Archive of the Museum of Literature and Art, Ukraine).
    Thais Jaspar (right) in front of her work celebrating the victory of the USSR in the Great Patriotic War, photography, Shanghai, 1945 (© Central State Archive of the Museum of Literature and Art, Ukraine).
    Thais Jaspar (back row, right) teaching an art class, 1940, Shanghai (© Central State Archive of the Museum of Literature and Art, Ukraine).
    Thais Jaspar, paintings, North China Daily News, 19 June 1949.
  • Bibliography (selected):

    Andriuschenko, Eduard. “Madame Thais. Part 1.” Current Time. Accessed 2 March 2021.
    Rybina-Kosova, Elena. “Thais Jaspar, legenda treh stran (Thais Jaspar, legend of three countries).” Slovo. Accessed 2 March 2021.

    Word Count: 38

  • Author:
    Katya Knyazeva
  • Exile:

    Harbin, China (1917–1930); Shanghai, China (1930–1947)

  • Known addresses in Metromod cities:

    303 Route Cohen, French Concession (now Gaolan Lu, Huangpu Qu) (residence) Shanghai

  • Metropolis:
  • Katya Knyazeva. "Thais Jaspar." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 08-05-2021.
  • Mikhail Kichigin

    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).
    HLAM – Society for Artists, Writers, Entertainers and Musicians

    As Shanghai’s largest and most popular Russian émigré association focused loosely on art, HLAM provided a platform for weekly encounters between the self-professed bohemians and a general audience. The HLAM evenings included theatre scenes, comic routines, dance numbers and poetry readings.

    Word Count: 42

    Wednesday party at HLAM, photography, around 1930 (© Amir Khisamutdinov).
    Portraits of Members of Harbin’s HLAM society, magazine page, photo collage, Piliulia (The Pill), 1922. Abel Bershadsky is at the top left.HLAM banquet in a restaurant, photography, around 1930 (© Amir Khisamutdinov). The Russian lettering for HLAM is at the back.La Renaissance restaurant at 795 Avenue Joffre, photography, Modern Miscellany (Shidai), no. 12, 1932.
    Vera Kuznetzova

    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).
    Victor Podgoursky

    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, Podgoursky's studio at 6 Avenue Dubail, 1940, Shanghai (© 2012 Mei-Fang Elrick and Tess Johnston, Historical Photographs of China,