National Historical Museum of the Republic of Belarus

Moses Nappelbaum. Portrait of the era

  • 13.09.2019

The exhibition of the greatest portrait painter from Minsk –  “Moses Nappelbaum. Portrait of the era" – is open in the National Historical Museum of the Republic of Belarus from September 13.

Moses Nappelbaum is one of the most significant names in the history of photography. The magnitude of his talent is characterized by a simple fact: in 1918 the Bolsheviks needed to show the world the image of the head of Soviet Russia, so the first art portrait of Lenin was ordered to none other than Nappelbaum.

Nappelbaum entered the history of world photography as a master of artistic and psychological profile, a photographer of the Soviet cultural and political elite. Nappelbaum is considered as the founder of the photo portrait. He created his own unique technique of performance, performed revolutionary experiments at that time with lighting in the frame. More than a thousand of his photographs, including portraits of Akhmatova, Blok, Gorky, Dzerzhinsky, Yesenin, Plekhanov, Wells, Pasternak, Meyerhold, Lenin, Sverdlov, Budyonny and others, were included in the gold fund of art.

Nappelbaum was born in Minsk, opened his first portrait studio here. He wandered around the world in search of knowledge and experience: Smolensk, Moscow, Odessa, Vilno, Warsaw, then New York, Pittsburgh and other cities of the USA. His photostudioin Petrograd was a real creative club, within the walls of which Akhmatova, Mandelstam, Blok, and Gumilyov gathered. In 1935, Nappelbaum was awarded the honorary title of Honored Artist of the Republic – a unique case in the history of Soviet photography.

For the first time in Belarus, his original photographs will be shown, the most famous portraits of the iconic figures of culture, science and politics of the last century: Anna Akhmatova, Alexander Blok, Sergey Yesenin, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Maxim Gorky, Alexei Tolstoy, Dmitry Shostakovich, Boris Pasternak, Vladimir Lenin, Semen Budyonny, Anatoly Lunacharsky, Galina Ulanova, Lev Landau, Otto Schmidt and many others. The master's works are shown in museums, included in textbooks on photography and history. The exhibition will feature more than 100 portraits created by Nappelbaum.

Personal documents and early works of the Minsk period from the collections of the National Historical Museum of the Republic of Belarus and the National Historical Archive of the Republic of Belarus will be also shown. The exhibition will feature a personal Nappelbaum camera provided by RUSS PRESS PHOTO (Moscow). In 1918 Nappelbaum shot a famous portrait of Lenin on that camera.

Organizers – Belarusian–Jewish Cultural Heritage Center, National Historical Museum of the Republic of Belarus. Photos are provided by the Borodulin Collection, one of the largest collections of classic Soviet photography in the world.

The exhibition is dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the master.

The exhibition will include a series of educational lectures from leading art historians of Belarus; a number of accompanying events, including excursions along the Jewish streets of Minsk. Follow the program on the page of the Belarusian–Jewish Cultural Heritage Center, at fb: @

The curators of the project are Maya Katsnelson, Ekaterina Alekseeva.