4th Annual Eclectic Collector:
Kathleen Pate's Nesting Dolls
March 31 through September 18, 2005
Even if you didn’t know its Russian name, you’ve no doubt seen a matryoshka before. It’s one of those nesting dolls that opens to a smaller doll that opens to an even smaller doll and so on. A classic one, called Semenov, has a red body with a yellow headscarf and rosy cheeks. But have you seen one that resembles Stalin or actor John Malkovich? Have you seen one that is smaller than a grain of rice? Well, you can.
The 4th Annual Eclectic Collector series opened March 31 in the museum’s study gallery with an exhibit of collector Kathleen Pate’s unique and unusual as well as common nesting dolls. “I’ve been fascinated by nesting dolls since first seeing a set on Sesame Street,” Pate explains. She began collecting the dolls in 1992 and today has amassed a varied collection of more than 200 dolls, ranging from a nest of three dolls to 20 dolls. Pate’s collection includes dolls from several countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Japan and Poland.
On display alongside traditional dolls, are pop culture and art dolls. One particular piece is shaped like a traditional doll but is painted to look like one of Vincent Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings. As the doll is opened further and further, several representations of Van Gogh’s masterworks are revealed. Another doll is political in nature and contains a brief history of Russian leaders, from Gorbachev back to Lenin. There are Atlanta Braves dolls, Santa dolls, Raggedy Ann dolls and of course, there’s an Elvis doll.
Nesting dolls first appeared in Russia in 1899 and were painted by artists. According to Pate, she began collecting the dolls at an opportune time—with the fall of the Soviet Union came a greater variety of dolls being exported to the United States. In fact, the production, availability and artistic history of the dolls reflect much of the life and times of the Soviet Union and greater global market. After a doll was displayed at a 1900 Paris exhibition, production soared. Later, the dolls became more uniform after the Communist revolution of 1917—when state-sponsored factories instead of artists began to produce them. Today, with a global market, dolls are produced in several countries including, India, Argentina, Hong Kong and Taiwan—often with the American consumer in mind.
Learn more about matryoshka by visiting the museum. This fascinating exhibit will be on display through September 18.