Soviet Postcard Art --
Elizaveta Merkuryevna Böehm (Елизавета Бём)
BÖEHM, Elizaveta Merkuryevna (1834 -- 1914) Painter, Postcard Illustrator.
Elizaveta Böehm's work, strictly speaking, is outside the purlieu of these pages, but her influence on the development of postcard art is so great that at least a brief mention of her impact, if not her biography, needs mention.
Born in 1834, Elizaveta Merkuryevna Endaurova spent her childhood in the family estate of the Endaurovs in the Yaroslavl province. From 14 she was enrolled at the prestiguous Drawing School of the Society for the Encouragement of Artists in St. Petersburg. from which she graduated with honors. In 1867, she married Ludwig Frantsevich Böhm, a Russified Hungarian, a talented violinist, teacher, and later professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Their marriage was a happy one. They produced four children together--and, unusually for the period, Elizaveta continued both to paint and to publically display and sell her work. In 1870, the Academy of Fine Arts awarded Elisabeth Böhm a large incentive medal for animal drawings. She became famous for her lithographic silhouettes, but by the 1890s the rigor of this work, which required the preparation of large slabs of stone, was becoming somewhat intense, and the artist sought a less onorous means of continuing her work.
The first postcards—single sheet unenclosed letters—were licensed and produced in the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1869, and were issued without artwork. But the form, with illustrations added, proved instantly successful. The cards themselves were valued as collectable items, and it was considered both chic and charming to send postcards on all occasions, holidays, travel, and sentimental, and by 1871 the form had spread across Europe.
Russian postcards were not illustrated until 1898. The postcards, or "open letters" as they were then known, were issued for Easter with illustrations by the artist Nikolai Karazin. The following winter, the Board of Trustees of the Society of St. Eugenia, who had commissioned the Karazin cards, decided to continue the tradition by issuing letters with images for Christmas. One of the artists who presented her sketches was Elizaveta Merkuryevna Boehm.
Her images, which combined a rich blend of sentiment, nationalism, and popular folkloric imagery was instantly in demand. The charm of the postcard as a special object of art was so strong that it became, for some artists, the most important and lucrative media in their creative biography and this certainly was the case for Elizaveta Boehm, who ultimately produced more than 700 distinct postcard images.