Tenisheva Maria Klavdievna (May 20/June 1, 1858, St. Petersburg - April 1/14, 1928, France) – an artist, collector, philanthropist, researcher of ancient enamels and purfling, the founder of unique art workshops in her private estate Talashkino. She opened Museum of Russian antiquity in Smolensk, Art studio in St. Petersburg, free drawing school and apprenticeship training school in Bezhitsa.
Maria Tenisheva started her creative career as opera singer having graduated from the studio of famous singing tutor M. Marchesi in Paris. She studied fine arts with Victor-Gabriel Gilbert in Paris as well. Later she learned painting in St. Petersburg and in Paris at the Académie Julian. In 1892, she married prince V.Tenishev, Russian industrialist, owner of the Bryansk machine-building factory in Bezhitsa (the largest one in Russia) and the industrial department commissioner at the All-Russia Art and Industrial Exhibition in 1896 in Nizhny Novgorod. This marriage gave her the possibility to be engaged in patronage, charity and collecting.
Princess Maria Tenisheva's activities in the estate of Talashkino that she acquired in 1893 brought her the greatest fame. Talashkino became the important center of Russian artistic life. Prominent representatives of national culture - S. Diaghilev, I. Stravinsky and F. Chalyapin visited this place. Famous artists such as S. Malyutin, I. Repin, M. Vrubel and N. Roerich lived and worked there for a long time. Maria Tenisheva organized art workshops (carpentry, ceramic and embroidery) where the artists created various decorative and applied art objects in the Neo-Russian style.
A unique school was opened in Flenovo (a village near Talashkino) that Tenisheva bought in 1894. The school existed for two decades. Peasants’ children were taught to read, write and count in this school. They got basic agricultural knowledge as well. They were taught the art of pottery and ceramics, painting, embroidery and played Russian folk instruments as well. Later princess Tenisheva opened a free drawing school in St. Petersburg. It existed from 1894 to 1904.
Carried away by collecting, Tenisheva created large collection of the Russian and foreign graphics. She presented part of it to the Russian Museum in 1898, the year when it was opened. At the same time, she began to develop the collection of decorative, applied and folk art in her estate Talashkino. In 1905, she opened the museum "Russian Antiquities".
This collection was exhibited in the Louvre museum in 1907. Moreover, in 1911 the princess presented this unique historical and ethnographic collection to the Smolensk branch of the Moscow Archaeological Institute.
She achieved great success in the enamel art, having received recognition in Europe. Tenisheva called the art of enamel on metal - "The most wonderful expression of human genius". She was the acknowledged leader in so-called "opaque" enamel art. Living in Paris, carrying out numerous experiments together with the enamel artist Jacquin, Maria Tenisheva managed to receive a new palette of hollow polychromic impasto enamels. Subsequently she managed to increase the palette up to three hundred shades.
Freely combining enamel with wood, metal, bone and leather, she was searching for new expressive forms and her own artistic style.
A variety of decorative and applied art objects (candlesticks, chests, boxes, etc.), made by Maria Tenisheva, received worldwide recognition and were exhibited in Paris, Rome, London, Brussels, Prague, winning the highest awards everywhere.
Being engaged in the art of enamel, and having devoted the considerable part of her life to it, the princess assembled a collection of the ancient enamels and parfings. This collection served as the basis for writing a dissertation that she defended in 1916. This scientific work was published in Prague in 1930 and did not lost its significance until the present time.
Latest ten years of her life, M.Tenisheva spent in emigration, in France, in Vaucresson near Paris, in the villa that her friends called "Little Talashkino". Being painfully ill, she continued to work with enamels, selling her works to earn money for living. Her works had great success and were bought by many museums and private collections.
Maria Tenisheva contribution to the revival and development of enamel art was highly appreciated in Europe: she was elected the full member of French Fine Arts Society and the member of the Decorative and Applied Arts Union in Paris. In Italy, the Princess was awarded with the title of an honorary member of the Roman Archaeological Society.