Let us see what Serge Ernst, director of the Hermitage in Petrograd, writes about the school which was started by private initiative in one room and which later grew to an annual enrolment of two thousand:
“On a bright May day, the great hall in Marskaya conveys to the eye a bright festival. What can be lacking! A whole wall is covered with austere and shining ikons; whole tables are dazzling with polychrome rows of majolica vases and figures; finally, here are painted ornaments for the tea table and further off, luxuriantly embroidered in silk and gold and wool, lie rugs and pillows and towels and writing pads. Furniture, cozy and ornamented with intricate handcraft, stands here. And show-cases are filled with lovely trifles. Upon walls hang the plans for the most various objects of home decoration, beginning with architectural plans and ending with the plans for the composition of a porcelain statue. Architectural measurements and drawings of the monuments of ancient art are the interesting illustrations from the class of graphics; on the windows in colorful and brilliant spots are exhibited the creations of the class in stained glass. Further off, in front of the spectator, stands a white company of the productions of the class of sculptors, of the class of drawings of animals; and on the top awaits a whole gallery filled with paintings in oil and still life. And all this variety of creation lives, is vital with full young enthusiasm. All the happy field of art of our day receives here its due consideration, in close relation with the artistic questions of the present. And what is finer, what can recommend more highly the art school, than this precious and rare contact?”
In these contacts of enthusiasm and in the economy of all precious achievements, the school work quickly progresses and yearly new forces are gathered as the most worthy guardians of the future culture of the spirit. How to recruit these new ones? This is most simple. If over the work shall glow the sign of simplicity, beauty and fearlessness, new forces will readily assemble. Young heads, long deprived and long expecting the wonderful miracle, will come. Only, let us not permit these seekers to pass us by! Only, not to let one of them pass by in the twilight!
And how to approach beauty ourselves? This is the most difficult. We can reproduce paintings; we can make exhibitions; we can open a studio; but where will the paintings of the exhibitions find an outlet? To what parts shall the products of the studio penetrate? It is easy to discourse, but more difficult to admit beauty into life’s household. But while we ourselves deny entrance to beauty in our life, what value will all these affirmations possess? They shall be meaningless banners at an empty hearth. Admitting beauty into our home, we must determine the unquestionable rejection of vulgarity and pom-pousness, and all which opposes beautiful simplicity. Verily, the hour of the affirming of beauty in life is come! It came in the travail of the spirits of the peoples. It came in storm and in the lightning. Came that hour before the coming of Him Whose steps already are sounding
Each man bears “a balance within his breast”; each weighs for himself his karma. And so now liberally, the living raiment of beauty is offered to all. And each living rational being, may receive from it a garment, and cast away from him that ridiculous fear which whispers, “This is not for you.” One must be rid of that gray fear, mediocrity. Because all is for you if you manifest the wish from a pure source. But remember, flowers do not blossom on ice. Yet how many icicles do we strew, benumbing our worthiest striving through menial cowardice.
Some coward hearts inwardly determine that beauty cannot be reconciled with the gray dross of our day. But only faint-heartedness has whispered to them, the faint- heartedness of stagnation. Still among us are those who repeat that electricity is blinding us; that the telephone is enfeebling our hearing; that automobiles are not practical for our roads. Just so timorous and ignorant is the fear of the non-reconciliation of beauty. Expel at once from our household this absurd unsounding “no” and transform it, by the gift of friendship and by the jewel of spirit, into “Yes.” How much turbid stagnation there is in “No” and how much of openness to attainment in “Yes”! One has but to pronounce “Yes” and the stone is withdrawn and what yesterday still seemed unattainable, to-day comes nearer and within reach. We remember a touching incident: a little fellow not knowing how to help his dying mother, wrote a letter as best he could to St. Nicholas, the Miracle Maker. He went to put it in the letter box, when a “Casual Passer-by” approached to help him reach it, and perceived the unusual address. And verily the aid of Nicholas the Miracle Maker came to this poor heart
Thus through the work of heaven and earth, consciously and in living practise, will the raiment of beauty again be enfolded about humanity.
Those who have met the Teachers in life, know how simple and harmonious and beautiful They are. The same atmosphere of beauty must pervade all that approaches Their region. The sparks of Their Flame must penetrate into the lives of those who await the Soon-Coming! How to meet Them? Only with the worthiest. How to await? Merging into Beauty. How to embrace and to retain? By being filled with that Fearlessness bestowed by the consciousness of beauty. How to worship? As in the presence of beauty which enchants even its enemies.
In the deep twilight, bright with a glory unequaled, shines the Star of the Mother of the World. From below, is reborn the wave of a sacred harmony. A Tibetan ikon painter plays his lay upon a bamboo flute before the unfinished image of Buddha-Maitreya. By adorning the image with all the symbols of blessed power, this man, with the long black braid, in his way, brings his utmost gift to Him Who is Expected. Thus shall we bring beauty to the people: Simply, beautifully, fearlessly!