Avant-Garde Outing Continued Again

(Text below is from the St Petersburg Gallery’s exhibition notes for Russian Revolution in Art, Russian Avant-Garde: 1910 – 1932, running in London till September 20, 2014.)

Vyacheslav Levkievsky’s painting Tramway was displayed in the 1914 exhibition N°4, a show that (Mikhail) Larionov described as uniting artists that were ‘not in any way related to each other apart from their youth, their forward-looking vision and their problem-solving approach in the realm of painting while nevertheless being like-minded in their thoughts and feelings’.

Woman with guitar.

Woman with mandolin, by Vladimir Burliuk. (1913).

Vyacheslav Levkievsky.

Tramway, by Vyacheslav Levkievsky. (1914).

Self-portrait, by Yuri Annenkov. (1960).

Self-portrait, by Yuri Annenkov. (1960).

Sketch for the painting "Battle", by Aristarkh Lentulov. (1913).

Sketch for the painting “Battle”, by Aristarkh Lentulov. (1913).

Three designs of book cover "Evreinov, Kamensky, Lentulov", by Aristarkh Lentulov. (1914).

Three designs of book cover “Evreinov, Kamensky, Lentulov”, by Aristarkh Lentulov. (1914).

The Fool's Ball, by Jean Pougni. (1915-16)

The Fool’s Ball, by Jean Pougni. (1915-16)

Design, by Gustav Klutsis. (1922).

Design, by Gustav Klutsis. (1922).

Sun, by Mikhail Matyushin. (1921).

Sun, by Mikhail Matyushin. (1921).

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Dovlatov

I read Sergei Dovlatov’s Pushkin Hills, a brilliant, acerbic, ironic and deeply heartfelt novel, and was struck by the references to famous people and – especially – artists in it. I thought it might be an idea to create a post comprising works by the artists mentioned and possibly portraits of the people, and – even better, if I can find any – portraits of the people by those artists. So here goes:

Pavel Shchegolev (1877-1931, Pushkin expert) by E. Kiseleva. (1911)

Pavel Shchegolev (1877-1931, Pushkin expert) by E. Kiseleva. (1911)

General Mellor-Zakomelsky (1725-90) by George Dawe.

General Mellor-Zakomelsky (1725-90) by George Dawe.

Alexander Benois (1870-1960, artist and critic), by Leon Bakst. (1898)

Portrait of the poet Sergei Yesenin (1895-1925) by Lydia Charlemagne. (1955).

Portrait of the poet Sergei Yesenin (1895-1925) by Lydia Charlemagne. (1955).

Pushkin on his deathbed, by Fyodor Bruni.

Pushkin on his deathbed, by Fyodor Bruni.

Portrait of a Woman, by Ivan Kramskoy. (1883).

Alexander von Benckendorff (1782-1844, Russian general and censor) by George Dawe.

Sketch of his nanny, Arina Seryakova, in youth and old age, by Pushkin.

Demon of Metromania, or Wilhelm Küchelbecker writes poetry, by A. Illichevsky. (1815).

Portrait of Alexander Pushkin, by Orest Kiprensky. (1827).

Portrait of Alexander Pushkin, by Orest Kiprensky. (1827).

Portrait of Alexei Remizov (1877-1957, symbolist writer), by Boris Kustodiyev. (1907).

Portrait of Maria Tsvetaeva (1892-1941, poet), by Magda Nachman. (1915)

Portrait of Maria Tsvetaeva (1892-1941, poet), by Magda Nachman. (1915)

Vadim Odainik

Vadim Odainik (Odessa, 1925 – Kiev, 1984) was a Ukrainian artist of multifaceted talent. His brightly coloured landscapes and emotive portraits are fascinating pieces, and, despite having lived through the stultification of Soviet Realism, he appears not to have succumbed to its ill charms. “This symbiosis of the realities of socialist Ukraine of the mid-twentieth century and folk themes, executed in almost impressionistic style with a touch of Art Nouveau and folk motifs is captivating.”1 Indeed.

Karlovy Vary. (1964).

Karlovy Vary. (1964).

Filatov Street - it is snowing. (1976).

Filatov Street – it is snowing. (1976).

Winter in the Carpathians. (1972).

Winter in the Carpathians. (1972).

Carpathians. (1980).

Carpathians. (1980).

In the Carpathians. (1976).

In the Carpathians. (1976).

In the Carpathians (sketches). (1977).

In the Carpathians (sketches). (1977).

Hutsul woman from Yavorov: Vasilina. (1965).

Hutsul woman from Yavorov: Vasilina. (1965).

Hutsul still life: wedding presents. (1970).

Hutsul still life: wedding presents. (1970).

Hutsul musicians.

Hutsul musicians.

Zoya, the artist's wife. (1946).

Zoya, the artist’s wife. (1946).

Chersonessos (Crimea). (1962).

Chersonessos (Crimea). (1962).

Picnic. (1965).

Picnic. (1965).

Harvest. (1949).

Harvest. (1949).

Reference

1. Parashutov, ВАДИМ ОДАЙНИК. ХУДОЖНИК, ВЛЮБЛЕННЫЙ В КАРПАТЫ.

Lives of the Artists XIX

There’s a couple of stories about the avant-garde sculptor Nadezhda Krandiyevskaya (1891-1963). When she was learning draughtsmanship and painting at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, her favourite teacher was the sculptor Sergei Volnukhin. He instilled in her discipline and single-minded focus as the hallmarks of the true artist. Art, he said, was a matter for all of life, requiring complete immersion and all of one’s strength. One of Krandiyevskaya’s classmates was the (future) poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. He was quite infatuated with her, and always sat in front of her in drawing class, often turning around to gaze soulfully into her eyes, embarrassing her considerably. But she managed not to be distracted – Volnukhin’s training of concentration obviously stood her in good stead. Mayakovsky was hardly discouraged by this. He would take her after school on long walks. One day she injured her leg. Gallantly, he carried her in his arms all the way back home.

In 1912, Krandiyevskaya went to Paris to train under the French sculptor Antoine Bourdelle at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere. The students here were expected to work independently and present their pieces to the maestro, who would attend to them every week and offer his suggestions and comments, and educating them in his own artistic principles. One day, sculpting from nature, Krandiyevskaya produced a piece that elicited general admiration. She knew that it has been good fortune rather than intention. Bourdelle himself was sceptical. ‘This is already art’, he declared, as though in praise. Then he added, ‘But now let us begin.’ And he started to re-do the piece in his own style. For Krandiyevskaya, it was agony: she thought the life was draining away from her piece under her teacher’s ministrations. She fainted and was taken to hospital, where she was told she had suffered from deep psychological shock. Too timid to express her opinion in front of Bourdelle, whom she idolised, equally she realised that her own hard-won path was considerably divergent from his.

The Divine Weed 1

In these health-conscious times it is probably not often recalled that smoking was once considered the height of style. Ever since tobacco arrived in Europe after the Spanish conquest of the Americas, it had been thought medicinal, therapeutic, fashionable. By the nineteenth century, it was known as the divine weed. Art followed life, and through the eyes of artists, we can see the evolution of smoking and smokers. Here is a series of paintings from Russia and environs.

Young woman with cigarette, by Pyotr Zabolotsky.

Young woman with cigarette, by Pyotr Zabolotsky.

Young woman with cigarette‘ by Pyotr Zabolotsky (1803-1866) is first, and a surprising theme it is too. Women who smoked were considered somewhat infra dig, and yet this lovely, evidently upper-class woman, has no compunctions about being seen with a cigarette.

Soldier resting, by Mikhail Larionov. (1911).

Turkish woman smoking a pipe, by Mikhail Larionov. (1928).

Above are a couple of works by Mikhail Larionov.

Self-portrait, by Teodor Axentowicz. (1888).

Self-portrait, by Teodor Axentowicz. (1888).

I’d never heard of Teodor Axentowicz (1859-1938), a Polish-Armenian artist, but this self-portrait is remarkable.

Mr Padegs and the Astral, by Kārlis Padegs. (1939).

Mr Padegs and the Astral, by Kārlis Padegs. (1939).

Self-portrait, by Kārlis Padegs. (1932).

Self-portrait, by Kārlis Padegs. (1932).

Two paintings by the Latvian artist Kārlis Padegs (1911-1940). He died tragically young of complications from tuberculosis, and was long forgotten until rediscovered in the 1980s.

Trumna chłopska, by Aleksander Gierymski. (1894-95).

Yet another Polish artist is Aleksander Gierymski (1850-1901), who painted Trumna chłopska (‘Peasant coffin’) between 1894-95.

Pokkasakki, by Vilho Lampi. (1929).

Pokkasakki, by Vilho Lampi. (1929).

And here’s Pokkasakki (Card players?) by the suicidal Finnish artist Vilho Lampi (1898-1936).

Man with pipe, by Boris Grigoriev. (1920s).

Man with pipe, by Boris Grigoriev. (1922).

Boris Grigoriev’s ‘Man with pipe‘ is from 1922, after he left Russia for France. This was painted in Brittany.

Portrait of Meyerhold, by Pyotr Konchalovsky. (1938).

Portrait of Meyerhold, by Pyotr Konchalovsky. (1938).

Pyotr Konchalovsky (1867-1956) painted the director Vsevolod Meyerhold in this languid pose. Check out the dog on Meyerhold’s leg, only slightly more alert.

Passerby, by V. Kalinin. (1974).

Passerby, by V. Kalinin. (1974).

This is a much more recent work, a caricature perhaps? Passerby – by V. Kalinin.

Lives of the Artists VII

Vitebsk, of course, is part of the heartland of the Russian avant-garde, given the large number of artists who came from there. Think of Chagall and Malevich – both Vitebsk types – and big rivals of each other. Yeremei Shkolnik (who grew up in Vitebsk during the time their visions of art were competing) remembers seeing their exhibitions. At the time (1918-1923), he was only a child but already training at Yuri Moisevich Pen’s studio. Pen had been Chagall’s teacher as well.

Especially of interest in the institute among us kids was the display of the works of the students from Malevich’s studio. It used to be that the students would bring out a big white canvas on which would be painted a red or black square. They would stand or hang the canvas in one or a second or a third location; the students with serious mien would then gaze at the square and argue under which circumstance that square looked better or suggested a great sense of movement.

The viewing of works by the students of Chagall’s studio was very interesting. I particularly remember one display. On large canvases, almost life-size, were shown the same nude woman with a guitar. What amazed us was that the nude, the guitar and the background were all painted green. It was as though everyone was looking at nature through green glass. (Much later, I understood what was the problem of colour that was being addressed by the display.) I also recall that the drawing of the nude model with the guitar was accomplished realistically.

Translated excerpt from Yeremei Shkolnik, ‘Vitebsk of my youth‘, Our Heritage, № 75-76, 2005.

Artur Fonvizin

I have a small claim to potential fame. Or, rather, a potential claim to fame. I created an article on Artur Fonvizin at the English Wikipedia. I’m rather pleased with myself.

Artur Fonvizin (Артур Владимирович Фонвизин) (1883-1973) was born in Riga (Latvia) in a family of German origin. His last name comes from von Wiesen, a name he used to sign his earliest works. When he joined the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, he fell in with the avant-garde crowd of Mikhail Larionov and Sergei Sudeikin, who had established the Union of Youth, a subversive artistic organisation. They put up an exhibition without the permission of the school authorities, and were promptly expelled.

Fonvizin is known as a watercolour artist, a Symbolist, a Formalist. During the Great Terror, he was vilified by the Soviet press as a leader of the Gang of Formalists (comprising the Three F’s: Falk, Favorsky and Fonvizin). Watercolour portraits of famous theatre actresses and circus artistes were his forte. His fame stems from the vividness of his application and the easy style of applying paint directly, with no preparatory drawings.

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Watercolours became Fonvizin’s chief medium of expression in the 1920s. When his contemporaries moved onto new arts and socialist realism, he began to withdraw into himself. Throughout the establishment and spread of Communist rule in Russia he lived quietly and peacefully, and remained known (despite his various prizes) only to specialists. The wider public had little idea of him: his nuances and subtleties, mastery of colour and expression escaped most viewers.

At first glance, it appeared as though Fonvizin lived his life utterly ignorant of the wars, five-year plans and state terror that surrounded his world. His work continued to be informed by his imagination; he created his own cozy world filled with multidimensional spaces for habitation, and ephemeral characters and objects. But a deeper look reveals that his proud loneliness was the complete opposite of the romantic posing of an artist or heroic ascetic.

Fonvizin was clearly not a strong personality, and it can be said his character was born from the opposite – weakness. The artist Anatoly Slepyshev who knew him well said that he was unable to work as many artists do – from time to time, day by day. Instead, he created works in a rush, in a kind of trance, slaving away to exhaustion, completely using up his spirit, fully immersing himself in his art, leaving no strength for his quotidian life. [1]

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Fonvizin is said to have suffered from autism. From early childhood, the external world interested him so little that he didn’t speak for years. Living an isolated life (his father was a forester and the family lived in forest quarters), he only emerged from his self-imposed imprisonment when he encountered the Ciniselli circus for the first time. He not only started to speak, he began to draw. Fairy princesses playing with fiery torches, galloping on mighty horses around the arena forever captured his imagination.

Still, the rest of the external world continued to disinterest him. After joining the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, he continued along his unobtrusive and meek existence, despite the company of the avant-garde and over-the-top Larionov and Goncharova, enduring their creative scandals. In the future, his interest would be watercolours and a very narrow range of subjects: old-style circuses, still lifes of flowers, portraits of women. He even found his companion in life in that world of the watercolour when he undertook to paint the portrait of the young artist Natalya Malkina.

And throughout his life, it was women who saved him from his troubles. When he was exiled during the war to Karaganda because of his German origins, it was Vera Mukhina who brought him back. Women of the high society of Soviet era simply bowed before him who honestly and realistically painted what he saw. His fairy princesses now were Babanova, Zerkalova, Glizer, Boguslavskaya, Levitina, Tikhomirnova, Plisetskaya …[2]

Portrait of a woman. (1939).

Natasha. (1939).

L. Yumasheva. (1945).

Portrait of a lady in pink.

Still life of flowers.

References

[1] Александр Котломанов, Артур Фонвизин: нежестокий романс, Журнал «НоМИ», № 2/2008.

[2] Andrei Kovalev, Watercolours as a form of autism, Russian Journal, 28 February 2003.

Daniel Daran

There’s amazingly little information I’ve been able to find about Daniel Daran except for a quick career roundup, which tells little about the man. Of course, one could aver that the art is more important than the artist, and in fact in this case (out of sheer laziness) I shall, indeed, aver that. Here are some more paintings in varied genres by him.

Daniel Daran and the Circus

Daniel Daran (or Reichman) (Даниил Борисович Даран) (1894 – 1964) was born in Voronezh, studied at Saratov, worked in graphic design, executed landscapes, portraits, book illustrations, yearned for recognition even whilst remaining indifferent to fame, and spent nearly thirty years of his life admiring and sketching circus life. Here are some of his remarkable watercolours and drawings.

Vasil Yermylov

As I mentioned in an earlier post, there’s an exhibition of works by Vasyl Yermylov (Vasily Yermilov, Василий Ермилов, 1894-1968) at the Multimedia Art Museum in Moscow. Yermylov was one of the preeminent Constructivist artists of the Ukraine, and the leader of the Kharkov avant-garde circle. Western critics have named him one of the finest designers of his generation. His works – art, graphics, sculpture, design and book illustrations – are to be found at the exhibition.

Yermylov’s art is a synthesis of different artistic streams, amongst which are expressionism, cubism, futurism and neo-primitivism.

His art is laconic and he can easily be called one of the forerunners of minimalism and conceptualism. In his arsenal are two or three localised colours, two or three geometric elements, two or three material textures (tin, wood, and tar). He sought skilful techniques of polishing, grinding, powdering, contrasting oval and angular planes, perfect proportional order; in his works are high compositional and rhythmic effects.

In Yermylov’s works is evident a deep love for aspects of Ukrainian folk art and handicraft, which he elevated to the rank of high art, with deep care and harmonic brightness in his treatment of surfaces.

The exhibition comprises several thematic divisions:

Sculpture

The major sculptural works (such as Agitprop platform for the installation for the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution, 1927) are preserved only in the form of sketches and old photographs. The sketch for the sculpture “Three Russian revolutions” itself resembles a complete work of art. A special place is occupied by the memorial project “Monument of Lenin’s era” (1960s), a working model of which is represented in the exhibition.

Painting

Among the exhibits are a few variations of “Guitar” (1919), “Mandolin,” many graphic male and female portraits, and examples of sculptural art: relief and bulk composition. From 1922 Vasily Yermylov created a series of bright contra-reliefs and “objets d’art” of various types of wood and sheet metal, such as the schematic, “A Portrait of the Artist A. Pochtenny.” Among the experiments in the field of photomontage is notable for the relief of “On the Beach (morning, evening)” (1935), combining painting, photography and relief.

Poster Art

No less interesting is the work of the artist in the field of advertising and poster art, which became a symbol of the Russian and Ukrainian avant-garde. Yermylov’s contributions are propaganda posters, sketches of packages of cigarettes, a bottle of cologne “Victoria” and the creation of a logo Kharkov perfumes and cosmetics factory (1944).

Architecture and Design

Design sketches for the Kharkov House of Pioneers (1934-1935) – self-contained abstract paintings, colorful and decorative, and in spite of a modest scale, monumental. In the interior design, he successfully used a combination of different colours and the plasticity of simple geometric volumes.

Book Illustrations

Appearance of numerous books and magazines based on the use of different printing elements, bands, circles, photomontage. He created a new “Yermylovsky” monumental font, which was a breakthrough in printing design. A striking example is the typesetting of books of poetry of Velimir Khlebnikov, a friend of his, where he created a unified style for Khlebnikov’s many books, including “Ladomir” (1920).

Vasily Yermylov’s oeuvre despite its striking originality, remains open to dialogue with the works of other masters. His open, creative aspirations, attitudes, philosophies existed in the context of national and pan-European artistic processes of the first third of the twentieth century, which created a singular space of the avant-garde art.

Lady with fan. (1919). (Photo: Multimedia Art Museum).

Portrait of the Artist A. Pochtenny. (1924). (Photo: Multimedia Art Museum).

Journal Cover for ‘Avant-Garde’. (1929).

Beautiful Ukraine. (1920).

Plans for the future.

Day of Art. (1920s).

Argentinian tango. (1920s).

Sketch for interior design of the Kharkov Palace of Pioneers. (1934).

Interior design for Kharkov Palace of Pioneers. (1934). (Photo: Multimedia Art Museum).

Advertising poster for cigarettes. (1925).

Decorative composition. (1960s).

Study for the panel ‘Music’. (1964).

Sketch for mosaic panel ‘Flowers’. (1960s).

Budenovtsy. (1962).

[Translated from Modnitsa’s article ‘Exhibition: Vasily Yermylov. 1894-1968‘, at Fashionista.ru.]