Sacha Zaliouk

Self-portrait. (1915).

Self-portrait. (1915).

Alexander Davidovich Zaliouk (1887 – 1971) was a Jewish artist, illustrator and sculptor, a member of the École de Paris, and a doyen of the Art Deco. He was born in an impoverished family in Radomysl, Ukraine, and studied at art schools in St Petersburg and Odessa. His early career involved illustrative work for magazines such as Krokodil (1911-12), Southern Weekly (1912-13), and the newspaper Southern Thought (1911). He signed his works Sacha, or Sach or AZ. He participated in exhibitions of the Association of Southern Russian artists in Odessa (1908-12).

In 1912, Sacha moved to Paris and settled in Montparnasse. He continued his education at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, training under Raphaël Collin and François Flameng. In 1914, he enlisted in the French army and fought at Verdun.

In 1919, he attracted attention with his portraits of literary figures, actors and other celebrities. He also created a series of sculptures. Besides portraits, he painted landscapes and generic compositions; nudes; carried out a series of erotic graphic art; created book illustrations. In 1920 he participated in the satirical magazines La Vie Parisienne, Fantasio, La Sourire, Le Journal Amusant, Paris-plaisirs.

Illustration in Fantasie.

Illustration in Fantasio.

In 1921, he participated in the First Russian Exhibition of Arts and Craft at London’s Whitechapel Gallery. He also took part in the Salon d’Automne (1926) as well as the Society of Artists’ La Horde de Montparnasse (1927).

The Lovers.

The Lovers.

Zaliouk became a member of the Salon des Independants in 1951, and of the Parisian salon of the National Union of Arts in 1954.

Untitled.

Untitled.

Nude and pipes.

Nude and pipes.

Beauties by the mast.

Beauties by the mast.

Surrealist composition.

Surrealist composition.

Two nudes.

Two nudes.

The painter and the model. (1929).

The painter and the model. (1929).

The painter and the model. (1923).

The painter and the model. (1923).

(Text from ЗАЛЮК (Цалюк) Александр (Саша) Давидович, at the Art and Architecture of the Russian Diaspora.)

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Art Roundup – December 2014

Nearly the end of the year, folks, and time for yet another roundup of Russian and related art.

  1. In the Museum of Russian Icons, Moscow, there is an exhibition of the works of priestly artist and missionary Alexander Men’. It runs till December 16.
  2. At the Yasnaya Polyana Museum-estate of Leo Tolstoy is an exhibition “The Unknown Mashkov“, which runs till December 9.
  3. In Beijing’s Chinese Academy of Oil Painting is an exhibition of the works from the Melnikov School in the Repin Academy of Fine Arts. Titled “The Distant Transparent“, this continues till December 15.
  4. Barcelona’s La Pedrera hosts an exhibition of the constructivist Lazar (El) Lissitzky. Titled “El Lissitzky. The Experience of Totality“, it ends Jan 18, 2015.
  5. Till December 7 at the Museum of Russian Art, Jersey City, NJ, is an exhibition of the Ukrainian circus artiste and artist Irene Koval.
  6. If you are interested in contemporary works of art from Central Asia, a good place to see what’s happening is the ENE Central Asian Art site. Ene means ‘mother’ in Turkmen and it is a Singapore-based organisation. Check out their gallery here.
  7. And there is an exhibition of Armenian dolls in Yerevan – traditional or French-inspired or Soviet-approved – you can find quite a collection. At the Yerevan Historical Museum, this runs to the end of the year.
  8. Georgian art flowered in the 1950s after the death of Stalin, and the works of Kalandadze, Nizharadze, Bandzeladze, Tsutskiridze and others can be seen at the Georgian National Museum‘s exhibition “Post-Stalin Liberalisation in Georgian Painting“, running in Tbilisi.
  9. If we do Armenian and Georgian, then surely we must do Azerbaijani as well – equal favour to these historic rivals, I say! Baku’s Museum of Modern Art has an exhibition titled “Stone”, featuring the sculptures of the Azerbaijani artist Huseyn Hagverdi.

And that’s it for the roundups of the year!

Art Roundup – November 2014

Here we are deep into autumn and the Festival of Russia in the UK continues with some remarkable art on display. Only a month or two remain to catch whatever you can, so make those days count!

  1. You can do worse than to start at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum where works of Pasternak (the author’s father), Benois, Somov and Bakst are available to see – in pullout drawers! The exhibition continues till Jan 11, 2015.
  2. If you hurry, you can catch Ukrainian art at the Saatchi gallery in London. 70 works by 38 contemporary artists are on display till November 3, 2014.
  3. Maryam Alakbarli, an Azerbaijani artist, has a personal exhibition at the Latvian National Museum of Art in Riga. Titled Night Music, it runs till November 9, 2014.
  4. A massive exhibition of art from the countries around the Baltic sea was held in Malmö in 1914, and was interrupted by the breakout of the Great War. Many Russian artworks remained in Sweden, and now some of that hoard is on display in Malmö Art Museum. Titled Baltic Reflections, it runs through spring 2015. You can see works by the likes of Pavel Kuznetsov, Nikolai Milioti, Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin and Valentin Serov as well as the Finn Akseli Gallen-Kallela.

Enjoy a fine November, folks.

A Gallery Tour, Continued.

So here we are among the works by artists originally displayed as part of the Jack (or Knave) of Diamonds exhibition in Moscow. The notes for each painting are taken from the exhibition cards of the Courtauld Gallery, London.

Mikhail Larionov’s (1881-1964) work below was displayed along with Still life in a Major Key at the Golden Fleece exhibition in Moscow in 1910. The Russian avant-garde artists had an abiding interest in the union of music and painting.

Still life in a minor key, by Mikhail Larionov. (1909).

Still life in a minor key, by Mikhail Larionov. (1909).

This painting was in the first Jack of Diamonds exhibition in Moscow from December 1910 – January 1911. “The nude female bathers form a scene similar to the works of the German Expressionist group the Bruecke (Bridge). Larionov’s use of red-orange and green, opposite colours on the colour wheel, define the figures with a jarring, clashing force.”

Bathers at sunset, by Mikhail Larionov. (1909).

Bathers at sunset, by Mikhail Larionov. (1909).

Aristarkh Lentulov (1882-1943) returned to Moscow and painted this based on his impressions gained from his Parisian life among the French avant-garde. “The artist uses a radical style to depict a very traditional subject, giving the roses a monumental quality through his layering of petals and bright blocks of colour.”

Flowers, by Aristarkh Lentulov. (1913).

Flowers, by Aristarkh Lentulov. (1913).

Natalia Goncharova’s (1881-1962) series of harvest paintings appeared between 1908 and 1911. She imagines a scene of cypresses and pink mountains, and the women’s outfits are unlike those she usually depicted Russian paintings in. Apelsinia was a name she invented for her solo exhibition in 1913 in Moscow. “The work reveals her taste for the exotic and interest in the art of Paul Gauguin.”

Apelsinia, by Natalia Goncharova. (1909).

Apelsinia, by Natalia Goncharova. (1909).

Vladimir Burliuk (1886-1917) was influenced by Cezanne and Cubism. “He often fractured his paintings into interlocking irregular segments, as if translating the principles of stained glass onto canvas.”

Landscape, by Vladimir Burliuk. (1913).

Landscape, by Vladimir Burliuk. (1913).

Olga Rozanova’s (1886-1918) typical style of simple and energetic brushwork and bright colours is exemplified in this work, executed three years before her death. The playing cards theme was one she returned to throughout her life, “emphasising that her art was based on card games often played in streets, bars and funfairs.”

Queen of Diamonds, by Olga Rozanova. (1915).

Queen of Diamonds, by Olga Rozanova. (1915).

Innokenti Annenesky’s play Thamyris, The Cither Player (Famira Kifared) was staged at the Moscow Chamber Theatre to Alexandra Exter’s design, which incorporated traditional art of her native Ukraine and referenced ancient Greek friezes. “With their graphic clarity and arrangement of bold colours, Exter’s designs contributed to a rhythmic framework shaping the performance itself.”

Greeks (Costume design), by Alexandra Exter. (1916).

Greeks (Costume design), by Alexandra Exter. (1916).

This was a design created by Goncharova for the astronomer Magus in a ballet (Liturgie) that never saw the light of day. Here she displays her interest in Russian folk art, peasant embroidery and icon painting. She was at the same time beginning her fruitful collaboration with Sergei Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes.

Magus (Costume design), by Natalia Goncharova. (1915).

Magus (Costume design), by Natalia Goncharova. (1915).

Ekaterina Serebriakova – Obituary

Katya in blue by the fir tree. A wonderful painting of this name, from the brush of the legendary Zinaida Serebriakova, can be found in the Pushkin Museum. On it is depicted a little girl with bright deep and big eyes. This is Ekaterina Serebriakova, Zinaida’s daughter, her right-hand woman, and the preserver of her artistic heritage. A superb graphic artist, painter and interior decorator, Ekaterina died on August 26, 2014, in her apartment on Montparnasse. She was in the 102nd year of her life.

The world of Russian culture has had an immeasurable loss, said the Russian ambassador to France, Alexander Orlov. The ambassador is indubitably correct – and not just because owing to Ekaterina’s efforts, her mother’s legacy was preserved. Zinaida was one of the greats of Russian art, one of the first women to write her name in bright letters in its history. Ekaterina herself was an extraordinary talent – with pleasure she painted watercolours of landscapes and still lifes, and (in modern parlance) undertook grand design projects in wealthy suburban mansions. However, she never shouted out her talent. For most of her life, she remained in the shadow of her mother and her brother Alexander. Only last year did Ekaterina Serebriakova dare to exhibit her work to the judgment of the public.

Ekaterina’s work was first displayed in her centennial year. The Tretyakov Gallery exhibited it as part of “Zinaida Serebriakova. The Paris Period. Alexander and Ekaterina Serebriakova. From the collection of the Fondation Serebriakoff.” It was possible to assess her individual style, in which, nevertheless, one could trace the creative tradition of her mother and her great-uncle, Alexandre Benois. Further, in the Pushkin Museum there was a presentation of the first book dedicated to her – besides reproductions of her paintings, there were memoirs of contemporaries, archival material, articles of research and critique. And, in the Russian ambassador’s residence in Paris was held her first personal exhibition. These developments did not go unnoticed in the world of culture. The fate of Zinaida Serebriakova was perceived thereafter somewhat differently: it was evident that behind the great artist there had always been a guardian angel – her daughter. In Paris, Ekaterina had taken care of all the housework, providing her mother with the opportunity to work.

Ekaterina Serebriakova’s funeral would be held at the Russian cemetery in Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois.

(Loosely translated from the article titled Скончалась Екатерина Серебрякова by Maria Moskvicheva, August 26, 2014.)

Avant-Garde Outing

The same day I saw the Popkov exhibition at Somerset House, I also nipped into the St Petersburg Gallery where there was a display of Russian avant-garde works. I took a few a pictures with my Moto G, and as you can see, the picture quality isn’t great.

The curators of this show (Russian Revolution in Art, Russian Avant-Garde: 1910 – 1932) focused on a major dichotomy of the modernist period – figurative vs non-figurative art. While artists, joined up in a multitude of movements, claimed that art was separate from the real world, they continued to investigate abstraction and rhythm, and created new colour and plastic compositions.

The exhibition has more than sixty pieces: paintings, drawings, craft and sculptures. There are suprematists and constructivists, ceramicists and non-objectivists. There is a St Petersburg circle, a Malevich circle, a Moscow circle. There even is a set of Kandinskys before that worthy legged it to Germany. The exhibition continues to September 20, 2014, so if you’re in London, do take a look.

Rayonist composition, by Alexander Bogomazov. (1914).

Rayonist composition, by Alexander Bogomazov. (1914).

Women in interior, by Sonia Delaunay. (1923).

Women in interior, by Sonia Delaunay. (1923).

Self-portrait, design for the exhibition catalogue's cover, by Sonia Delaunay. (1916).

Self-portrait, design for the exhibition catalogue’s cover, by Sonia Delaunay. (1916).

Rhythm, by Vladimir Baranov-Rossine

Rhythm, by Vladimir Baranov-Rossine

Rooftops, by Marie Vassilieff. (1915).

Rooftops, by Marie Vassilieff. (1915).

The Night Rider, by David Burliuk. (1911).

The Night Rider, by David Burliuk. (1911).

Design for cover of Exhibition Catalogue 5x5=25, by Liubov Popova. (1921).

Design for cover of Exhibition Catalogue 5×5=25, by Liubov Popova. (1921).

Construction ordinate according to different points of view, by Alexandra Exter. (1922-23).

Construction ordinate according to different points of view, by Alexandra Ekster. (1922-23).

Circles in a suprematist cross, by Ilya Chashnik. (1926).

Circles in a suprematist cross, by Ilya Chashnik. (1926).

Colour lines in vertical motion, by Ilya Chashnik. (1923-25)

Colour lines in vertical motion, by Ilya Chashnik. (1923-25)

Art Roundup – June 2014

We’re smack in the middle of the Year of Russia in the UK and there is much to anticipate for the next half year. A massive Malevich retrospective at the Tate Modern, an exhibition of avant-garde theatre design at the Victoria & Albert, a look at the famous Jack of Diamonds at the Courtauld. I’m beside myself.

But before all that, we have June to get through. So what’s happening around the planet?

Cubist still life, by Liviu Hâncu.

Cubist still life, by Liviu Hancu.

  • In Chicago‘s Ukrainian National Museum, an exhibition of the works of Roman Vovk continues till June 14, 2014. Dammit, I had no idea of the existence of this museum when I lived in Chicago years ago. Dammit.
  • A personal exhibition of the works of Liviu Hâncu, a Moldovan artist, runs till June 8, 2014, at the Constantin Brancusi gallery in Chișinău, Moldova.
  • In the Riga Art Space, En Vogue, a display of Latvian and Siberian contemporary art starts June 13, 2014, and continues till August 2014 in Riga, Latvia.
  • On the Internet is the Carlos Reid Gallery where you can find, among others, the works of Alexander Ilichev.
  • And, finally, New York‘s Gallery Shchukin holds an exhibition of the works of the Dagestan-born artist and sculptor Aladdin Garunov till June 30, 2014.

Kliment Red’ko

Uprising. (1924-25). (© Pavel Otdel’nov on Flickr)

On March 14, 1935, Kliment Red’ko (1897-1956) – who at the time had been living for several years in France and was getting ready to return home – wrote in his diary: “Wrote a draft statement for the consul. Decided to get out of Paris in three months. I have given eight years to France. All these years have gone by, and yet it seems that the ninth spring of 1935 is no different from the first spring of 1927. To Moscow now! To my own! To the motherland!” In the land of the Soviets, the reality was considerably different from when the avant-gardist had headed out to the main foundry of the art of the time. And though his most famous work remained the controversial ‘Uprising’, and he thought of himself as an artist of the new system, he could in no way be considered a political artist. Who was he?

He began in the icon painting workshops of the Kiev Monastery of the Caves (although at first he had to learn to decorate porcelain) and he culminated in an art studio on the Timiryazevka, and it can be said that his life executed a full circle. Lunacharsky helped him go to Paris (perhaps to save his life), and when he returned home, he was accused of formalism, for which he was expelled from the Moscow Union of Artists in 1948, although he had only joined them three years earlier.

In the middle of his life, a year after the death of Lenin, Red’ko completed his masterwork, ‘Uprising’. Not that he was a one-hit wonder, but it is this work that consistently epitomises him. Red’ko first thought to call it ‘RCP’, then changed its name to ‘Revolution’, and finally ended up with ‘Uprising’.

Before it arrived at the Tretyakov Gallery, the painting was in the collection of George Costakis, who (according to Irina Lebedeva, the director of the Gallery) had written in 1977: ‘The picture of the century, the greatest work of revolutionary Russia. George Costakis, Moscow, April 14, 1977.’ Lebedeva said that today’s audience apparently saw the picture for the first time in 1987’s exhibition ‘Art and Revolution’, since when the work has never been removed from the permanent displays.

Like many of the avant-garde, Red’ko embraced the revolution. Like many others, he too believed that the new era expected from artists new creations in art, modelling, and explanations of life, all incorporating technological innovations. In fact, his ‘Uprising’, despite Lenin’s admiration, is thought by some to be a picture of tragedy; the painting hearkens to old iconography despite the rebellion having subjugated the old systems; there is the leader within the great red diamond, reminiscent of the icon of the Saviour in Majesty; except that on the sides we have Trotsky (who, in 1926, would call the new leader the ‘gravedigger of the revolution’), Krupskaya, Lunacharsky; Stalin is not in the front rank, but only appears in the second row. Red’ko risked much, and who knows what would have happened to him had he not moved in 1927 to Paris.

It is possible to ignore church iconography in ‘Uprising’, even allowing for the fact it was painted not as an icon; still, as an emblem of revolution, constructed to the rhythm of a march, with the geometry of perpendiculars and diagonals, with dynamic rays and vectors that cut through the red-black city, the houses that resemble prisons. Red’ko interested himself in questions of energy, and its  implementation as light, design as an expression of form, and consciously or not ‘Uprising’ came out full of contradictions. Welcoming the revolution, it reveals its dark side.

Red’ko’s art is a strange admixture, resulting from the icon studies in the Monastery of the Caves, and training under Arkady Rylov and Nicholas Roerich in the Society for the Encouragement of Art, and the studies under Alexandra Exter, and Vasily Kandinsky, between Kiev, Kharkov, St. Petersburg and Moscow. Red’ko started and eventually returned to fairly traditional realist works – pastoral landscapes of the 1910s and 1940s, or the completely pedestrian later portraits such as ‘Girl with gas mask’ in 1941 (granted, however, that her sad reverie didn’t quite satisfy the requirements of Socialist Realism) – these bracket his artistic career. His French works – Auvergne peasants as filled with languid lyricism as his melancholy landscapes. In these, his palette becomes softer, but experiments with form that occupied hi in the 1920s and remained his main preoccupation, came to naught. No wonder the artist wrote that his first French spring was like the last one.

Morning on the farm. (1933).

Morning on the farm. (1933).

It turns out that Red’ko’s most active period was the first half of the 1920s. Although the avant-garde, under the innovations of Malevich and Kandinsky, had produced its advances earlier in the century, in the 1910s, the heated pulse of revolution had propelled it into the next decade. Red’ko, of course, didn’t completely ignore Malevich, pondering whether Suprematism would fit into his own style; yet, he created one work in that vein, the Circle of 1921-1922.

Light and shadow in symmetry. (1922).

Light and shadow in symmetry. (1922).

A circle intersected by a square and above them, two wedges bumping into each other as a static sign. Perhaps this lacked the assertiveness of Malevich’s circle and square, and their motive power of their geometry; the wedges, perhaps, were not quite like the red ones that had beaten the white in Lissitzky’s work. Red’ko himself seemed to be more interested in the spatial appearance of the image. In his Suprematist efforts, even if there were dynamic diagonal elements, they didn’t strive to fly apart as in Malevich; rather, they behave as a collective, an emblem which would later become the ‘Uprising’.

In 1921, along with Solomon Nikritin, Alexander Labas and Alexander Tyshler, he formed a group known as Electro-organism (based on a theory declared by Red’ko in 1922); in 1924, they renamed themselves as ‘Method’. Electro-organism – in keeping with the spirit of the times and not without the influence of his teacher, Kandinsky – on the one hand explores the sensitivity of art to scientific discovery, and on the other, investigates the psychological impact that the painter translates across the painting. Red’ko called energy the ‘future culture of life’: ‘the artist’, he said, ‘needs to reinforce the new concepts of realism through artistically explored facts. The first graphic element of design is the line. The second is colour, and then, gravity and image.’ He added that ‘light was the highest representation of matter.’ And to replace Electro-organism, he came up with Luminism, which again is a response to the 1910s and the Rayonism of Mikhail Larionov.

Midnight sun (Northern lights). (1925).

Midnight sun (Northern lights). (1925).

The colour of light and the brightness of colour – the artist captured the energy of both in ‘Uprising’, combining geometric construction with realistic figures. Meanwhile, he explored light in his northern landscapes, where the aurora reminded him of electric flashes (‘Northern Lights’, 1925). Alternatively, he used the same expression of energy in works such as ‘Dynamite’, in which he came close to abstraction. (Funnily enough, Natalia Goncharova pondering the concept of energy in the spirit of the times had already spoken of the language of abstraction in 1913. However, it is unclear if her ‘Void’ depicts a force of destruction or construction that transformed the uneven puddle of colour into something novel.)

Void, by Natalia Goncharova. (1913).

Void, by Natalia Goncharova. (1913).

Red’ko was dissatisfied with the discoveries of the Futurists; in ‘Factory’ (1922), the vertical pipe mixed with diagonal rails, the distant blended with the nearby. The same year, he painted ‘Husband and wife’ as though through the same geometric filter. His 1924 ‘Composition 1’ could be said to connect to the second Russian avant-garde and Vladimir Yankilevsky, in which biomorphic forms ironically inform a mechanistic interpretation. (What the devil does all this mean?!)

Kliment Red’ko’s investigations continued between the early 1920s and his departure for Paris (under the aegis of the People’s Commissariat for Enlightenment, who included him in their list of the most serious and talented young artists). In Paris, he was able to communicate with Pablo Picasso, but it’s quite clear that the discussion had little influence on his own art. Rather, France and the Italian cities he had been through didn’t provide a new impulse to his art, but appeared to create a sort of implicit antidote to the impending Socialist Realism.

Parisienne. (1931).

Parisienne. (1931).

Motherhood. (1937).

Motherhood. (1937).

Red’ko painted realistic motifs but not in a socialist manner. For example, his strange ‘Motherhood’ of 1937 depicts a statue of a Red Army soldier on the windowsill behind a feeding mother, and is not really following the norms of the regime. However, he did a portrait of Stalin in 1938-1940 for the All-Union Agricultural Exhibition; though we should point out that Pavel Filonov, who can hardly be accused of flirting with the regime, also had painted a similar portrait, and in both cases, it is a distanced image of head of the leader appearing without any motivation.

Portrait of Stalin. (1940).

Portrait of Stalin. (1940).

[This is a really vague translation of Daria Kurdyukova’s article on Kliment Red’ko in Colta.ru, March 13, 2014.]

The Bridge II

Continuing our theme of bridges, I must point out that there were several in that series of posts on Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812. Please do take a look when time permits and the gestalt is here. Heh.

Fyodor Vasilyev (1850-1873), one of the Wanderers, is first up:

At the Sink, by Fyodor Vasilyev.

Here’s Mikhail Vrubel (1856-1910) in Venice.

Bridge of sighs, Venice, by Mikhail Vrubel. (1894).

The Ukrainian artist Alexander Bogomazov’s (1880-1930) Impressionistic view of a bridge.

Bridge, by Oleksandr Bogomazov. (1908).

Some symbolism from the Lithuanian Mikalojus Čiurlionis (1875-1911):

Allegro (Sonata of the Serpent), by Mikalojus Čiurlionis. (1908).

Anna Ostroumova-Lebedeva (1871-1955) is inspired by the canals and bridges of Amsterdam:

Amsterdam: the market of iron, by Anna Ostroumova-Lebedeva. (1913).

Symbolism once again with Mstislav Dobuzhinsky (1875-1957):

Bridge in Kėdainiai, by Mstislav Dobuzhinsky. (1933).

And to round this post off,  Alexandra Ekster (1882-1949):

Bridge, Sevres, by Alexandra Ekster. (1912).

Prams in Art!

Goodness gracious me. Parashutov’s yen for classification reaches surreal limits with a bunch of art works incorporating pushchairs and prams. I scavenge shamelessly.

Summer, by Lev Aronov.

Summer, by Lev Aronov.

Indian Summer, by Viktor Varlamov. (1970).

Indian Summer, by Viktor Varlamov. (1970).

Nikitsky gates, by Sergey Volkov. (1986).

Nikitsky gates, by Sergey Volkov. (1986).

Rusanovka, by Sergey Shishko. (1966).

Rusanovka, by Sergey Shishko. (1966).

Untitled, by Vasily Grigoryev.

Untitled, by Vasily Grigoryev.

Frida with pram: at the dacha, by Lev Zevin. (1935).

Frida with pram: at the dacha, by Lev Zevin. (1935).

On a walk, by Vladimir Boldyrev.

On a walk, by Vladimir Boldyrev.

Pokrov boulevard, by Aminodav Kanevsky. (1925).

Pokrov boulevard, by Aminodav Kanevsky. (1925).