Two Unions — One Artistic World
The Russian Union of Artists, together with the Russian Academy of Fine Arts, is an engine that powers the spiritual and aesthetic development of Russian society and the education of generations to come. The Union is organized along geographical lines: its local chapters consist of the sculptors, painters and graphic artists who live and work in a certain area. Of course, this is no obstacle when they arrange shows in other parts of the county, or travel the world in search of new artistic experiences.
The Union’s Moscow and St. Petersburg branches are the leaders in terms of membership and levels of professionalism, and accomplish most of the work that constitutes its creative, educational and exhibition activities. These two organizations are not only Russia’s oldest artists’ associations, but also the most influential ones. Moreover, it should be noted that the Moscow and St. Petersburg schools of painting - the most influential in Russia - are quite different from one another, and the current generation of artists to some degree adheres to canons and principles which, although they overlap in some respects, also differ from one another. The existence of such clearly distinct artistic schools is actually of indisputable value, a priceless national asset.
Historically, Moscow and St. Petersburg have been the twin centres of artistic training in Russia: both in the area of academic-style training, with the Surikov Art Institute in Moscow and the Repin Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in St. Petersburg, and in the area of the applied arts, with the Stroganov Academy of Industrial and Applied Arts in Moscow and the Stieglitz Academy of Art and Design in St. Petersburg. In addition to those well-known educational establishments, both of the capital cities of Russia have a number of other institutions (studios, departments at universities, institutes, cooperatives and crafts societies) that offer high-quality instruction in art; among their graduates are many contemporary Russian artists of renown.
Study for the Gorky Park statue. Bronze. Height – 171 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
Russia’s “main capital”, Moscow, and its “Northern Palmyra”, St. Petersburg, have been the crucibles in which the nation’s creative thinking has been forged; the two cities provide an environment in which to polish the talents of generations of Russian artists, including those who came from Russia’s more remote regions, as well as the talents of their gifted peers from different parts of the world, both those close to and far from Russia’s borders. Many of those who came to study in Russia have gone on to become pioneers in their respective national artistic schools, promoting the revival and development of their nations’ ancient traditions at a modern and highly professional level. Russian teachers have contributed to the professional training of many international artists, including many Chinese masters who have now earned fame.
The differences between the Moscow and St. Petersburg artistic schools are usually attributed to certain stylistic characteristics, as well as the work methods of their most distinguished exponents: therefore, each of these schools has a distinctive visual vocabulary, different emotional dominant features, and different drawing techniques. As already noted, a certain degree of competition presupposes interaction and mutual enrichment - processes that enhance the dimensions of Russian art and make its star shine more brightly. There is no conscious division, neither at prestigious Russian and international shows and competitions, nor at more modest local exhibitions, between artists from the different groups - and no sense of explicit rivalry between Moscow artists and St. Petersburg artists, or artists from the main cities against artists from the regions: all represent Russian art in equal measure, its multi-faceted and at the same time indivisible character.
This article highlights such historical roots, as well as the work of present-day practitioners of the cultural traditions of Moscow and St. Petersburg; understandably, the limitations of the format precludes mentioning all noteworthy exponents of these artistic schools, much less reproducing their most characteristic works.
It is best to start with those who founded the Union chapters in Moscow and Leningrad. Having recently marked their 85th anniversaries, these professional associations shortly after their inception became highly original, if not unique models of such artistic groups. Before World War II, in the 1930s, Moscow was home to Igor Grabar and Konstantin Yuon, Sergei Gerasimov, Mikhail Nesterov and Pavel Korin, Ilya Mashkov and Pyotr Konchalovsky, Alexander Deineka and Yury Pimenov, Vera Mukhina and Matvei Manizer, Arkady Plastov and Alexander Osmerkin, Vladimir Favorsky and Alexei Kravchenko, Robert Falk and Alexander Shevchenko, Nikolai Andreev and Vladimir Babichev, Sarra Lebedeva and Ivan Shadr, Andrei Goncharov and Pavel Kuznetsov, David Shterenberg and Alexander Drevin, Vladimir Istomin and Ignaty Nivinsky, Nikolai Andreev and Sergei Merkurov, Dmitry Mitrokhin and Aristarkh Lentulov, Vadim Ryndin and Fyodor Fyodorovsky, Yevgeny Kibrik and Alexander Matveev, Dmitry Moor and Mikhail Cheremnykh, Nikolai Kuzmin and Tatyana Mavrina, Alexander Tyshler and Yekaterina Zernova, Alexander Labas and Pavel Kuznetsov… Such were the artists who formed the core of the Moscow branch of the Union of Artists.
Pavel KORIN. Portrait of Konstantin Igumnov. 1941-1943
Oil on canvas. 160 × 186 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
In the same period Leningrad saw the birth of its own chapter of the Union of Artists, which united masters as diverse as Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin and Pavel Filonov, Natan Altman and Vladimir Lebedev, Anna Ostroumova-Lebedeva and Eugene Lanceray, Nikolai Tyrsa, Valentin Kurdov and Yevgeny Charushin, Ilya Chashnik and Nikolai Suetin, Nikolai Dormidontov and Alexander Samokhvalov, Vladimir Sherwood and Isaak Brodsky, Ivan Bilibin and Vladimir Konashevich, Arkady Rylov and Alexei Pakhomov, Yelena Danko and Boris Prorokov…
Pavel FILONOV. Heads. Symphony 4 by Shostakovich. 1919
Oil on canvas. 98.7 × 67 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
These art world luminaries chronicled the prewar and war years, leaving behind a visual record memorable for the diversity of its themes and stories, as well as the comprehensive scope of its coverage of their era, rich as it was in dramatic and exhilarating events, suffering and courage, irreplaceable loss and surprising discoveries, heroic accomplishments and victories. These artists built architectural landmarks and monumental ensembles of buildings, decorated metro stations, Palaces of Culture, and public and governmental buildings with mosaic and murals, as well as creating dozens of paintings which became classics of Soviet multi-ethnic visual art and benchmarks for their era: all are now part of our country’s treasured legacy.
Their works both mythologized the era and exposed the harsh truths of life. Their overpowering creative individuality did not vanish in the cruelty of the times through which they lived, rather they became worthy models of artistic commitment and of belief in the spiritual mission of art. They neither wasted their talents nor adapted to their ever-changing, although essentially unchangeable circumstances, working in accordance with the “laws that they recognized for themselves”.
Those founding fathers (and mothers) of the Moscow and Leningrad chapters of the Union of Artists were succeeded by such distinguished figures as Viktor Popkov, Pavel Nikonov, Nikolai Andronov, Gely Korzhev, Eduard Bragovsky, Andrei Vasnetsov, the brothers Smolin, Viktor Elkonin, Pyotr Ossovsky, Igor Obrosov, Vladimir Stozharov, Igor Pchelnikov, Eleonora Zharenova, Boris Nemensky, Mai Miturich, Boris Talberg, Dmitry Zhilinsky, Nikolai Romadin, Yefrem Zverkov, Georgy Nissky, Dmitry Mochalsky, Valentin Sidorov, Pavel Bondarenko, Vasily Nechitailo, Semyon Chuikov, Yury Korolev, Klavdia Tutevol, Pyotr Suzdaltsev, Ivan Sorokin, Oleg Filatchev, Igor Popov, Anatoly Slepyshev, Yevgeny Strulev, Andrei Surovtsev, Vladimir Pereyaslavets, Konstantin Rozhdestvensky, Yury Kugach, Stepan Dudnik, Konstantin Maximov, Nikolai Tomsky, Yekaterina Belashova, lulian Rukavishnikov, Vladimir and Viktor Tsigal, Yury Orekhov, Oleg Komov, Vladimir Orlovsky, Vladimir Vakhrameev, Viktor Dumanyan, Yury Chernov, Vyacheslav Klykov, Lev Kerbel, Yevgeny Vuchetich, Oleg Kirukhin, Leonid Berlin, Andrei Marts, Adelaida Pologova, Daniel Mitliansky, Vladimir Shcherbakov, Vladimir Telin, Vyacheslav Zabelin, Nikolai Ponomarev, the “Kukryniksy”, Boris Yefimov, Dementy Shmarinov, Georgy and Orest Vereisky, Gury Zakharov, lllarion Golitsyn, lvan Bruni, Vitaly Goryaev, Yevgeny Kibrik, Anatoly Nikich, Dmitry Bisti, Ivan Kalita, Andrei Tutunov, Oscar Kacharov, Max Birshtein, Boris Uspensky, Oleg Savostuk, Miron Lukianov, Yevgeny Kazhdan, Yefim Tsvik, Valery Surianov, Yury Ivanov, Mikhail Kurilko-Ryumin, Simon Virsaladze, Valery Levental, Boris Messerer, Alexander Vasiliev, Tatyana Selvinskaya, Rafail and Viktor Volsky, German Cheremushkin…
Every one of these artists deserves more detailed, individual appraisal, just as their works deserve solid professional analysis, since all of them contributed to the strengthening of the foundation of Russian art, supporting the existence of and developing the best traditions of Russian culture. The same can undoubtedly be said about the artists from Leningrad/ St. Petersburg, who have undoubtedly enriched the artistic vocabulary of Russian art in the same way.
Every bit as good as their Moscow colleagues, the Leningrad artists introduced into the rich palette of Russian art new impulses and a spirit of healthy creative competition. Only the most noteworthy artists from the “City of Peter” can be mentioned: Yevsei Moiseenko, Andrei Mylnikov, Vyacheslav Zagonek, Andrei Yakovlev, Boris Ugarov, Iosif Serebryany, Anatoly Levitin, Timofei Ksenofontov, Yaroslav Krestovsky, Vitaly Tulenev, Vladimir Reikhet, Garry Frenz, Pyotr Fomin, Yury Smolnikov, Yury Mezhirov, Sergei Chepik, Sergei Repin, Vladimir Petrov-Maslakov, Yury Kaluta, Alexander Stolbov, Vladimir Pesikov, Vladimir Proshkin, Mikhail Devyatov, Alexei Talashchuk, Vasily Stamov, Mikhail Anikyshin, Boris Svinin, Yury Lokhovinin, Valentina Rybalko, Vladimir Gorevoi, Albert Charkin, Vladimir Troyanovsky, Andrei Khaustov, Vladimir Vetrogonsky, Viktor Vilner, Valentin Traugot, Andrei Pakhomov, Yury Smolnikov, Sofia Yunovich, Eduard Kochergin…
Such long lists of artists are cited not to indicate which city has the larger artists’ association but to put on record the high, sometimes very high level of professional culture achieved by exponents of the St. Petersburg and Moscow schools. It is neither possible artists* associations remained a stronghold, or rather an outpost of the nation,s visual art, defending artists’ interests and creating the sort of environment that was necessary for creative work.
Much credit is due to all those who, despite a worsening economic situation, contributed to the preservation of the organization as a single entity, along with its principle of self-government, funds available to the artists’ associations, and the tradition of appointing their leaders through election.
More than half a century has passed between the post-war period of the late 1940s and today; visual art, in parallel with the nation itself, has passed through ups and downs, joy and disappointment, sensitively reacting to socio-political problems and perestroika in the public consciousness. As was the case with previous difficult periods, this one was conducive to the creation of artistically and historically important works, compositions with a narrative, thematic thrust, and images captured in sculptures and drawings that were distinguished by their depth and spirituality of worldview. These works were in harmony with the moral ideals and creative explorations of the practitioners of all art forms, including those from overlapping spheres of creative work - novelists and
poets, playwrights and filmmakers, composers and musical performers. This was only natural, given that all these people were bound together by a common destiny and a sense of their Motherland’s past and present.
The complex process of transformation of art continues - sometimes without haste, sometimes at an extreme pace. Thus, utopian Socialist Realism was replaced with the “Severe Style”, and open dialogue with viewers by metaphorical self-expression. Over the last half century all forms and genres of literature and art have produced new landmark works; young leaders of spiritual transformation have found their places; vital artistic trends made themselves felt; inner shackles fell away, and the irresistible will to freedom of expression and self-improvement emerged. The times neither became “out of joint”, nor was the continuity of generations and traditions broken - on the contrary, the relevant creative concepts and principles returned to their primal forms of interaction, discarding indirect forms that had long been cultivated, and evolving irrespective of political climate or possible personal advantage. After the 1990s, a period of relative social stagnation and confusion when ideological, spiritual and aesthetic principles were under pressure, when society was attacked by wild and destructive forces during its radical transition from one historical formation to another, not yet rationalized and unpredictable: at exactly such times, Russian culture has not only not surrendered but actually taken a step towards the future, with confidence and optimism, having reappraised well-established canons and time-worn, dated rules and stereotypes. The reform of the entire art scene proceeded not in a top-down manner but from within; this is one of the characteristics of the creative mentality of the best Russian artists - they have the utmost resilience of true talent, and are capable of overcoming adverse circumstances rather than simply adapting to them. They can easily relinquish something, they can question, re-consider and re-evaluate while nevertheless remaining loyal to their principles and artistic inspiration.
Life itself dictates new ideas and new forms, and therefore introduces new personalities. Russian art is open to the influences and discoveries of international culture. As a result, the Russian artistic scene welcomes talented photo-realists, minimalists and video artists, performance artists, kinetic and installation artists - but at the core of all their projects, just as it was at the initial development stage of the most celebrated Russian avant-garde art, there has always been a solid professional basis - the realist school of art, based on the classic academic traditions of Russian and international visual art.
Today, members of the Moscow and St. Petersburg chapters of the Union capably continue their creative work, taking up the baton from their predecessors. Proud of the achievements of contemporary Russian art, we can point to outstanding artists affiliated with the Moscow and St. Petersburg schools who possess consummate skill, an inimitable artistic personality, and an original artistic vocabulary and style. They include such unique figures as Viktor Ivanov, the brothers Sergei and Alexei Tkachev, Tair Salakhov, Zurab Tsereteli, Alexander Burganov, Nikolai Nikogosyan, Dmitry Zhilinsky, Andrei Gorsky, Alexei Shmarinov, Anatoly Levitin, Grigory Yastrebenetsky, Anatoly Bichukov, Vladimir Pesikov, Albert Charkin, Eduard Kochergin, Valery Levental, Vadim Kulakov, Ivan Lubennikov, Anatoly Komelin, Vladimir Soskiev, Gennady Pravorotov, Mikhail Smirnov, Leonid Baranov, Viktor Korneev, Leonid Berlin, Mikhail Dronov, Dmitry Tugarinov, Alexander Belashov, Oleg Yanovsky, Nikolai Voronkov, Mikhail Avvakumov, Anatoly Borodin, Boris and Sergei Alimov, Vasily Dranishnikov Igor Makarevich, Andrei Kostin, Sergei Kharlamov, Valery Traugot, Francisco Infante-Arana, Alexander Ponomarev...
In this list, far from complete though it may be, of the leading lights we have deliberately avoided dividing artists into groups that might reflect their affiliation with either the Moscow or St. Petersburg chapters, because all of them are entrenched in the ideals of their times: thus, they should be treated with equal respect and honesty. Shoulder-to-shoulder with the remarkable talents of the older generation that has been mentioned, a wonderful new cohort of artists, one which learned from their teachers* experience and are now making a case for themselves energetically and compellingly, is now artistically active. Among them are painters such as Oleg Vukolov, Yevgeny Rastorguev, Anatoly Moseichuk, Erik Bulatov, Natalya Nesterova, Tatiana Nazarenko, Ivan Lubennikov, Yevgeny Maximov, Viktor Glukhov, Vasily Bubnov, Anatoly Slepyshev, Viktor Kalinin, Vladimir Lukka, Anatoly Lubavin, Sergei Prisekin, Vasily Nesterenko, Sergei Ossovsky, Garif Basyrov, Oleg Ardimasov, Raisa Lebedeva, Olga Bulgakova, Alexander Sitnikov, Nikolai Kolupaev, Irina Glukhova, Nikolai Borovskoi, Sergei Sherstuk, Sergei Geta, Olga Grechina, Dmitry Belukin, Nikolai Zheltushko, Sergei Gavrilyachenko, Sergei Smirnov, Viktor Rusanov, Igor Orlov, Vyacheslav Stekolshchikov, Mlada Finogenova, Irina Bolshakova, Yekaterina Chernyshova, Vyacheslav Mikhailov, Nikolai Blagovolin, Nikolai Plastov, Alexander Bystrov, Alexei Sukhovetsky, Oleg Loshakov, Alexander Petrov, Xenia Nechitailo, Konstantin Khudiakov, Vladimir Brainin, Andrei Volkov, Yury Orlov, Vladimir Lubarov, Dmitry Ikonnikov, Dmitry Prigov, Nikolai Zaitsev, Yevgeny Romashko, Konstantin Petrov, Valery Polotnov, Vladimir Proshkin, Gennady Pasko, Larisa Kirillova, Alexei Talashchuk, Alexander Stolbov, Sergei Chepik, Vladimir Surovtsev, Vladimir Petrov-Maslakov, Sergei Repin, Zaven Arshakuni, Andrei Sklyarenko…
Sculptors who deserve mention include Alexander Rukavishnikov, Georgy Frangulyan, Valery Evdokimov, Mikhail Pereyaslavets, Andrei Kovalchuk, Vladimir Gorevoi, Ivan Kazansky, Yury Lokhovinin, Andrei Khaustov, Salavat Shcherbakov, Andrei Balashov, Dmitry Tugarinov, Vadim Troyanovsky, Alexander Tsigal, Gennady Krasnoshlykov, Vladimir Koshelev… As for graphic artists, among the most noteworthy are Gennady Yefimochkin, Vyacheslav Zhelvakov, Vyacheslav Kubarev, Valery Goshko, Dmitry Sandzhiev, Yevgeny Matsievsky, Alexander Suvorov, Sergei
Miklashevich, Anatoly Yakushin, Oleg Yakhnin, Andrei Pakhomov, Andrei Kharshak, Nikolai Ustinov, Alexander Yastrebenetsky, Olga Rudakova, Alexander Teslik, Sergei Smirnov, Dmitry Nadezhin, Andrei Babykin, Klim Lee, Sergei Andriaka, Anatoly Smirnov, Latif Kazbekov, Boris Vasiliev, Pyotr and Pavel Tatarintsev, Anatoly Gennadiev…
Their works have enriched Russia’s multi-ethnic artistic treasury - with paintings, sculptures, drawings, works of applied arts and design - and broadened the horizons of creativity, as well as the concepts of tradition and innovation and the knowledge of the potential of true realism. The Moscow and St. Petersburg artists’ associations have always been, and remain leaders of the Russian cultural scene, the torchbearers of spiritual and humanistic ideals and patriotism. Talent and hard work, inspiration and craftsmanship, commitment to the calling of the artist, and a sense of intimate connection with what is going on in the Motherland, in the past, present and future of one’s nation, ensure that the creations of these artists from the two capitals of great and indivisible Russia are perennially relevant and in demand.
Among the masters of the applied arts and design who have made a major contribution to the aestheticization of the environment are such names as Anna Leporskaya, Konstantin Rozhdestvensky, Mikhail Ladur, Valeriya Maloletkova, Lilya Levshunova, Lyubov Savelieva, Margarita Voskresenskaya, Inna Olevskaya, Alexei Vorobievsky, Dmitry Shushkanov and Lyudmila Shushkanova, Natalya Zhovtis, Antonina Stepanova, Suren Malian, Yevgeny Rozemblum, Olga Pobedova…
Much credit is also due to the brilliant theorists and critics for their weighty contribution to the country’s chronicle of artistic life, as well as to art scholarship and professional training: their number includes Nikolai Punin, Alexei Sidorov, Vladimir Alpatov, Yury Kolpinsky, Dmitry Sarabianov, Gleb Pospelov, Yury Sternin, Viktor Vanslov, Vladimir Lenyashin, Dmitry Shvidkovsky, Vladislav Zimenko, Nikita Voronov, Yelena Murina, Vadim Polevoi, Vladimir and Alexei Tolstoy, Alexander Kamensky, Vladimir Kostin, Vasily Pushkarev, Vitaly Manin, Yury Molok, Lydia Akimova, Lyudmila Belogorlova, Ella Gankina, Alexander Morozov, Galina Konechna, Oleg Butkevich, Yury Nekhoroshev, Leonid and Yelena Zinger, Mikhail German, Erast Kyznetsov, Olga Roitenberg, Muda Yablonskaya, Nina Dmitrieva, Ivan Kuptsov, Yury Gerchuk, Alexander Yakimovich, Mikhail Kiselev, Igor Svetlov, Valery Turchin, Vladimir Gusev, Vladimir Gulyaev, Vladimir Sysoev, Tatyana Ilyina, Mikhail Lazarev, Alexander Borovsky, William Meiland, Mikhail Sokolov, Alexander Sidorov, Irina Karasik, Lyudmila Marz, Maria Burganova, Olga Sviblova, Vitaly Patsukov, Tatyana Yurieva, Sergei Orlov, as well as a galaxy of talented authors of books and articles devoted to modern Russian culture.
All these acclaimed visual artists from Moscow and St. Petersburg absorbed the huge historical experience of previous generations of artists, starting from the “Peredvizhniki” (Wanderers), the Union of Russian Artists, “World of Art”, “The Blue Rose”, “Jack of Diamonds”, “The Donkey,s Tale”, “Group 13”, “Makovetsv, “Union of the Youth”, “Four Arts”, KRUG, OST, and AKhRR (Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia), and continued what had already been started in the second half of the 19th century - the consolidation of Russia*s greatest cultural figures, outstanding and inimitable talents whose mission consists in spiritually educating, and morally and aesthetically transforming, the public’s consciousness, supporting gifted young people, and looking into the future.
In the historical perspective, 85 years is but a short spell, but the significance of any given period is determined by memories of it held not only by participants and witnesses of the events but by their descendants too. We believe that the artistic legacy sanctified by the anniversary; the professional experience; the achievements and discoveries of these outstanding visual artists - painters and sculptors, graphic artists and scenographers, applied artists and art scholars - is difficult to overestimate. Their contribution to Russian culture is immeasurable and at the same time extremely important within a global cultural context.
Oil on canvas. 56 × 45 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
Oil on canvas. 163 × 143 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
Bronze. Tretyakov Gallery
Oil on canvas. 86.5 × 69.5 cm. Mashkov Volgograd Fine Arts Museum
Oil on canvas. 205 × 130 cm. Russian Museum
Tempera on hardboard
Oil on canvas. 75 × 50 cm. Property of the artist
Black watercolour and charcoal on paper. 35 × 28.5 cm. Illustration for Lev Tolstoy's novel "War and Peace". Tretyakov Gallery
Illustrations to A.S. Pushkin’s tragedy "The Stone Guest". Woodcut. 15.4 × 15.3 cm
Oil on canvas
Oil on canvas. 99.5 × 130 cm. MMOMA
Oil on canvas. 169 × 234 cm. Property of the artist
Oil on canvas. 89.5 × 70 сm
Bronze. Photograph: Stanislav Tikhomirov/TASS
From the “War Years” Series. Oil on canvas. 200 × 150 cm. Russian Museum
Oil on canvas. 84 × 120 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
Oil on canvas. 100 × 100 cm
Оil on canvas
Tempera on wood. 120 × 110 cm. Novosibirsk Art Museum
Oil on canvas. 116 × 100 cm
Oil on canvas. 200 × 250 cm. ММОМА
Watercolour on paper. 25 × 25 cm
Oil on canvas. 90 × 100 cm
Oil on canvas. 90 × 75cm
Stone. Height – 35 cm
Bronze. 80 × 60 × 50 cm. Private collection, Paris
Oil on canvas. 150 × 180 cm. Museum of Avant-Garde Mastery
Oil on canvas. 180 × 300 cm. Arbat-Prestizh Museum, Moscow
Oil on canvas. 145 × 160 cm
Oil on canvas. 125 × 95 cm
Oil on canvas. 150 × 130 cm
Oil on canvas. 100 × 100 cm
32 × 64 cm. Auto-lithography
Linocut. 69 × 66 cm
Oil and acrylic on canvas. 300 × 200 cm
Oil on canvas. 120 × 70 cm
Oli on canvas. 210 × 150 cm
Tempera on canvas. 120 × 80 cm
Oil on canvas. 130 × 155 cm
Oil on canvas. 150 × 110 cm
Paper, artist’s technique. 120 × 80 cm