"I love coming into this haven..."

Elena Levina

Article: 
ROBERT FALK (1886 - 1958)
Magazine issue: 
#4 2020 (69)

Elena Borisovna Levina chose as the title for her recollections the line from a poem by Ksenia Nekrasova[1], “I love coming into this refuge,” since no-one else had so accurately and poetically captured the special atmosphere of the studio where Robert Falk and his wife, Angelina Vasilyevna, lived. Nekrasova was friends with the couple and visited their home often. There, she found refuge and became the life model for one of Falk’s finest portraits.

Eva Levina-Rozengolts. In exile in Podtesovo (Yeniseysky district of the Krasnoyarsk region). 1951
Eva Levina-Rozengolts. In exile in Podtesovo (Yeniseysky district of the Krasnoyarsk region). 1951
Photograph. Private archive, Moscow

Levina’s memories of Falk were published in more extended format in the catalogue accompanying an exhibition of Falk’s work held at the Galeev Gallery in 2012[2]. The text below is supplemented by additional facts and examines in greater detail the legendary home exhibitions of Falk’s works, as well as his relationship with his students, especially with Eva Pavlovna Levina-Rozengolts, mother of the author of these recollections. After studying at VKHUTEMAS, Levina-Rozengolts remained in contact with Falk throughout his life. “Robert Rafailovich and Eva were not just student and teacher, they were friends. The friendship was especially strengthened in more recent years,”[3] recalls Angelina Shchekin-Krotova. Eva Levina-Rozengolts (1898-1975) is a wonderful artist, one highly valued by Falk, although her deep, sensitive art has not yet been fully understood more widely. Born in Vitebsk, while attending the gymnasium, she took classes at the artist Yehuda Pen’s School of Painting and Drawing. In the first years after the revolution, she came to Moscow, and in 1921, after short periods of study with sculptors Stepan Erzya and Anna Golubkina, Eva became a student at the department of painting at VKHUTEMAS, from which she graduated in 1925 (Robert Falk studio) with the title of artist of the 1st degree. In the 1930s, she earned a living by working in the textile industry and, in the late 1930s and 1940s, she worked in the copy studio at the Moscow Association of Artists. Her fate from that time onwards took a more dramatic turn. In 1949, she was arrested and exiled to Krasnoyarsk Krai. The reason for her arrest was that her brother, Arkady Rozengolts, People’s Commissar for Foreign Trade of the USSR, was, in 1938, after the notorious trial of the Bloc of Rightists and Trotskyites, executed as an enemy of the people. Levina-Rozengolts’ arrest and exile to Krasnoyarsk Krai triggered a deep inner transformation. As Eva herself believed, it was these events that, “made her an artist”.

As the art critic Vera Shalabayeva4, a close friend of the artist, recalls, “Falk naturally played a significant role in the fate of Levina-Rozengolts. One may be certain that Falk remained a teacher to her until his very last days because even when Eva ended up in exile <...> Falk always took some part in her life: <...> he took care of her daughter <...> Then, after I met Eva, I learned that he, Falk, had sent her his work, a painting, while she was in exile. You know, that is such a huge human gesture <... > on his part.

It was a desire to help, so that she would not forget about art while she was there.”[5]

Having returned to Moscow in 1956 after being rehabilitated, Eva began to work with Indian ink (brush and pen) and, later, with pastels. The drawings formed extensive cycles: “Trees”, “People”, “Sky”, “Frescoes”, etc. Falk, who had nourished the very earliest stage of this creative transformation, sensed and appreciated the genuine and essential innovation inherent in her work of the 1950s, which led into the mature period of her creative life. Falk’s lessons and his support and recognition of the seriousness of Eva’s search after all she had experienced undoubtedly helped Levina-Rozengolts find her own path in art, always remaining true to herself.

Yulia Didenko

  1. More information about Nekrasova and Falk's portrait of her can be found in the recollections by A.V. Shchekin-Krotova “Robert Falk. ‘Meet My Kind of People’” in the present edition.
  2. Levina E.B. Gelya and Falk // Robert Rafailovich Falk, 1886-1958. Works on paper. Moscow, 2012. Pp. 10-45.
  3. Shchekin-Krotova, A.V. Speech given at an evening dedicated to the memory of E.P. Levina-Rozengolts and an exhibition of her work. 11th January 1978. Transcript of a recording. Private archive, Moscow. Online: http://www.museumart.ru/art/collection/sfera/f_6g-3z57/f_84ysbk/a_84yu8g.html
  4. V.N. Shalabayeva (1923-2014), employee of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts and a leading specialist in the work of artist A.V. Shevchenko.
  5. From an unpublished conversation between V.N. Shalabayeva and D.B. Sporov. May 24, 2003. The audio recording is stored at the Oral History Department at Moscow University Library. With thanks to the interviewer and record master for permission to use this fragment of the conversation.

 

I consider myself very lucky in life to have been acquainted with Robert Rafailovich Falk. It was thanks to my mother, Eva Rozengolts, that I met Falk. My mother was a student of his at VKHUTEMAS in the 1920s and held him in high regard, both as artist and teacher. Now, I feel as if I must have known his name my whole life, nonetheless, I distinctly remember the moment when my mother turned to my father and said[1], “Falk has arrived”. They looked at each other and shrugged. That was in 1937. My mother’s two brothers had both been arrested and one had been shot. My mother saw to it that his daughters, my cousins, came to live with us. At that time, she was sacked from her job and was suffering for lack of contact with other people. It was at this time, when things were at their worst, that Falk came to see us. That was when I saw him for the first time. As a child, I loved to draw and my mother suggested that I show Falk my drawings. He looked at them kindly and smiled. My mother asked him, “Should I teach her?” “No, that would spoil her talent.” I was so pleased that I would not have to sit at lessons.

Inside Falk's studio at the Pertsov House. 1974
Inside Falk's studio at the Pertsov House. 1974
Photograph. Aleksei Timofeev archive, Moscow

I remember when Falk returned after the evacuation. That was in 1943. My mother visited him often. She was very interested in the works he had brought back with him from Central Asia. She brought a piece back home with her once; it was a depiction of Samarkand, a square, and, in the distance, the Bibi-Khanym mosque[2] and the faded figure of a woman on a gold background. The sky was greyish blue, not bright blue, not laundry blue, and still, you could feel the dust of Asia and the burning heat in the air. It was a wonderful gouache.

Falk gave my mother the drawing to keep with her at home, but my mother went out and showed it to her friends that evening. When she returned home and opened the folder, the painting was missing. Terribly anxious, she rushed to retrace her steps and spotted the painting being driven by the wind along the curb. It was autumn, there was a light drizzle, and the trolleybus would pass by at any moment. ...She made a grab for the picture and saved it. Of course, the next day, she went straight back to Falk to return the painting.

He was not at all angry with her and even suggested that she keep it or choose another. But my mother could not accept and said regretfully, “I shall never borrow anything ever again."

Then, in August 1949, my mother was arrested. When Falk learned of her arrest, he thought instantly of my mother's artwork and asked me to bring him everything that had been left unsealed after the search of her room. I managed to retrieve a large canvas, the triple portrait “Old Folks"[3], her graduation piece, which she had painted in Falk's studio at VKHUTEMAS. My fellow-student friends helped me to carry the picture. I remember when we arrived, no one was at home and so we left the painting on the landing in front of the door, and there the work remained, in his workshop, until my mother returned. Falk showed the piece to people he thought might be interested, first and foremost, Aleksander Gabrichevsky[4]. Many years later, Gabrichevsky asked Shchekin-Krotova5 after the fate of the author of “Old Folks" and she put him in contact with my mother. Gabrichevsky was very taken with her work. He saw clearly what she was trying to do and what she was working on. He could see from her more recent paintings that she had transformed into a completely different artist. It meant a great deal to my mother to have the support and approval of such a serious art theorist as Gabrichevsky!

In those years, I visited Falk often. I always received a warm welcome, felt quite at home there and knew that I could pop in at any time without prior arrangement. Falk lived together with his wife, Angelina Shchekin-Krotova, on the fourth floor of the famous Pertsov House located at the corner of the Moskva River embankment and Soymonovsky Proezd, where the artists' studios were. He and his wife were very close. Shchekin-Krotova studied drawing in her youth, worked at the Centre for Children's Artistic Education and when she first saw Falk's works at an exhibition at the House of Writers in 1939, fell in love and could not take her eyes off them. That was how they first met and they have stayed together ever since. With time, Shchekin-Krotova began to look at art through Falk's eyes.

The studio was located in the attic of the house immediately under the roof and consisted of two spacious rooms: there were shelves with paintings and other mostly essential items, a wooden plank floor, a very high uneven ceiling supported by beams, and slanting windows but nothing superfluous... Anyone who visited felt at home. The place had such a wonderful atmosphere! Nekrasova writes,

“I love coming into this haven,
Under this roof, I forget my sorrows and strangeness".[6]

Every Sunday, at the studio, Falk would display his paintings. His acquaintances would come, and acquaintances of acquaintances, people interested in painting, theatre and literature, from all walks of life. Those who visited the studio were normal, modest-looking people and, for that time, they were also brave. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, just a handful would attend, five or even less and some came more than once. Falk would introduce his work. Shchekin-Krotova was always there and often assisted him. The showing usually began with recently completed pieces and landscapes occurred in the same mix with still-lifes and portraits.

The works were propped up, one behind the other, against a wall and arranged on an easel. The guests would sit on a bench positioned close to the easel with their backs to the window, from which the light would evenly illuminate the paintings. Falk was always interested in the audience's response; he needed to have direct contact with them; it was important to him to know how his art was being understood. These meetings took place in a calm, trusting atmosphere. Falk answered questions, commented on various themes and would reach for other individual pieces comparing one to another.

After the evacuation, Falk worked in the Crimea, Moldova, the Baltic states and, most importantly, in the Moscow region, of which he was so fond. From the second half of the 1940s and in the very last years of his life, Falk spent the summer to the north of Moscow at Khotkovo, Sofrino, 55th km, and Abramtsevo, where he stayed in the dachas of friends or rented a room mostly in small villages. It was here that Falk painted many of his landscapes and flowers. In winter, early spring and autumn, he would stay in Zagorsk (now Sergiev Posad) with the artist Tatiana Shevchenko (Tyutcheva)[7], where he painted his best landscapes. Shevchenko was a close friend of my mother, but they had a falling out, which lasted for several years. Despite being so deeply immersed in his work, Falk was very sensitive to others and attentive to people. Understanding how much both women needed one another, he did everything he could to help bring them back into contact. Shchekin-Krotova recounted that Falk undertook the last portrait of Gabrichevsky in order to distract him from anxious thoughts at a time when he was losing his sight.

The works from Zagorsk were particularly special to Falk. During a showing in the studio, when he looked at them, you could tell that he was pleased with them and loved them very much. I also remember with what immense joy he shared “Ficus"[8] and "Potatoes"[9], and still-lifes with an African sculpture and a lemon. Of the portraits, he was especially fond of “Ksenia Nekrasova,"[10] “Gabrichevsky," “Irina Glinka,"[11] and “Shura"[12] (at that time, wife to the artist Vasily Sitnikov[13]), and many others too numerous to list... The portraits would be observed and discussed for a long time. Falk often brought out the portrait of Shklovsky[14], who, the artist explained, was a difficult model because he became tired of sitting so quickly. The vibrant gaze and turn of Shklovsky's figure capture the model's unique character. Shklovsky himself did not much like the portrait, which is probably
why Falk was especially interested in the audience's opinion of this piece.

Falk took a very serious approach to portraiture and strove to make the very essence of his model visible on the canvas, and, as he said himself, he strove to capture “not the face, but the countenance." It made no difference to Falk whether a person was handsome or ugly, young or old. The most important thing was to be genuinely interested in the person, which meant that the artist had to understand them and find some connection. Before commencing work on a portrait, Falk would chat with the person for a long time, and might continue to ask them questions during a session. Usually, once a portrait was complete, Falk would remain friends with the model afterwards.

During a display of his works made in the Moscow region, he would turn both to his Moldovan and Central Asian paintings, sometimes pulling out watercolours for his audience to see, too. Then he would move on to the older pieces painted in France: Paris, Brittany, Normandy, Corsica, the portraits of a Breton man and woman, a true beauty in a blue hat, as well as other portraits of Parisian women, the artist Minchin, self-portraits, and a portrait of a mad old woman. He would tell his audience about these individuals. I especially liked the landscape “Farm in Brittany", which depicts houses and domestic animals against the backdrop of a dark forest. They called it “The Elka's15 Chickens". One fine day, Falk suggested that I have it with me at home for a while.

I was delighted. Unfortunately, though, rather than hang it on the wall straight away, I just propped it up on a small bookcase. Sometime later, Falk came to visit us and was upset when he saw how I had treated the painting. I was terribly ashamed and did not try and justify myself. Falk took the landscape away with him. With chagrin, I watched him leaving through the yard, his shoulders slightly stooped and carrying the painting. I was in fact very fond of it, I just had not found a moment to bang a nail into the wall. To this day, I can still feel the shame...

There is nothing showy or ostentatious about the Paris of Falk's paintings. He used to say that he would go into the outskirts of the city and paint the docks on some river, the barges, bridges, unfamiliar embankments and narrow streets. I only remember one of these paintings and it was the building of a famous store with a strip of bright vertical advertising.[16] When I first saw the painting, it made a powerful impression on me. “So, this is Paris!" Later, when I began to understand more, I fell in love with the discretion of ‘Falk's Paris', its silvery tonality and airy feeling. Usually, after the works of the French period, the audience viewed the landscapes of Samarkand and those from the “Knave of Diamonds" period, without exception “African"[17], “Paper Flowers", and others, which I do not remember. Works dating to the early 20th century included “Lisa in the Sun"[18] — a portrait of Falk's first wife Elizaveta Potekhina, “Birch,"[19] and landscapes from the Crimea.

As the years went on, it became more and more difficult for Falk to display his paintings in this setting and so, aside from Shchekin-Krotova, the time came when Jerzy Kucharski[20] became a regular assistant, which meant that Falk could sit comfortably at the table and drink tea or eat. Kucharski admired Falk's work tremendously. If someone did not understand the work being displayed or asked an inappropriate question, Kucharski would instantly consider that person quite stupid and incapable of understanding anything at all. Kucharski (nicknamed “Ezhik") was the only person to photograph Falk at that time and we are indebted to him for these images.

Each showing lasted for two hours. Close friends would stay behind afterwards drinking tea. The conversations that took place around the table touched on a wide variety of topics, but they were mostly about art. I was still quite young and there was much that I did not understand, but I remember some themes. Falk talked about both colour and rhythm. It was most easy for me to understand the reasoning around colour. I assumed that, in art, being able to feel colour was the most important thing. At the same, Falk said that in any artform, rhythm was the most important thing. Art is made up of rhythms. Rhythm is the essence of art. Falk would say that there are rhythms in colour, tonality and spots. The relationship between these rhythms, their mutual influence, lies at the essence of painting.

I often listened to conversations about the artist's eye, its nature and development. He used the words “faithful eye", “trained eye". To say that an artist had a “faithful eye" was the highest form of praise. Falk also said that most French artists had a naturally “trained eye". I do not know whether Falk gave all his students a “faithful eye", but I think those people who came to the studio to view his works, especially those who came more than once, myself included, developed a deeper, more sophisticated understanding of painting.

Whereas in the early days, certain works appealed to me most, over the years, my taste became more cultured. Falk used to say “to understand is the hardest part".

In the winter of 1950, I went to visit Falk and, while I was there, I complained that my comrades were all going to Leningrad over the holiday, but I could not go. When the time came to leave, Falk decided to walk me home. We sat down on a bench on Gogolevsky Boulevard and he advised me not to go to Leningrad and not to let it upset me, and even that it was a good thing I was unable to join my friends, that there would be time for all that. “Look around you, look at all this. I love watching people. You should try it, too, even here on the boulevard, just sit and think. It's soothing." And he added, “Look, I often look at people, at their faces. It's very interesting. You should try observing people too, calmly. You don't have to go away to see something new. You can spot all sorts of curious things right here." And then he went on to talk about his worries, that his friends had been arrested, that he was friends with Mikhoels, that he had worked in the Jewish theatre and lived abroad for a long time and so he, too, could easily be imprisoned. “So, don't go away..."

Falk was never one to complain, and here he was telling me all about his doubts and anxieties. I asked him, “Why did you decide to leave Paris?" He answered, “I had to leave to accompany ‘Valerik.'"[21] This gave him a reason to go. I think he wanted to return, because, prior to leaving for France, he was at a creative impasse. He needed a change of scenery. In France, he felt new light and, as he wrote then, “reattuned his eye." Falk showed a lot of the works he had brought back from France, much more than from the Knave of Diamonds period and earlier. Falk said that in anything you do, it is essential to concentrate, immerse yourself, give all of yourself, and then you will achieve results.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, despite official isolation, people were drawn to Falk's work and to the artist himself. These were mainly people of culture, among them well-known figures such as Ilya Ehren- burg[22], Dmitry Zhuravlev[23] and Heinrich Neuhaus[24], as well as others of all different ages, who were little-known but no less significant; there were Falk's students, former students and those he taught privately. And there was a circle of friends, among the younger generation, who loved his work. Of the artists who belonged to the Knave of Diamonds group, Falk was lifelong friends up to the very end with Aleksander Kuprin[25] and Vasily Rozhdestvensky[26].

Falk studied music from childhood. He loved Bach, Beethoven and Mozart and was going to become a pianist, but in the end was more drawn to painting. He often played Bach before starting work. It is no coincidence that he was friends with Heinrich Neuhaus, Sviatoslav Richter[27] and Anatoly Vedernikov.[28] When talking about painting, he often made comparisons with music and vice versa.

Richter had a special place in Falk's life, as he also painted. He would show Falk his drawings and consult with him. Falk thought very highly of Richter's work. He had a sketch of city roofs, in pastels hanging in his studio. Through Falk, Richter made friends with Anna Troyanovskaya[29] and, for many years, he used her home as a place to prepare for concerts. Falk had known Troyanovskaya since they were students at VKHUTEMAS. She was a voice coach as well as an artist. In the first half of the 1950s, Shchekin-Krotova, who had a soprano voice, began to have lessons with Troyanovskaya. She sang romances by Schubert, Schumann and Tchaikovsky, and Falk accompanied her.

Sometimes, Falk would sell a painting at one of the showings. Nazym Hikmet[30] was one of the first, although I do not remember which work he bought31. He clearly liked Falk a lot. Once, some friends and I set off to visit Hikmet and, along the way, we set ourselves the riddle of imagining what Hikmet's flat would be like. None of us guessed. We all assumed his home must be decorated in oriental style with traditional carpets, but, instead of carpets and daggers, we found the focal point in the apartment taken up with freshly planed bookshelves. Falk enjoyed it.

And after 1953, at the onset of the thaw, it became easier to breathe and people became interested in previously censored art. A lot of people started visiting Falk's studio and this irritated the concierge, who sat at the entrance. To appease her, Kuprin, Falk's neigh bour, suggested that the guests state their names as they entered. Fresh faces began to appear and, at this time, Falk befriended Erik Bulatov32, then a student, and he too began to help him at the studio showings.

In 1956, Shchekin-Krotova's father, Vasily Shchekin-Krotov, came to visit on his return from exile.33 Tall, swarthy, with a fine, noble-looking face, he was dressed in a linen Russian-style shirt. He looked the perfect agronomist. They talked for a long time, sometimes playing chess. Falk made sketches and began to paint him. This must have been one of his last portraits.[34]

The circle of people interested in Falk's work noticeably widened. Anatoly Zverev[35] would visit, then a completely unknown figure. It was Rumnev[36] who introduced him. I noticed once when they were playing chess, or maybe it was checkers, that they both looked so deep in thought. Interrupting one another, Shchekin-Krotova and Falk would talk about Zverev, saying that he was more talented than any of the young people they had seen recently. In the very last years of Falk's life, the artist Nina Lurie37 was a frequent guest. She helped around the house, and assisted in preparing for what would be Falk's final exhibition.

Making the acquaintance of the young art critic Dmitri Sarabianov[38] turned out to be a significant event in the showcasing of Falk's work. Sarabianov authored the introductory article for the catalogue of one of Falk's exhibitions organised by the Moscow Union of Artists in 1958.[39] It was from this time onwards that the artist began to be officially recognised. Sarabianov continued to study Falk's work, authoring two monographs[40], several articles and the prefaces to catalogues of many posthumous exhibitions. He also headed the publication of the catalogue raisonne devoted to Falk's paintings. [41]

Falk devoted the greater portion of his life to teaching. VKHUTEMAS students wanted to learn from him and winning a place in his workshop meant beating strong competition. On returning from Paris, however, he was deprived of the right to teach, declared a formalist and expelled from the State Academy of Artistic Sciences as well as the Moscow Union of Artists. Falk had no income and neither home nor studio. Moreover the entire country was shackled with fear. At this moment in Falk's life, the famous pilot Andrei Yumashev stepped in and played an important role.[42] Brave and intelligent, he had always enjoyed drawing as a child and had dreamed of becoming an artist, but turned to aviation instead. Falk and Yumashev met for the first time in Paris in 1936. Yumashev had always admired Falk's work and wanted to study with him. In the early spring of 1938, Yumashev invited Falk to his dacha in the Crimea. They spent almost the entire year together. They traveled around the Crimea, stayed in Alupka, and spent the whole autumn in Central Asia. They painted the same scenes, as well as each other, arranged still-life compositions and spent time in long discussion. Yumashev received a good training from Falk, and the year 1938 came to an end. No-one troubled Falk during this time. Perhaps the authorities had forgotten him, or perhaps it was Yumashev's influence that saved him from arrest. It was Yumashev that helped Falk secure the studio in the Pertsov House. Their friendship endured for Falk's entire life.

Falk always made time for his old VKHUTEMAS students; he perceived the individuality in each of them and kept in touch with them over the years. Falk asked after his students in letters to relatives sent from Paris and, on his return, Falk met up with almost all of them. They in turn valued their teacher highly. I sense Falk's influence in the works of his former students.

Their lives all turned out differently. Not all continued to paint; some went into teaching, others worked in the theatre. Only a handful stuck with painting and went on to exhibit their work, but none succumbed to the temptation of serving the official ideology via the visual arts.

As my mother was a student of Falk, she too was in the orbit of his attention. When Falk returned from Paris, he came to visit my mother. He was distressed to see that she was engaged in making copies and was afraid that this would ruin her eye as an artist, but she had no others means of earning a living. She painted commissions that she received from the copying workshop of the Moscow Association of Artists. I remember how embarrassed she looked standing in front of the first picture: a large, horizontal canvas depicting a charging cavalry, evidently lost as how to approach it. Then came copies from the works of Aleksander Gerasimov, the lives of the great Soviet leaders. These paintings were distributed among clubs and various institutions. They were very well-known. Only towards the end of the war did they begin to let her copy Levitan and Bogdanov-Belsky. My mother worked a lot with pastel. This troubled Falk, too. He thought pastel a dangerous material on account of its external beauty and ability to confuse the eye.

During the years that my mother spent in exile[43], Falk was profoundly concerned for her fate and made a lot of time for me; when I went to visit my mother once, to please her, he gave her a landscape as a gift, one he had painted in Sofrino. There was an inscription on the back, which read, “Dear Eva. I am sending you this work because it will fit into a suitcase, but I am certain we shall meet again soon, and then I will replace it with another, more appropriate. Yours affectionately, R. F.”

Returning home in 1956, my mother immediately set to work, but, by this time, she was drawing in ink, as there was no other material available, and besides, there was no space for anything else, due to the lack of a room. She needed to express all that she had experienced and she achieved this aim by working with new form. Falk understood what my mother was trying to do and he supported her in every way possible. In these first few drawings, everywhere he saw rhythm, rhythm, rhythm. “...It is perfect, strong, incredible. <...> Indeed, everything is permeated with rhythm. These rhythms are so expressive, so varied. One and the same forest screams, howls, dies and curses.”[44]

In 1958, Falk began to feel unwell and, soon becoming seriously ill, he was admitted to hospital. Everyone hoped that his health would recover. By that time, my mother had begun to draw people. Naturally, she wanted to show her work to Falk, but she was afraid it would wear him out, so she wrote him a letter. “Dear Robert Rafailovich, I so wish to see you. If you are interested in my bringing my work to show you and won't find it too tiring, then when may I come? Eva”. On the back, Falk replied in weak handwriting, “Dear Eva, come on Monday or Wednesday for 5-5:30. Looking forward to it. F[alk]. To Eve”.

Falk studied the drawings with interest. I do not remember my mother recounting this tale but Shchekin-Krotova, who was present at the same time, recalled, “Falk was so happy. It was just the beginning, a sketch in pen, but he said, ‘Great work, continue in this same vein because you are doing something huge, something very necessary in a universal sense."[45] Afterwards, once my mother had left, as Shchekin-Krotova writes, “Falk continued: ‘It is not so frightening to die when you know you are leaving something behind. No-one needs obedient students, students who do exactly what you do. There's nothing interesting in that. What you really need is a student you have nudged into doing something completely new, something different to you. And you need people to love and remember you, and then you will live on after death. I am so pleased that Eva showed me her work."[46]

My mother was completely bowled over that Falk had looked at her drawings despite being in such a critical condition and had considered her work to be of such great significance. This encounter with Falk gave my mother wings. She had spent so many years doing other work that the artist had almost died in her. She accepted Falk's words as a blessing and continued with her work. She never thought of holding an exhibition. She used to say, “Oh, how I miss Falk." The works, that my mother completed in the memorial days of Robert Falk, are inscribed on the reverse side with a dedication to him.

Nonetheless, Falk's desire to return to Russia was justified. No-one can say whether he would have survived the war if he had stayed in Paris, but the new artistic vision and experience he acquired there were enough to last a lifetime. With every passing year, he became a better artist. Aside from that, it was in Russia that he met Shchekin-Krotova, his guardian angel. Falk was not arrested or executed. The most important thing is that he achieved great clarity and fullness in his creative enquiries. Shchekin- Krotova always understood that Falk was a great artist. And after he passed away, she never fell into despair, but took upon herself the task of managing Falk's legacy. She did everything she possibly could to preserve his work and ensure that his paintings would be seen.

Preparation of the text and comments by Yulia Didenko

 

  1. Levin, Boris Mikhailovich (1899-1940), writer.
  2. Bibi-Khanym cathedral mosque in Samarkand (Uzbekistan), a 15th-century architectural monument.
  3. Painting by Levina-Rozen- golts, E.P., “Old Folks” (1925, oil on canvas). Now housed in the collection at the Tretyakov Gallery
  4. Aleksander Gabrichevsky (1891-1968), art critic, plastic arts theorist, translator, literary critic, son of the renowned bacteriologist Georgy Gabrichevsky. From the early 1950s onwards, one of Falk’s close friends.
  5. This refers to Angelina Shchekin-Krotova. See her memoirs in this issue: “Robert Falk. ‘Meet My Kind of People’”, “Robert Falk’s Self-Portraits”, and “The Late Still-Lifes of Robert Falk”.
  6. From the poem of Ksenia Nekrasova with a dedication to Robert Falk: “About the Artist” (1954); Cit. Nekrasova K.A. Sudba: “A Book of Poems” / comp. Rubinstein, L. Moscow.: Sovremennik, 1981. P.104.
  7. Shevchenko,T.N. (married to Tyutchev, 1901-1960), artist, sculptor of small forms, student of Favor- sky, V.A.
  8. The painting “Ficus” (1956) is currently held in the collection of the Tretyakov Gallery.
  9. The painting “Potatoes” is now housed in the collection of Igor Sanovich, Moscow.
  10. The painting “Portrait of the Poet Ksenia Nekrasova” (1950) is now housed in the Russian Museum, St. Petersburg. Ksenia Nekrasova (1912-1958), poet, was a frequent guest at Falk’s house from 1945.
  11. The painting “Snow White. (Portrait of Irina Glinka)" (1952) is housed in the National Gallery of Armenia, Yerevan. Glinka, Irina Glebovna (1931-2015), sculptor, memoirist, daughter of the poet Gleb Glinka, granddaughter of the philosopher Glinka-Volzhsky. Alexander Sergeyevich.
  12. Refers to the painting "Shura in Grey. (Portrait of Alexandra Chikova)" (1957), now housed in a private collection in St. Petersburg.
  13. Sitnikov, Vasily Yakovlevich (1915-1987), self- taught artist, representative of unofficial art.
  14. Painting by Robert Falk “Portrait of the Writer Viktor Shklovsky” (1948, oil on canvas), housed in the State Literary Museum in Moscow since 1981. Shklovsky, Viktor Borisovich (1893-1984), writer, literary theorist and critic, screenwriter, film critic.
  15. Elka was a family nickname of Elena Levina, the author of the memoirs.
  16. This refers to the painting “Urban Landscape with a Billboard (Au Bon Marche)” (1932-1933, Zaporozhye Regional Art Museum, Ukraine).
  17. The canvas “African (Circus Artist)” (1917, National Gallery of Armenia, Yerevan).
  18. “Lisa in the Sun” (1907), Museum of Fine Arts of the Republic of Tatarstan (Kazan).
  19. “Birch” (1907), private collection, Moscow.
  20. Kucharski, Georgy Stepanovich (Jerzy) (1926-2000), translator, musicologist. Author of photographs depicting Robert Falk taken in the 1950s. See the preamble by Yulia Didenko to Marina Prozorova’s memoirs “Robert Falk in My Life” in this edition.
  21. Valery Romanovich Falk (1916-1943), artist, son of Robert Falk by his first marriage with Elizaveta Potekhina. In 1933-1937, he lived with his father in Paris.
  22. Ilya Grigorievich Ehren- burg (1891-1967), poet, writer, publicist, translator.
  23. Dmitri Nikolaevich Zhuravlev (1900-1991), actor, reader, teacher.
  24. Heinrich Gustavovich Neuhaus (1888-1964), pianist, teacher.
  25. Aleksander Kuprin (18801960), artist, pedagogue, one of the founders of the Knave of Diamonds group, Falk’s neighbour in the Pertsov House (in 1939-1958).
  26. Vasily Rozhdestvensky (1884-1963), artist, one of the founders of the Knave of Diamonds group, Falk’s neighbour in the Pertsov House (in 1939-1958).
  27. Sviatoslav Teofilovich Richter (1915-1997), pianist, artist, friend of Robert Falk.
  28. Anatoly Ivanovich Vedernikov (1920-1993), pianist, teacher.
  29. Troyanovskaya, Anna Ivanovna (1885-1977).
  30. Hikmet, Nazim Ran (1902-1963), poet, writer, playwright, public figure.
  31. According to A.Shchekin- Krotova, Khikmet purchased from Falk the painting “Yakut Woman” (1951). The model for this commissioned portrait was the ballet dancer V.G. Lukina (born 1926). The current location of the painting is unknown.
  32. Bulatov, Erik Vladimirovich (born 1933), a non-conformist painter and graphic artist. In 1958, he graduated from the Surikov Art Institute in Moscow.
  33. Shchekin-Krotov, Vasily Nikolaevich (1886-1979), economist, agronomist. In the 1930s he was re-pressed, incarcerated for more than 20 years and later rehabilitated in 1953. He was buried near Karaganda.
  34. “Portrait of Vasily Shchekin-Krotov” (1956, oil on canvas), now kept in the Abramtsevo Museum-Reserve (Moscow Region).
  35. Zverev, Anatoly Timofeevich (1931-1986), artist, virtuoso draftsman.
  36. Rumnev, Aleksander Aleksandrovich (18991965), artist, choreographer, teacher, collector.
  37. Lurie, Nina-Maria Iosifovna (1909-1962).
  38. Sarabianov, Dmitri Vladimirovich (1923- 2013), Russian art historian, teacher, poet. Doctor of Art History, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences (1992).
  39. Sarabianov, D.V. [Introduction]// Exhibition of the Paintings by Robert Rafailovich Falk. Catalogue. Moscow Union of Soviet Artists. Moscow, 1958. Pp.3-7.
  40. Sarabianov, Dmitri. Robert Falk. Dresden, 1974; Sarabianov, Dmitri Vladimirovich. Paintings by Robert Rafailovich Falk // Sarabianov D.V., Didenko Yu.V. Paintings by Robert Falk. Complete Catalogue of Works. Moscow., 2006. Pp. 34-137.
  41. Didenko Yu.V. (comp.). Complete Catalogue of Paintings by R.R Falk // Sarabianov D.V., Didenko Yu.V. The Paintings of Robert Falk. Complete Catalogue of Works. Moscow. 2006. Pp. 139-803.
  42. Yumashev, Andrei Borisovich (1902-1988), test pilot, Hero of the Soviet Union, artist.
  43. During 1949-1954 in Kras- noyarsky Krai; 1954 - June 1956 in Karaganda.
  44. From a talk by Angelina Shchekin-Krotova at the memorial evening in honour of Eva Levina- Rozengolts held on January 11, 1978, at the Moscow House of Artists (11, Kuznetsky Most). Cit. from Eva Pavlovna Levina- Rozengolts (1898-1975): Complete Catalogue of Works / Comp. Levina, E.B. Moscow, 2008. P. 245. Autograph housed at the Russian Archive of Literature and Art (Fund 3018, Opus 2. Item 95).
  45. (Ibid.)
  46. (Ibid.)

Illustrations

Robert Falk at the exhibition of his paintings held in the apartment of Sviatoslav Richter. 1957
Robert Falk at the exhibition of his paintings held in the apartment of Sviatoslav Richter. 1957
Photo: Jerzy Kucharski. Jerzy Kucharski Archive, Moscow
Inside Falk's studio at the Pertsov House. 1974
Inside Falk's studio at the Pertsov House. 1974
Photograph Aleksei Timofeev. Archive, Moscow
Eva Levina-Rozengolts. Second half 1930s
Eva Levina-Rozengolts. Second half 1930s
Photograph. Private archive, Moscow
Robert Falk preparing to paint en plein air. On the left, N.T. Prozorova with his painting “Khotkov Monastery”. 1954
Robert Falk preparing to paint en plein air. On the left, N.T. Prozorova with his painting “Khotkov Monastery”. 1954
Khotkovo. Photo: Jerzy Kucharski. Jerzy Kucharski Archive, Moscow. First publication
EVA LEVINAROZENGOLTS. Old Folks. 1925
EVA LEVINAROZENGOLTS. Old Folks. 1925
Oil on canvas. 140.5 × 116.5 cm
© Tretyakov Gallery
ROBERT FALK. Golden Lot. Samarkand. 1943
ROBERT FALK. Golden Lot. Samarkand. 1943
Oil on canvas. 65 × 80 cm
© Tretyakov Gallery
Robert Falk at the dacha. 1954
Robert Falk at the dacha. 1954
Novo-Bykovo. Photograph by Jerzy Kucharski. Jerzy Kucharski Archive, Moscow
ROBERT FALK. Portrait of Angelina Shchekin-Krotova.
ROBERT FALK. Portrait of Angelina Shchekin-Krotova. 1951
Lead pencil, watercolour, whitewash on paper. 62 × 44 cm
© Novosibirsk State Art Museum
Robert Falk visiting Tatiana Shevchenko. 1954
Robert Falk visiting Tatiana Shevchenko. 1954. Zagorsk
Photograph. Private archive, Moscow
ROBERT FALK. Bird Cherry in a White Vase. Late 1940s
ROBERT FALK. Bird Cherry in a White Vase. Late 1940s
Gouache on paper. 46 × 58.5 cm
Private collection, Moscow. First publication
ROBERT FALK. Zagorsk. Sunny Day. 1955
ROBERT FALK. Zagorsk. Sunny Day. 1955
Oil on canvas. 64 × 80 cm
Vladimir Nekrasov Collection, Moscow
ROBERT FALK. A Landscape with an Elder Tree. 1954
ROBERT FALK. A Landscape with an Elder Tree. 1954
Oil on canvas. 90 × 70.4 cm
© Tretyakov Gallery
Robert Falk at the dacha of Natalya Strelchuk. 1954. Novo-Bykovo
Robert Falk at the dacha of Natalya Strelchuk. 1954. Novo-Bykovo
Photo by Jerzy Kucharski. J. Kucharski Archive, Moscow. Published for the first time
ROBERT FALK. Crimean Landscape.1915
ROBERT FALK. Crimean Landscape. 1915
Oil on canvas. 98.5 × 103.7 сm
© Tretyakov Gallery
ROBERT FALK. Farm in Brittany. 1934
ROBERT FALK. Farm in Brittany. 1934
Oil on canvas. 54 × 80 cm
Private collection, Moscow
ROBERT FALK. Three Trees. Seine Embankment. 1936
ROBERT FALK. Three Trees. Seine Embankment. 1936
Oil on canvas. 65 × 80,7 cm
© Russian Museum
ROBERT FALK. Landscape with a Barn. 1948
ROBERT FALK. Landscape with a Barn. 1948
Oil on cardboard. 35 × 52 cm
Private collection, Moscow
Reverse side of Falk’s painting “Landscape with a Barn” (1948) with the author’s inscription to Eva Levina-Rozengolts (dated 1954)
Reverse side of Falk’s painting “Landscape with a Barn” (1948) with the author’s inscription to Eva Levina-Rozengolts (dated 1954)
Private collection, Moscow
Robert Falk at work. 1938. Crimea
Robert Falk at work. 1938. Crimea
Photo: Andrei Yumashev. Private archive, Moscow. First publication
Note from Eva Levina-Rozengolts to Robert Falk, while he was in hospital, with his response on the reverse. 1958
Note from Eva Levina-Rozengolts to Robert Falk, while he was in hospital, with his response on the reverse. 1958
© Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts Manuscripts Department
EVA LEVINA-ROZENGOLTS. From the cycle “Trees”. Sheet 2. 1956-1957
EVA LEVINA-ROZENGOLTS. From the cycle “Trees”. Sheet 2. 1956-1957
Black ink, brush, pen on paper. 27.8 × 40.7 cm
© Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts
EVA LEVINA-ROZENGOLTS. From the cycle “People. (Rembrandt series)” Sheet 11 (Recumbent). 1958
EVA LEVINA-ROZENGOLTS. From the cycle “People. (Rembrandt series)” Sheet 11 (Recumbent). 1958
Black ink, pen on paper. 21.4 × 25.7 cm
© Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts
EVA LEVINA-ROZENGOLTS. From the cycle “People (Rembrandt series)” Sheet 42. 1960
EVA LEVINA-ROZENGOLTS. From the cycle “People (Rembrandt series)” Sheet 42. 1960
Black ink, brush, pen on paper. 26 × 28.9 cm
© Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts
EVA LEVINA-ROZENGOLTS. From the cycle “People (Rembrandt series)” Sheet 24. 1958
EVA LEVINA-ROZENGOLTS. From the cycle “People (Rembrandt series)” Sheet 24. 1958
Black ink, pen on paper. 28.7 × 39.8 cm
© Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts
EVA LEVINA-ROZENGOLTS. From the cycle “Sky”. Sheet 8 (“The Clouds”). 1961
EVA LEVINA-ROZENGOLTS. From the cycle “Sky”. Sheet 8 (“The Clouds”). 1961
Black ink, brush, pen on paper. 40.8 × 36.4 cm
© Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts

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