ON THE 200TH ANNIVERSARY OF FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY
"An Endless Dialogue" Ernst Neizvestny’s Illustrations to Fyodor Dostoevsky’s "Crime and Punishment"
#4 2020 (73)
Although Ernst Neizvestny is something of a symbol of our national independent art, it would seem appropriate to look back at some of the highlights of his biography. Born in 1925, Neizvestny was part of the generation destined for conscription and dispatch to the front line at the age of 18. War was undoubtedly a formative existential experience for him: joining the conflict as a private in the Airborne Division in 1943, he was very heavily wounded and even counted as dead. After the war, it took him several years to recover his health. Later, he studied - for about two years at the Academy of Fine Arts in Riga, and then at the Surikov Institute in Moscow. In 1955, Neizvestny joined the sculpture section of the Moscow branch of the Union of Artists of the USSR and, in 1957, participated in the Festival of Youth and Students. Even when Neizvestny was still a student, he was awarded prizes for his works, with state museums purchasing some of his pieces. He often took part in exhibitions and his career as a Soviet sculptor appeared to be off to a good start. However, when he was still a student, he began to have both artistic and ideological “differences with the system of Socialist Realism”. These differences were typical for students who were former soldiers: although many were Communist Party members, their extreme wartime experiences required special means of expression outside the mainstream of officially approved art.