Simkha Simkhovitch

Simkha Simkhovitch,”Fishermen”, 1948, Pencil, Watercolor and Gouache on Paper on Board, 73.3 x 45.7 cm, Private Collection 

Born in the city of Novozybkov in June of 1885, Simka Faibusovich Simkhovitch was a Russian artist. He began drawing at the age of seven when confined to his room with a severe case of measles. In 1905, Simkhovitch started studying at the Grekov Odessa Art School, one of the oldest art schools in the Ukraine. Upon his graduation in 1911, he received a recommendation for admittance to the Imperial Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg, which was considered a notable honor at that time. 

Though he began courses in architecture, sculpture and painting, Simkhovitch was dismissed from the Imperial Academy in December of 1911 due to the quota on Jewish students and was drafted into the army. During the first World War, he served as a private until his demobilization in 1912, at which time he reenrolled at the Imperial Academy. Like many others, Simkhovitch was caught in the chaos of the Russian Revolution in 1917; however, he survived and continued his work under the new Soviet government. 

In 1918, Simka Simkhovitch exhibited paintings and sculptures in an exhibition of Russian Jewish artists and, in 1919, placed first in “The Great Russian Revolution” competition with his painting “Russian Revolution”. This painting was added to Saint Petersburg’s historical State Museum of Revolution’s collection. Simkhovitch exhibited his work at the 1922 International Book Fair held in Florence, Italy. Two years later, he traveled to the United States for the purpose of illustrating Soviet textbooks; however, once in the country, he made the decision to immigrate and remain in New York City.

Initially supporting himself by portrait commissions and commercial art, Simkhovitch was hired to paint a theatrical screen for the play “The Command to Love” which was playing at Broadway’s Longacre Theater. This started his career as a screen painter for the theater and brought him to the attention of screenwriter Ernest Pascal, known for his screenplay of “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, who gave him work as an illustrator. Pascal, in turn, introduced Simkhovitch to gallery owner Marie Sterner who purchased two paintings and held solo exhibitions of his work at her gallery in 1927 and 1928. These shows were followed by a solo exhibition of his circus paintings, also at the Marie Sterner Gallery, in 1929.

Simka Simkhovitch moved in the early 1930s with his wife, Elsa, and his three daughters to Conneticutt where he established a studio in his house. There he continued to produce works by commission during the Great Depression years. After a solo exhibition at New York City’s  Helen Hackett Gallery in 1931, Simka Simkhovitch became one of the featured artists at the 1931 exhibition held at San Fransisco’s California Palace of the Legion of Honor located in Lincoln Park. Coordinated by Marie Sterner, the exhibition featured four of Simkhovitch’s watercolors, including his “Nudes”, now in a private collection. 

Beginning in 1936, Simkhovitch began working with the Works Progress Administration, WPA, painting murals for public buildings in the United States. His first work was a 1938 mural for the Jackson, Mississippi, post office and courthouse. Painted on the wall behind the judge’s bench, “Pursuits of Life in Mississippi”, a depiction of black workers engaged in manual labor amid scenes of white professionals and socialites, was eventually covered over in later years during renovations due to its stereotypical imagery. 

In 1936 after winning a competition for the work, Simkhovitch received a commission for four murals at the Beaufort, North Carolina, post office. Upon his return to Conneticutt, he painted the four mural panels depicting the 1886 tragedy of the schooner Crissie Wright, driven onto rocks off the coast of Beaufort, North Carolina, during a winter storm, which resulted in the deaths of all six sailors, four frozen to death. These panels were installed in the Beaufort post office in 1938. The completed mural was  later restored in the 1990s by Elisabeth Speight, the daughter of two muralist who had worked with the WPA.

In February of 1949, Simka Simkhovitch purchased a home in Milford, Conneticutt for his family; the property included a barn which was to be his studio. While in the process of moving, he developed pneumonia and died two weeks later on the 25th of February, at the age of fifty-six. Simkhovitch’s work is in private collections and in numerous museums, including the Polish National Museum in Krakow, the Dallas Museum of Art, the National Museum of American Art in Washington DC,  and the Whitney Museum in New York City. A collection of his papers is housed in the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution.

Top Insert Image: Simka Simkovitch, Title and Date Unknown, (Picnic), Oil on Canvas, Private Collection

Middle Insert Image: Simkha Simkhovitch, “Self Portrait with Family”, Date Unknown, Private Collection 

Bottom Insert Image: Simka Simkovitch “Boxers”, 1932. Oil on Canvas, Private Collection 

Vasily Grossman: “Modest Peculiarities”

Photographers Unknown, Modest Peculiarities

“Human groupings have one main purpose: to assert everyone’s right to be different, to be special, to think, feel and live in his or her own way. People join together in order to win or defend this right. But this is where a terrible, fateful error is born: the belief that these groupings in the name of a race, a God, a party or a State are the very purpose of life and not simply a means to an end. No! The only true and lasting meaning of the struggle for life lies in the individual, in his modest peculiarities and in his right to these peculiarities.” 

—Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate

Born into a Ukrainian Jewish family December of 1905, Vasily Semyonovich Grossman was a writer and a journalist. He trained as a chemical engineer at Moscow State University and, upon graduation, took a job in Stalino, now Donetsk, in south-eastern Ukraine. In the mid 1930’s, Grossman committed himself fully to writing;  he published, by 1936, two collections of short stories and the novel “Glyukauf” and was accepted into the privileged Union of Writers in 1937. Grossman’s 1940 novel “Stepan Kol’chugin”, written over the course of three years, was nominated fro a Stalin Prize, but was deleted from the list by Stalin himself during his campaign of political repression.

When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Grossman, although exempt from military service, volunteered for the front lines where he spent almost three years. He became a war correspondent for the popular Red Army newspaper “Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star)”. Grossman covered the major battles, including the Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of Berlin, and also published his novels as serials in newspapers. His 1950 novel “Stalingrad”, published under the name “For a Just Cause”, is based upon his experiences during the siege. 

In his works, Vasily Grossman described Nazi ethnic-cleansing in occupied Ukraine and Poland, and the liberation by the Red Army of the extermination camps in Treblinka and Majdanek. His article “The Hell of Treblinka”, a collection of interviews taken from special work unit inmates who had escaped from Treblinka, was disseminated at the Nuremberg Trials as evidence for the prosecution. 

Grossman, along with Ilya Ehrenburg, participated in the assembly of the five-hundred page “Black Book”, compiled by the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in late 1944. This book documented the anti-Jewish crimes of the Holocaust and the participation of Jewish resistance members against the Nazi occupation during World War II. Upon the conclusion of the war, the book was denounced initially by the Russian Central Committee as anti-Soviet and finally refused publication in 1948.

Due to this suppression of the book, Vasily Grossman began to question his loyal support of the Soviet regime. He also criticized the process of collectivization and the political repression of peasants during the Great Famine of 1932 to 1933, which  resulted in the death by starvation of millions of Ukrainians. Persecuted by the state, only a few of Grossman’s works were published in his lifetime. In 1959 after submitting for publication his most prominent novel, “Life and Fate”, the Committee for State Security, KGB, raided his apartment, seized his manuscripts, notebooks and all typed copies, and refused publication for political reasons.

Vasily Grossman died of stomach cancer on September 14th in 1964. He was buried at the Troyekurovskoye Cemetery in Moscow. With the assistance of dissident researchers and writers, Grossman’s “Life and Fate” was retyped and finally published in the Soviet Union in 1988 after the initiation of the policy of glasnost. Other works by Grossman include “The People Immortal” published in 1943, and two posthumously published works published in 2010: “Everything Flows” and “The Road, Stories, Journalism, and Essays”. 

Georgy Gurianov

Paintings by Georgy Gurianov

Born in 1961 in St. Petersburg, Russia, Georgy Gurianov was a musician, photographer and artist. Musically, he is best known as the drummer for Russia’s seminal rock band “Kino”. Gurianov studied at the V.A. Serov Leningrad Art School and became a founding member, along with visual artist Timur Novikov, of the Novye Khudozhniki, the New Artists movement. He also contributed to the concerts of composer and experimental artist Sergei Kuryokhin and his band, Ensemble Pop-Mekhanika. 

Through the 1980s, Gurianov painted neo-expressionist works, Including many posters for the first raves in Russia, a part of the New Artists movement. 

During the 1990s, Gurianov continued to be involved with music and art, serving as a founding member and honorary professor at Timor Novikov’s New Academy of Fine Arts which initiated a return to Classicism, celebrating the ideals of beauty and physical perfection. The Academy was also politically charged with its deliberate insertion of sexual ambiguity and homoeroticism in their works. 

Georgy Gurianov, at this time, was producing drawings and paintings of athletes, sailors, and soldiers, influenced by the Soviet Realist style of painter and graphic artist Aleksandr Deyneka. Private about his own sexual orientation, his paintings were quite explicit representing homosocial situations, particularly those aboard ships. Gurianov often painted the features of his friends, and himself, onto the characters in his tableaux, as seen in his 2000 “Argo” where he is standing at the helm.

Solo exhibitions of Georgy Gurianov’s work were held at the Marble Palace of the State Russian Museum in 1993, Moscow’s Regina Gallery in 1994, Gallery D-137 located in St. Petersburg in 2001, and Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum in 1997. 

A cult figure of the 1980s St. Petersburg underground movement, Georgy Gurianov died on July 20, 2013 in St. Petersburg at the age of fifty-two. His work is in many private collections worldwide.

Alexander Sitnikov

Alexander Sitnikov, “Feast of Beasts”, 1987, Oil on Burlap Canvas, 114 x114 cm, Private Collection

Alexander Sitnikov is a Russian painter who was born in 1945. He studied at the Moscow State Surikov Art Institute from 1966 to 1972  and at the studio of N.A. Ponomarev. He has been a member of the USSR Union of Artists since 1975 and is now a member of the Moscow Union of Artisits. He has had several gallery and museum exhibitions, including at the Museum of Comtemporary Art in Krakow and at the DIDI Art Gallery in Saint Petersburg..

Irina Nakhova

Irina Nakhova, “Pilot”, 2015, Installation at the 2015 Venice Biennale

“Pilot” is one part of a three-part installation “The Green Pavilion” presented by Russian artist Irina Nakhova at the Venice Biennale in 2015. It is a giant head of a helmeted pilot whose features subtly changed activated by sensors in the room to the movements of the viewers.

“When you walk into the first room, all the sizes are different, and who greets you there is the pilot. The pilot is your navigator through time. So when you are here, there is dark. The skies are closed, but you are in the cockpit of the flight. When you come closer to the pilot, his eyes open, he looks at you and he also looks at the sky, and you can see that the sky are opening [via a skylight]. Then you really see what’s going on, but it’s also like in a dream because there is no verbal communication.” -Irina Nakhova

An installation artist and academically trained painter, Nakhova combines painting, sculpture, and new media into interactive installations and environments that engage viewers as co-creators of conceptual mindscapes. A part of a new generation of Russian non-comformist artists now known as the Moscow Conceptual School, Nakhova received international recognition as a young artist for her first ‘total installation’ entitled “Rooms (1983-1987)”. She was chosen as the first female artist to represent Russia at its pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

Irina Nakhova

Irina Nakhova, “Primary Colors 2″, 2003, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas, 116 x 183 centimeters, Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York

Irina Nakhova currently lives and works in Moscow and New Jersey. She graduated from the Graphic Design Department of the Moscow Polygraphic Institute in 1978. Nakhova was a member of the Union of Artists of the USSR from 1986 to1989 and is considered one of the founding members of the Moscow Conceptualist movement. She is known for her “total installations” in which her art controls the space in a room.

Waldemar von Kazak

Illustration by Waldemar von Kazak, Unknown Title

Waldemar Kozak is a contemporary Russian artist, who was born in Tver in 1973. In 1995 he graduated from the Tver Art College with a degree in graphic design. A year after graduating from college, Kazak mastered Quark XPress and Aldus Page Maker programs. He worked as a designer in advertising and book design before immersing himself in illustration. His dark digital images flirt with surrealism and social commentary, using sexual tension and bizarre characters to capture viewers’ imaginations.

The Green Spider

Vintage Movie Poster: “The Green Spider”, Directed by Alexandre Volkoff, 1916

“The Green Spider”, a short film released in 1916, was directed by Russian actor and screenwriter Alexandre Volkoff. Volkoff established his career in Russia, and was one of a significant number who fled Russia following the Bolshevik Revolution. The bulk of his work was done in France; he also made films in Germany and later Italy. “The Green Spider” is one of two short films he made in his early career which lasted until 1941.

Igor Samsonov

Igor Samsonov, Title Unknown

Igor Samsonov is a contemporary painter from Voronezh, Russia. He graduated in 1980 with honors from the School of Arts in Voronezh.  He attended the Ilya Repin Leningrad Institute for Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and was a student of Oleg Eremeev. Influenced by Renaissance, Dutch Renaissance, and Post-Impressionist artists, Samsonov has his own modern take on Classical Realism.

Anna Rochegova

Anna Rochegova, “Pepsi-Cola”, 2017, Lithograph, Edition of 80

Anna Rochegova was born in Moscow into a family of artists. Anna’s mother, Maria Engelke, was a respected painter and her father, Alexander Rochegov, was a well known architect. She graduated with highest honors from the Surikov Moscow State Art Academy in 1978.

Anna Rochegova has presented her work in many solo and group exhibitions throughout the world. She is a member of the Moscow Society of Artists, the Svenska Konstnärernas Förening (Swedish Artists Association), and the Östra Skånes Konstnärsgille (Östra Skåne’s Artist Guild) in Sweden.

Viktor Popkov

Viktor Popkov, “The Builders of Bratsk”, 1960, Oil on Canvas

Bratsk was Hydropower Station. Its construction symbolized the power of Soviet economics and development of industrialization. The builders were considered to be new heroes of the Communist epoch. This painting is a representative of the so-called “severe style” of socialist realism.

Viktor Popkov was one of the most celebrated Soviet artists during Krushschev’s Thaw. Perhaps it is for this reason – that he was recognized and not considered an underground artist – that he is less well known, and less appreciated outside Russia than many of his peers.

Popkov’s diverse, stylistic periods had a wide range, from 1950s Socialist Realism, through the “Severe” or “Austere Style” which he helped create in the 1960s, to his late “Philosophical-Romantic” phase. There is a fascinating progression from the dynamism of his early works to more contemplative figures.

The “Builders of the Bratsk” (1960) is an icon of the severe style. The workers stand or crouch against an uncompromising, dark background, a group of individuals with their own emotions, but a common goal.The Tretyakov Gallery   bought the painting when Popkov was 28 years old.

Alexander Terebenev

Alexander Terebenev, “Atlantes”, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.

The New Hermitage was the first building in Russia constructed specially to house the museum collections. Emperor Nicholas I invited German architect Leo von Klenze, whose works largely formed the image of the museum architecture in Europe, to come to Russia and build the Imperial Hermitage. Architects Nikolay Yefimov and Vasily Stasov, commissioned to execute Klenze’s project, made some essential changes to it in order to fit the new construction to the existing architectural surroundings.

The entrance to the museum is accentuated with a magnificent portico supported by the Atlantes figures cut from grey granite in the workshop of Alexander Terebenev. Atlantes, also called Atlantean figures, are carved stone support pillars in the shape of fierce men. The building is also decorated with statues and bas-reliefs depicting famous artists, architects and sculptors of the past. Classical, Renaissance and Baroque ornaments enliven the massive surfaces of the building’s facades.

Konstantin Lupanov

Paintings by Konstantin Lupanov

Born in 1977, Konstantin Lupanov studied at the Krasnodar State University of Culture and Art. He lives and works in Krasnodar, Russia. This talented artist calls his paintings “fun and irresponsible garbage.” Konstantin Lupanov paints what he loves. The primary subjects of his paintings are his friends, acquaintances, relatives, and his beloved cat, Philip. “The simpler the subject”, says the artist, “the truer the painting”.