60th Anniversary of the Victory Day
"Road to Victory"
The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
April, 28 until June, 13, 2005
The exhibition dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic war is based on the material of the exposition that is absolutely documentary. Paintings, drawings, engravings, posters and sculptures created by the artists in the besieged differences pocess one common feature, they are authentic.
The exposition begins with the motifs of besieged Leningrad as an image of dying culture and even civilization. Episodes of redemption of artistic values, evacuation of museums and sheltering of the monuments have been repeatedly told and are well known. Works by Vasily Kuchumov and Vera Milyutina remind of those historical chapters. The art of the besieged Leningrad stood against the vandalism in the most tragic circumstances and became the symbol of the forthcoming victory. Lithographs by Valentin Kurdov and Alexei Pakhomov, engravings by Solomon Yudovin and Pavel Shillingovsky, drawings by Ivan Atapov, Nikolai Dormidontov, Georgy Fitingof, paintings by Yaroslav Nikolayev and other artists that were shown on the Big Land at the 1942-43 exhibition shocked the viewers by their true and courageous story.
Masters who stayed in Leningrad worked differently. Vyacheslav Pakulin painted plein air, and his muffled figure sitting at the easel on Nevsky Prospect became a part of the war newsreel. Alexander Rusakov and Georgy Traugot transferred their impressions to the canvas at home, in a studio. Figurative scale of many works is built on a discord, on sharp consonance of hard colours. The increased colour intensity of the Siege painting was later explained by the peculiarities of perception characteristic for a hungry man, by strained vision. However, the artist associated colour with life and fought for the live and bright world-image with all his might.
War landscape took a special place both in the oeuvre of separate authors and in the war history of art. First of all, it allowed to express the view of life of a deeply stunned person who had lost the boundaries of the usual life. Familiar look of the city, the street, and the by-road acquired new features, new meaning. Lyric landscape soon mastered the language of the heroic metaphor and philosophic generalization and got the features of a big style.
Valentin Kurdov wrote about the difficulties of the work during the war: “I was not afraid of danger. However, I was ashamed to walk in the lines with a pencil and draw. I felt awkward with people. Two principles were talking inside of me. The first one was saying that it was the artist’s duty, and the other was whispering that it was necessary to fight and not to draw there. I was assured that to see was not enough for the artist. “To see” meant to draw for the artist. If I have not drawn I have not seen”.
The portrait gallery united different unfamiliar people who shared the common grief in the “hour of courage”. There are men, women and children among them. Warriors-artillerists, pilots, signalmen, reconnoitres depicted by the same soldiers Vladimir Vetrogonsky, Mikhail Kopeikin, Nikolay Kulikov, Pyotr Lugansky, Ivan Kharkevich. Adolescents awarded with the For the Defence of Leningrad medal of whom poet Yury Voronin wrote: “We were given medals in 1943 and passports only in 1945”.
P. Konchalovsky created one of the best representational war portraits, portrait of the pilot A.Yumashev as early as in 1941. The next year Vera Mukhina casts the portrait of a colonel B. Yusupov in bronze. The same year A. Deineka exhibited the famous Defence of Sevastopol composition, in which the motif of self-sacrifice and heroic deed became obvious.
When Alexander Deineka drew his Burnt-Out Village, he did not think that he had created the plastic formula of war. This particular canvas absorbed pain, despair, anger, fury, all these feelings that make a person to assault and fight until the end. The life in war Moscow can be seen in less known works (Launching of an Aerostat by Leonid Khoroshkevich, Antiaircrafters in the Petrovsky Park by Alexander Schipitsyn). Air Raid Alaem (in the Metro) by Ely Belyutin is rather surprising for the figurative language of the 1940s. It reserved frightened faces of people changed either by cry or by gas masks. One of the few by means of painting the artist tried to depict fear, its monstrous power, that makes people loose their minds when panic strikes.
Road to the West became a characteristic feature of the end of the war, the important image in the art of the time. It led everyone to different horizons. Nevsky Prospect was its part. On the 9th of July the warriors who had returned from Germany marched through it. This celebration depicted by Vyacheslav Pakulin became the last subject of his war cycle.
In summer 1943 the first firework was shot celebrating the liberation of Orel and Belgrad. Since then Moscow salutes accompanied all the war victories. Leningrad deserved the right for its own salute when it finally threw off the stronghold on the January 27, 1944. Each salute meant the forthcoming end of the war. The last impresssions at the exhibition images are of festive salutes in still darkened Moscow (Michail Bobyshov), at Leningrad raid Anna Ostroumova-Lebedeva reminds us of this anticipation. There were still months of hard fights till the victorious May. Artists-warriors depicted in their camp notebooks evidences of oncoming to the Eastern Europe and liberation of its big and small cities. These drawings remained mainly a documentary material, their authors had no time to think of big easel works. They had to finish the war.