Soviet Art

USSR Culture

Soviet artist Alexander Laktionov

Soviet artist Alexander Laktionov. Letter from the front, 1947

Soviet artist Alexander Laktionov. Letter from the front, 1947

Soviet artist Alexander Laktionov – Academician of the USSR Academy of Arts (1958), Corresponding Member (1949), People’s Artist of the RSFSR (1969), laureate of the Stalin Prize of the first degree (1948) and the RSFSR State Prize of Repin (1971). Laktionov was a versatile artist, he was equally good at genre paintings, portraits and landscapes. Actually, it would be enough for him even one painting to remain forever in the history of painting, and in the country’s history. When his painting of 1947 “Letter from the Front” appeared on the show, there was an amazing event, which for a long time did not know Russian art. To a large exhibition, many viewers came for one picture. To it was devoted more than half of entries in the exhibition guest book. Soon the picture took place at the Tretyakov Gallery, the artist received the Stalin Prize for it, and its reproduction dispersed throughout the country, making name of Laktionov well-known.

Alexander Ivanovich Laktionov (1910-1972). Self-portrait. 1969. Pencil, charcoal

Alexander Ivanovich Laktionov (1910-1972). Self-portrait. 1969. Pencil, charcoal

The road to success was not easy for Alexander Laktionov. He was born in a simple working-class family in Rostov-on-Don 29 May 1910. About his childhood, he later wrote: “My father was a blacksmith, the mother – laundress. The love for painting came to me early. This love in every possible way was promoted and encouraged by my father.” The hungry and cold post-revolutionary Russian boy enthusiastically studied painting. He has always been attracted by a classic painting. He liked to look at the reproductions in the old pre-revolutionary magazines, dreaming of the time when he would be able to revive images with paints on canvas.

Embroidering. Soviet artist Alexander Laktionov

Embroidering. Soviet artist Alexander Laktionov

The boy was lucky – fine artist-educator AS Chinenov began to teach him, who in 1914 opened drawing and modeling school in Rostov-on-Don, which gave primary art education. Apparently, the teacher was, as they say, from God. Not in vain Laktionov remembered about that time: “Three years of school passed as a light sleep.” Knowledge that Alexander received from Chinenov, was enough to enter the Academy of Fine Arts in 1932, where he studied for 12 years, since graduating with honors he was immediately enrolled in graduate school.

February 1956. Soviet artist Alexander Laktionov

February 1956. Soviet artist Alexander Laktionov

Laktionov studied at an interesting time. The rector of the Academy at that time was a wonderful artist Isaac Brodsky, who allowed students from any course again to move to the first, to study painting professionally. It was time to move from the revolutionary and the various “isms” to fine art painting. It is thanks to Brodsky many comrades of Laktionov at the Academy (Alexei Gritsai, Yuri Neprintsev, Pyotr Belousov) became great artists, whose paintings for many decades have been admired by spectators.

Unfortunately, in 1939, Brodsky became seriously ill and died. Preserved a small picture, in which Laktionov portrayed his teacher a few weeks before his death – the light bulb pulls out from the shadows the figure of a seriously ill person, who understands that the end is near, and is waiting for it with calm and quiet sadness. This picture, painted shortly before the war, is the work by no longer a pupil, but a mature master.

Laktionov met War in Leningrad. He built fortifications on the outskirts of the city, put out “lighter” on the roofs, painted anti-fascist posters. From the besieged Leningrad he went to Samarkand, where was evacuated the Academy of Arts.

In early 1944, Alexander moved to Zagorsk (Sergiev Posad), where he began work on new compositions. It is interesting that here he painted “Self-Portrait in tatters”, made in the style of old Spanish masters. Apparently, it was a kind of brush sample, as the audience saw it only after his death. He also started work on the “Letter from the Front”, main picture of the painter.

Working on the “Letter from the Front”, Alexander did not set out some important task. Later he would say: “In this painting, I wanted to show so clear to every Soviet person joy of receiving letters, to portray Soviet family, fervently reliving the events at the front and enjoying successes of Soviet soldiers.”

After the success of the painting “Letter from the Front” in life of Laktionov much has changed. Followed by awards and election to the members of the Academy of Arts. But the main thing – from him now expected only talented works and looked at them in terms of the level of the “Letter from the Front”. Unfortunately, the artist had failures, one of them was the picture “Once again I visited …”, devoted to Pushkin. But then followed a series of beautiful portraits and landscapes.

Laktionov not only loved and deeply studied the old masters, but also tried to adopt some of their methods of painting. Thus, he often used the sophisticated technique of mixed painting with tempera and oil. He manufactured the paint himself, guided by ancient recipes. He made a special primer for pastels, which allowed to make a picture more durable. Artist fruitfully worked, creating many beautiful paintings.

Soviet artist Alexander Laktionov