Soviet Art

USSR Culture

Soviet Armenian artist Ruben Isaakovich Shaverdyan

Soviet Armenian artist Ruben Isaakovich Shaverdyan (1900-1977)

Making Music. 1971. Painting by Soviet Armenian artist Ruben Isaakovich Shaverdyan (1900-1977)

Soviet Armenian artist Ruben Isaakovich Shaverdyan
For over fifty years, the name of Ruben Isaakovich Shaverdyan was associated with the development of Armenian art. Saying “name”, we mean the artist’s whole life in a single stream of the contemporary artistic process in Soviet Armenia. He was one of the first who realized the rich possibilities of decorative and applied art as an independent form of knowledge of the world around him. Also, he solved in his work such tasks that went beyond the framework of decorative and applied art.
Already in his first works Shaverdyan demonstrates the certainty and maturity of his artistic thinking. Unfortunately, the painting of this period almost did not reach the present day, as he sold them to private hands, or casual buyers. And one of these works – still-life “Saxon Porcelain” – received an award among the best works at the exhibition of Soviet Art in Moscow in 1926. With this still-life Shaverdyan declared his passion for the decorative side of art.

Painting by Soviet Armenian artist Ruben Isaakovich Shaverdyan (1900-1977)

To the Town. 1970. Painting by Soviet Armenian artist Ruben Isaakovich Shaverdyan (1900-1977)

According to the proverb, talented people are talented in everything. Indeed, nature generously endowed him with musical talent. Noteworthy, Shaverdyan became a professional singer, developing his beautiful tenor from a local celebrity, Italian Emilio Vaghi. As a result, Shaverdyan performed at the Tbilisi Opera House, performing solo parts from 1920 to 1928, and was even going to improve singing in Italy.

Traditionally, in Shaverdyan’s family music was a part of life. In particular, his father was very musical, and loved to sing in the circle of relatives and friends. Also, the brother, Alexander Isaakovich, was a pianist and an outstanding Soviet musicologist, the author of a number of monographs and essays on the Soviet opera. Thus, Shaverdyan’s artistic nature at first was equally easy to “dissolve” in different creative spheres, which fully corresponded to the norms of the then artistic life. However, later Shaverdyan left the music to fully surrender to one thing.

But he left for himself the art of form, color, pattern and rhythm. And the theater, music, painting and plastic arts intertwined in his work into a single knot. Indeed, the nature of his talent is theatrical in nature. That’s why so often in his paintings we discover the theater.

Living in Yerevan, Ruben Isaakovich again and again returns to the city of his youth. Again and again he addresses himself in his work to the Tiflis types, which supplement the original anthology of the images of this city with its artisanal orientation. Here are city rogues, drunken kinto, important old people, white-faced beauties, touching lovers, whole wedding groups and family portraits.

In addition, an Armenian woman is one of Shaverdyan’s favorite images often met in his painting. Giving his imagination, the artist never lost his artistic and historical orientation. In elongated, curved forms and outlines, he retained the harmony characteristic of classical prototypes – figures from the paintings of the Anian bowls or miniatures of Armenian medieval manuscripts.

The miniature “In the yurt” (1970) relates to the artist’s specific memories of his stay in Karaganda, where in 1933 he came to work as music editor of the local radio committee. Here there are all the attributes characteristic of the Central Asian way of life. Shaverdyan captured the folk art of this region, its weaving and pottery. We see the walls of the yurt, decorated with embroidery, the floor, covered with bright felt, carpets of handwork.
Shaverdyan, keen on a new way of life for him, does not refrain from decorative reinforcement, and therefore all items collected in the yurt are not by accident. Exotic props – the carrier of a certain rhythmic and decorative role of the object in the overall composition and color system of miniature. He defines its general artistic system.

Shaverdyan’s works are inherent folklore fantasy and prudent skill. This helps him avoid ethnographic unilaterality. In handling details, he manifests creative freedom and artistry. This is, in particular, the attitude of the artist to the costume.

His girls – not just dressed, they are dressed up. The artist puts on them holiday skirts, aprons, high and flat hats with fur edges and embroidery, intricate sweaters decorated with buttons and belts. In fact, Shaverdyan feels in a suit one of the most stable forms of folk culture.

In the works of Soviet Armenian artist Ruben Isaakovich Shaverdyan, there are often images of children and girls with birds. The image of the bird is symbolic. According to the oldest beliefs, coming from the pagan past, birds bring happiness, their cult – associated with the cult of the sun, and fertility. They also symbolized the idea of ​​the immortality of the soul.

Noteworthy, a great and fruitful period in Shaverdyan’s life occupied the cycle of Armenian landscapes. And since 1941, he regularly participated in out-of-town expeditions of art workshops. Touching the nature of Armenia during the trips, he made numerous sketches. They were a lively and direct response to the reality that the artist opened after moving from Georgia to Armenia.

I would like to mention the participation of Shaverdyan in such a mass field of art production as labels for wines and cognacs. Many of them, having passed a long test of time, are still in use now.

Soviet Armenian artist Ruben Isaakovich Shaverdyan

M. Stepanyan. Ruben Shaverdyan – Painting, Sculpture. Publisher Soviet artist. 1982. Moscow