Soviet Art

USSR Culture

Soviet painter Alexander Rozhdestvensky 1901-1998

Children. (Moscow of the thirties). 1936. Paper, gouache drawing by Soviet painter Alexander Rozhdestvensky (1901-1998)

Children. (Moscow of the 1930s). 1936. Paper, gouache drawing by Soviet painter Alexander Rozhdestvensky (1901-1998)

Soviet painter Alexander Rozhdestvensky belongs to a pleiad of those masters who began their creative career at the dawn of Soviet power, developing the traditions of the Russian realistic art school. With interest the viewers took the work of Rozhdestvensky, shown at personal exhibitions in Moscow. It is noteworthy that the evaluations of the artist’s works, given by specialists and ordinary viewers, coincide completely. The first personal exhibition of this painter took place in 1959, and approximately in ten years, in 1970, the second.
Born April 14, 1901 in Moscow in the family of a pharmacist, Alexander Illarionovich Rozhdestvensky began to paint very early. While studying at the Moscow gymnasium #8, aged ten, Rozhdestvensky began to visit the Tretyakov Gallery. This had a huge impact on him. Here, the future painter carefully examined the paintings of outstanding masters. He admired the national art, and gradually his aesthetic ideas and beliefs began to appear.

Flowers on a red background. 1955. Paper, gouache

Flowers on a red background. 1955. Paper, gouache

In 1916, as a schoolboy, Rozhdestvensky visited the studio of VA Kasszov, and in 1918 he studied at AI Kharlamov’s studio in the Arbat. Both of these teachers tried to pass on professional skills and realistic traditions.

In 1919, the future artist, along with his relatives, moved to Kaluga, where he graduated from high school. Here, the study of painting continued with no less strain. However, he studied now independently. Rozhdestvensky posed more complex tasks in the field of portrait genre, and first tried his hand at work on multi-figure compositions. So, he had completed several illustrations to the work of AK Tolstoy “Prince Serebryany”, in which the young artist revealed his creative possibilities.

In the spring of 1920, Alexander Illarionovich was drafted into the Red Army and sent to the Western Front – there was a civil war. He thought that in the front-line conditions he would not even have to think about painting. But the Red Army was a revolutionary army of a new type. It needed its own artists. In the army, art was not only not interrupted, but, on the contrary, acquired a more purposeful character.

While in the city of Lida, Rozhdestvensky began working in the Red Army art studio. In particular, he painted portraits, created political posters, theatrical scenery, and lectured on the fine arts. So he became a military artist.

After the end of the civil war and demobilization, Rozhdestvensky returned to Kaluga and began to prepare to enter Vkhutemas – the Higher State Artistic and Technical Workshops. During this period (1919-1923) he created a number of decorative compositions, shown at two exhibitions of Kaluga artists.

In the autumn of 1923, Rozhdestvensky entered Vkhutemas, organized in 1920 on the basis of the former Stroganov School and the School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. In the structure of this educational institution there were several faculties: painting, polygraphic, sculptural, architectural, textile, ceramic, woodworking and metalworking. With the support of VA Favorsky, who headed the institute at that time, Rozhdestvensky moved to the painting faculty, from which he graduated in 1929.

At the institute, Rozhdestvensky studied together with FV Antonov, GG Nyssky, VV Pochigalov, NM Romadin, SA Chuikov, and others in the future known masters who made a great contribution to Soviet art. In the first two courses, his teachers in drawing were SV Gerasimov and DA Sherbinovsky, and in painting – AA Osmerkin. In the third year, Rozhdestvensky studied in the workshop of DN Kardovsky – a famous teacher and artist. Under his leadership, Rozhdestvensky received good professional training, strengthened realistic skills. Considering D. N. Kardovsky as his main teacher, at the same time he showed interest in pedagogical systems and art installations of other teachers.

In Vkhutmas Rozhdestvensky came to a certain extent the established artist. While engaged in Vkhutemas, Rozhdestvensky turned to in-depth study of nature; he began serious professional searches in this direction.

In the first years after graduation, Rozhdestvensky was engaged in painting and graphics. He collaborated in a number of Moscow publishing houses, performed illustrations for stories published in literary and art magazines. In 1929, Rozhdestvensky made illustrations to the published in the novel-newspaper “Rebellion of the Fishermen” by Anna Zegers. In addition, he created many illustrations on modern topics. For example, the drawings “At the Construction Site” (1930) and the “Rabfakovka” (1931), depicting the poetic image of a girl engaged in the evening by the light of a kerosene lamp.

In 1934-1935, the artist performed a series of illustrations to stories about Central Asia, in which he portrayed the emancipated women of the Soviet East. All these works show a realistic character, knowledge of the material and an interested attitude of the artist to the themes of the drawings. Later, Rozhdestvensky continued to carry out publishing orders, but the main attention he paid to the painting, which attracted him most.

During the Great Patriotic War, Rozhdestvensky was in the heroic capital. In the harsh 1942 he joined the Moscow Union of Soviet Artists. Sensitively reacting to reports from the fronts, he worked hard in the House of the Red Army of the Moscow Military District. There he carried out agitation materials, which then had an exceptionally important political significance, raising the morale of the Soviet people. They were military posters, leaflets with drawings, photo newspapers. And we remember now about that truly heroic creative work of the masters of fine arts and appreciating their contribution to the Victory over Hitler Germany.

Over the years, the main direction in the creative activity of the artist was the everyday genre. In the process of this work, he gradually moved from the technique of oil painting to gouache. Creativity of Rozhdestvensky developed quite a lot. It combined different styles, one in a single realistic manner.

Soviet painter Alexander Rozhdestvensky

Illustrated album “Alexandr Rozhdestvensky”. Author N.N. Golovanov. Publisher Artists of RSFSR, 1981