Yevsey Moiseyenko was a People’s Artist of the USSR, full member of the USSR Academy of Arts, laureate of the Lenin Prize, the Repin State Prize of the RSFSR, a professor. He was a portrait and landscape painter. Yevsey Moiseyenko depicted the Civil War and World War II, the life of a modern Soviet village. Born in 1916 in the town of Uvaravičy (formerly Gomelsky Uyezd), in 1931—1935, he studied at the M. I. Kalinin Moscow Art and Industrial College under B. N. Lange, S. F. Nikolaev. In 1935—1941, he studied at Repin Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture under A. A. Osmerkin. His major paintings are The Reds Have Come (1961, State Russian Museum), The Land (1964, State Russian Museum), Sergei Yesenin with His Grandfather (1964, State Russian Museum), Comrades (1964 State Russian Museum), From Childhood (1964, State Russian Museum), Ambassadors (1967, State Tretyakov Gallery), Black Cherry (1969, Ministry of Culture of RSFSR), Victory (1972, State Russian Museum), Lake (1973, State Tretyakov Gallery), Apple Trees (1973, State Tretyakov Gallery), Open Window (1973, State Tretyakov Gallery), Boys (1974, State Tretyakov Gallery), Pushkin in Mikhailovsky (1974, State Tretyakov Gallery), In Boldino (1974, State Tretyakov Gallery).
Moiseenko was an artist of great talent and difficult destiny. At the age of fifteen, he left his remote Belarusian village for Moscow, where in 1931, he entered the M. I. Kalinin Art and Industrial School, the department of tole painting and papier-mâché. The school provided an opportunity to undergo industrial practice in well-known centers of Russian folk art, such as Zhostovo, Fedoskino, Palekh villages.
There’s no doubt about the significance of this initial stage of his artistic education. However, one must notice the influence of the folk art on the artist’s further work. Weren’t there the origins of Moiseenko’s mature painting style, his free temperamental manner, his rejection of the correct academicist drawing, inclusion of heavy black colour in his palette?
Having graduated from the college, Moiseenko came to Leningrad in the spring of 1936 and entered the painting faculty of the Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. There he was fortunate enough to study under A. A. Osmerkin, an artist of high professional culture, strong temperament, who understood and appreciated folk art. Therefore, the skills that Moiseenko had learned earlier received a new impetus for the development.
His classes were interrupted by the war: on 5 July 1941, Moiseenko volunteered for the people’s militia. On the outskirts of Leningrad, his unit was surrounded and captured by Nazis. Until April 1945, he was in the concentration camp in Altengrabov. When the prisoners were freed by the allied forces, the young man was transported to his homeland at his request. He ended the war with the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps.
After his demobilization in November 1945, he returned to the institute and finished it brilliantly in 1947, having presented the General Dovator painting as his diploma work. Although he was accepted into the Union of Soviet Artists as a mature master, immediately after graduating from the institute, further promotion and official recognition was impossible for the recent concentration camp prisoner.
The situation changed in the 1950s, after the death of Stalin. Since 1956, when Moiseenko was first elected to the leadership of the Leningrad branch of the Union of Artists, his rapid ascent began.
In 1970, Moiseenko was awarded the title of People’s Artist of the USSR; in 1974, he was awarded the Lenin Prize for his cycle of paintings, The Fighting Years; in 1976 — the Order of Friendship of Peoples.
Since 1958, Moiseenko has been teaching at the Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture as the head of a personal painting workshop. The intense pedagogical work did not interfere with his own intense creativity and did not stop until the end of his life.
In 1963, Moiseenko was awarded the title of Professor of the Department of Painting; in 1973, he was elected a full member of the Academy of Arts of the USSR. His personal exhibition, which opened in March 1982 at the State Russian Museum, showed the real scale of his talent and incredible working capacity at the end of tether.
Moiseenko was traditionally considered an artist of thematic painting, but he showed himself as a gifted portrait painter (portraits of N. N. Zolotarev, 1967; artist A. A. Osmerkin, 1970; art critic G. V. Kekusheva, 1971; In Staraya Ladoga (Self-Portrait with His Wife), 1978; Portrait of Mother, Self-Portrait, Portrait of the Wife, all 1979, etc.). He painted poetic landscapes (Landscape. Stitches, Suzdal, both 1968; Apple Tree in Bloom, Lake , Little Rain, Evening. Old Lindens, Night Village, all 1973; Winter. Grey Day, 1977; Dark Trees, Green May, By the Pond, all 1978) and still lifes in dense sweeping brushstrokes (Still Life with an Antique Torso, 1971; Guitars, 1972; Still Life with Jasmine, 1977; Still Life with a Fresco, 1980, etc.).
And yet it is genre thematic painting that determined the main direction in the artist’s work. Moiseenko’s art is autobiographical in its nature. He depicted what he had experienced, what had entered deeply into his consciousness. Leaving his home in young age and the experiences associated with this event sharpened Moiseenko’s interest in the world of adolescents. He devoted a range of works to this topic, from obviously biographical (From Childhood, By the Well, both 1979) to numerous images of boys swimming, relaxing, united with nature. It is significant that the artist even introduced Sergei Yesenin, who was spiritually close to him, as a teenager (Sergei Yesenin with His Grandfather, 1964).
Throughout his work, the main theme of Moiseenko remained war, suffering, the height of the human spirit, tragic losses and the happiness of the Victory. He reproduced what he saw and experienced (the This Cannot Be Forgotten series, 1960—1962; Mothers, Sisters, 1967; Victory, 1970—1972; Veterans, 1978), as well as created a different reality, an amazing blend of truth and dream. The artist perceived and captured the era of the Civil War through the romantic poetry by E. G. Bagritsky, I. P. Utkin, M. A. Svetlov. The Youth Drove Us (1972—1975) — this is how he called one of his paintings, focusing on poetry as a source of his inspiration.
His other works dedicated to the civil war theme are also shrouded by the romanticism of his poetic perception of the world (The Reds Have Come, 1961; Comrades, 1963-64; Ambassadors, 1967; Black Cherry, Commissar, both 1969; Song, 1978—1980). The romantic, sublime element, clearly visible in Moiseenko’s works, is not accidental. They certainly reflect the artist’s personality, but no less the atmosphere of the time, the inspired 1960s, full of hope with their high-rise poetic wave and song rhythms. And no matter what the artist painted later, sunny Hellas, intellectual Paris or hi beloved Spain, the element of song is present in his whole painting as its rhythm, as poetry, as the atmosphere.
Moiseenko was a generously gifted person. He saw colours absolutely, as well as he heard words absolutely. His craving for literature was not just a tribute to the times, but also a deep need for his creative nature. His favourite poet was Pushkin. The artist often returned to his image, perhaps he felt some kind of kinship with the restless soul of the poet (Pushkin in Boldino, 1974; Pushkin, Still Life with a Drawing of A. Pushkin, both 1976; Evening. Pushkin, 1978). One of the last significant works by Moiseenko is dedicated to the dying Pushkin.