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Sergey
Merkurov

Russia 
1881−1952
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Sergey Merkurov (1881—1952) was the People’s Artist of the USSR (1943), Academician of the Academy of Arts of the USSR (1947). In 1945, he became the Member of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks). He studied at the Munich Academy of Arts (1902—1905). Since 1906, he lived in Paris, and since 1909, in Moscow. Since 1929, he was a member of the AKhRR (Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia). In 1944—1950 he was the director of the Pushkin Museum. Sculptor-monumentalist, author of monuments to F. Dostoevsky (1911—1913) and K. Timiryazev (1922—1923) in Moscow, F. Dzerzhinsky in Stalingrad (1932), Fusillading of 26 Baku Commissars high relief in Baku (1924—1946), the Death of the Leader sculptural group (1927—1947), numerous statues and monuments to Lenin (including the one in the Kremlin Palace, 1939) and Stalin (including the one at the All-Union Agricultural Exhibition, 1939), and other works, he also made the death masks of many state and party leaders, cultural and scientific workers. The artist was a laureate of the Stalin Prize (1941, 1951).
Born in Alexandropol (now Gyumri, Armenia) on 26 October (7 November) 1881 in the family of an entrepreneur, Sergey Merkurov studied at the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute (1901—1902), then at the Philosophy Faculty of the University of Zurich, at the same time he learned the art of sculpture in the studio of the sculptor A. Meyer; later he studied at the Munich Academy of Arts (1902—1905). He worked in Paris, where he was greatly influenced by the art of symbolism, as well as the sculptural archaic (Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt). Upon returning to Russia (1909), he lived in Moscow. He was a member of the AKhRR (Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia).
In his mature years, he adhered to a kind of “academic” modernity, without risky experiments, but retaining the characteristic features of the style: the cult of “eternal themes”, especially the theme of death, dramatic contrast between figure and material (stone block). Assuming to become a philosopher, Merkurov also introduced the motive of a heavy, painful thought into his early images (the statue of F. M. Dostoevsky, 1911—1913, was installed as a monument within the framework of the “monumental propaganda” plan in 1918; the personification figure of Thought, 1913, now is on the grave of the author at the Novodevichy cemetery; both monuments are granite). He made plenty of death masks, including those from famous writers and politicians (Leo Tolstoy, V. Lenin, A. Bely and others). Among his post-revolutionary works, the majestic and austere monument to K. A. Timiryazev (1922—1923) is widely known.
However, he gained his fame due to his majestic and severe monuments of the leaders (the Death of the Leader mourning group, granite, 1927, the Central Lenin Museum, Gorki Leninskiye; the statue of Lenin at the meeting room of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR before its reconstruction, marble, 1939, the Kremlin; monuments to Lenin in Volgograd, Magnitogorsk, Ulyanovsk and a number of other cities). According to Merkurov’s sketches, the three largest monuments to Stalin were created in the USSR; they were usually made of wrought copper. The first largest is the monument in Yerevan (49 m high with the pedestal; 1951), the other two towered at the entrance to the Moscow Canal (1937) and the VDNKh (1939). In their own way, the rough “Assyro-Babylonian” power of these images (all of them were dismantled during the Thaw period) accurately and frankly expressed the “superhuman” cruel spirit of the Stalinist era, which recognized only one Hero. the sculptor was awarded the Stalin Prizes in 1941 and 1951 for his Lenin for the Kremlin and his Stalins for the VDNKh and Yerevan.
The works by Merkurov predetermined the style of the official Soviet tombstone (granite busts of Y. M. Sverdlov, F. E. Dzerzhinsky, M. V. Frunze, M. I. Kalinin, A. A. Zhdanov on Red Square near the Kremlin wall, late 1940s — early 1950s).
Merkurov died in Moscow. In 1953, his Notes of a Sculptor were published. In the artist’s hometown, his museum was opened in 1984.




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