But there are facts in the biography of Yuri Pimenov that undermine this simple construction.
1. First stepsYuri Pimenov was born in 1903 in Moscow. His father was an assistant attorney at law, and his mother came from a merchant family. His drawing teacher at the gymnasium noticed the boy’s talent and helped him enter the Zamoskvoretsk school of drawing. The teenager spent a lot of time in the Tretyakov Gallery, near the landscapes of Savrasov, Somov, Levitan. It is unlikely that he then could have imagined that in two decades he himself would paint a picture that will take place in one of the halls of the Tretyakov Gallery. In addition, Yuri Pimenov was a regular at the Sergei Shchukin gallery. And admiring the canvases of the Impressionists, most likely, he did not assume that he would choose this particular direction of painting. But later.
2. Onwards!In 1920, Yuri Pimenov entered VKHUTEMAS (Higher State Artistic and Technical Workshops), where he studied under Sergei Milyutin, Vadim Falileev and Vladimir Favorsky. But Pimenov’s further work was influenced not only by teachers, but also by fellow practitioners, such as Alexander Deineka, Alexander Tyshler, Pyotr Williams, Andrey Goncharov.
However, awards at major exhibitions did not mean immediate success. Many of Pimenov’s works were sharply criticized, they were called too poster-like; for example, they wrote about the War Invalids to have "nothing to do with our reality", and in his Race, they saw a distortion of the image of a Soviet man. But most importantly, the members of the OST as a whole were reproached for being bourgeois and formal. Although such accusations did not yet sound like a verdict in the second half of the 1920s.
3. Wandering around the worldIn the 1920—1930s, the Soviet state had not yet fenced itself off with the Iron Curtain, but, on the contrary, sought to present its achievements throughout the world, including in art field. Thus, young artists were criticized for being bourgeois, but at the same time they could participate in major international exhibitions and travel abroad.
4. Fellow travelerIn 1931, Yuri Pimenov married a typist-stenographer Natalya Bernadskaya. They have lived together all their lives. Natalya Konstantinovna became not just the artist’s wife and, as it often happens, his model and muse, but also an assistant. She studied from Pimenov, eventually became a theatre artist herself and helped her husband in creating theatrical costumes.
Portrait of N. K. Pimenova in a white hat. Yuri Pimenov. 1943. The Source
Pimenov wrote: "In my life, my wife helps me enormously. She is always my best model — remembering my work made over the years, I see now her figure, now her hair or hands. (…) She always gave me the right advice when it was necessary to make the most honest, and therefore the most correct decisions. And she helped out in difficult times of illness and in the years of failures that are obligatory for the artist. She just lived there…"
The "difficult times of illness" and the "years of failure" mentioned by Yuri Pimenov came to him in the early 1930s. Life around was changing, and not for the better for the artist.
5. Sharp turnIn 1931, a split occurred in the Society of Easel Artists. Part of the OST members formed a new group called Isobrigada. Yuri Pimenov also entered it. The members of the Isobrigada declared in their program that they would get rid of the "bourgeois influence" and strengthen the "proletarian sector in art". But Pimenov was still criticized for formalism.
- Construction. Yuri Pimenov. 1930A study is an exercise painting that helps the painter better understand the object he or she paints. It is simple and clear, like sample letters in a school student’s copybook. Rough and ready, not detailed, with every stroke being to the point, a study is a proven method of touching the world and making a catalogue of it. However, in art history, the status of the study is vague and open to interpretation. Despite its auxiliary role, a study is sometimes viewed as something far more significant than the finished piece. Then, within an impressive frame, it is placed on a museum wall.
So, when does a study remain a mere drill, and when can we call it an artwork in its own right, full of life and having artistic value? Read more
- Girl with a Book. Yuri Pimenov. 1931
In 1934, at the First Congress of Soviet Writers, socialist
Discussions on purely creative issues and criticism of artworks increasingly took on political overtones.
Pimenov fell ill. His friend, artist Alexander Labas, later wrote that Pimenov was bitten by a mad dog, he did not believe in the success of the treatment and was very depressed. But the problems persisted not only with his health.
Yuri Pimenov himself recalled: "It was my difficult time. My nerves crept apart, I could not work at all. In addition, professional troubles befell me: a book I illustrated was recognized as formalistic for drawings, and I found myself without money and without a job, because after this book I was not given work in magazines, and we lived on the money that my wife earned by shorthand."
But the main thing is that he changes his style radically.
Posterity and expression disappear from his canvases, instead of delicate transparent colours and small strokes à la impressionists.
6. RoadsIn 1937, Yuri Pimenov created the New Moscow painting. This canvas glorified the artist, clearly defined both his painting style and theme. Pimenov looks at the life of his native city, its people, new buildings and new way of life, with love and no pathos. The theme of roads, which would become one of the main ones for Yuri Pimenov, was also sounded here.
The artist returned twice to the composition of the New Moscow — in 1944 and 1960.
7. Parallel waysYuri Pimenov worked a lot and successfully in theatre and cinema. While still a student at Vkhutemas, Pimenov did illustrations for various magazines, including Soviet Screen. And in the second half of the 1920s, he began working in the theatre, was a graphic designer, created sets and costumes, painted the world behind the scenes.
"It was the theatre that gave me a lot of work at a time when my painting was not popular, when I was worked on for my "impressionism" and accused of thousands of non-existent formalistic sins. At that time, the theatre just helped me live. It was my daily bread, it was my love."
Yuri Pimenov also worked in the cinema; for example, he made the scenery for the Kuban Cossacks, participated in the creation of the Red and Black film. But the main thing is that Pimenov became a master of advertising film posters.
8. Shining pathIt may seem that after the creation of the New Moscow, a shining path unfolded before Pimenov (by the way, this was the name of the film by Grigory Alexandrov, released in 1940; in it, the heroine of Lyubov Orlova drives around Moscow and later flies over the capital in an open car as in the picture of Pimenov).
In fact, Pimenov never turned to socialist