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Alexander Gerasimov and the Alchemy of Power.

Alexander Gerasimov and the Alchemy of Power.


  Leonid Shishkin Gallery


Commercial Exhibition 

from European Private Collections.  




Stalin's Velázquez.

Alexander Gerasimov and the Alchemy of Power.


1st November - 5th December 2012



A.M.Gerasimov (1881-1963), Guarding the Peace. Stalin and Voroshilov in the Kremlin. Version. 1938, oil on canvas, 160х200 cm. Private Collection.
Grand Prix at the World Fair in New York, 1939.
Stalin Prize of 1941.


“...perhaps no other painting in the Soviet Union ever attained more fame...”                                                          “In the case of Gerasimov’s painting, Stalin is the sacral centre of the Soviet cosmos...Stalin’s sacrality is underlined by his size, by the immobility of his body-a centre, by definition, does not move-and by his lack of ornamentation. Whereas Voroshilov bears the full insignia of a high representative of the Soviet army...Stalin does not need these, because he is already firmly established in the collective imaginary as the country’s sacral centre...”

“This central circle containing Stalin and Voroshilov remains open toward the viewer, who is drawn into the picture and merges with the leader...”

“If Stalin embodies the Soviet body politic, then Voroshilov embodies the Red Army. Thus the Soviet people, incarnated in Stalin, are protected by their army, incarnated in Voroshilov. The railing is a further symbol of defence. It is broken, jarringly and incongruously, at only one place, right behind Voroshilov, in order to show the Moscow River in more detail and, more importantly, the masses on the embankment. The gap in the railing permits the creation of a visual axis between Voroshilov and the people of the Moscow’s River Embankment. The motif of the connection between the leader and the masses is thus unmistakably present in the painting..."                                                                                                                                                                                                    Jan Plamper, The Cult of Stalin. A study in the Alchemy of Power. Yale University Press, 2012


The painting about an event that never was


A.M.Gerasimov (1881-1963), Preliminary painting for the Hymn to October. 1942, oil on canvas, 120х201cm. Private Collection. Stalin Prize of 1943.

 “Hymn to October” is a remarkable work of art. Fiction and reality, their interpenetration, represent the essence of the reality of that historical period."                                                                                                                                                                                  Alisa Lubimova “Big Picture” Anthology,the State Russian Museum, 2006

The painting depicts a ceremonial meeting dedicated to Soviet Power - the 25th anniversary of the October Revolution, which, according to official records, took place in the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow on the 6th November 1942. At this time, the German troops in Stalingrad reached the shores of the Volga river, whilst in the Caucasus, they conquered the suburbs of Ordzhonikidze (now Vladikavkaz), opening the way to oil-fields of Grozny and Baku. To celebrate the anniversary in such a pompous way required considerable courage and an absolute confidence of victory.

In the painting, Gerasimov depicted more than 200 people: party leaders, scientists, writers, cultural and arts workers, amongst whom we can see the artist himself. In the painting, colour and light play a significant, independent role, creating their own plastic dramaturgy, the culmination of which is the relatively small figure of the leader at the pulpit, illuminated by the golden rays of light.

Only 67 years later, with the release of the “The Moscow Kremlin in the Years of the Second World War” book, a fascinating fact came to light – the meeting in the Bolshoi Theatre was announced to have taken place on the 3rd November, but instead was actually held in a small circle of people in the Grand Kremlin Palace on the 6th of November, for conspiracy purposes. Nevertheless, Gerasimov was commissioned to create an image of the fictitious meeting in the Bolshoi Theatre that later became the legend, which he accomplished brilliantly.


A.M.Gerasimov (1881-1963), The Oath. 1930s, tempera and watercolour on cardboard on plywood, 122х161cm. Private Collection.


A.M.Gerasimov (1881-1963), Stalin’s Funeral. 1953, oil on canvas, 71.5х95cm. Private Collection.

Alexander Mikhailovich Gerasimov (1881 -1863)


A.M.Gerasimov (1881-1963), Artists I.Brodsky, A.Gerasimov, E.Katsman at Stalin’s Dacha. 1951, oil on canvas, 123х142cm. Private Collection.

1881 – Gerasimov was born into a family with a mixed peasant and merchant background in the small town of Kozlov (now Michurinsk) near Tambov. From his early years he worked with his father, buying and selling cattle, and completed a commercial college. Gerasimov started to paint around the age of 15, however, in the family such a pastime was considered unproductive and not highly regarded.

1903 – Gerasimov did not enter the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture until the age of 22. After five years of life classes he transferred to the studios of Valentin Serov and Konstantin Korovin. The influence of the latter on the artist was immense. Korovin instilled an interest in the art of Anders Zorn and Claude Monet, whom he appreciated, according to Gerasimov himself, for their sincerity, poetry and integrity of the painterly sense.

1911 – Gerasimov completed the college course, but in order to continue working in the studio of Korovin, instead of completing his diploma painting, Gerasimov started a second year in the department of architecture.

1915 – Gerasimov successfully defended two theses for degrees in architecture and painting. It was the only time in the history of the school that a student received two degrees simultaneously. After graduating, Gerasimov was mobilized as a soldier by the army. Only three years later he returned to Moscow, at the time when artists of the left were taking a lead, and Gerasimov settled in Kozlov, where he worked as an artist at a local theatre (designed by himself and built in 1913) for seven years.

1925 – Gerasimov returned to Moscow and joined the Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia, the ranks of which consisted of adherents of realism.

1927 – Gerasimov painted a portrait of Voroshilov, for which the People’s Commissar for Military and Navy Affairs posed patiently himself. At the ninth exhibition of the Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia, this portrait was acquired by the Museum of the Revolution in Moscow.


A.M.Gerasimov (1881-1963), Taras Bulba. 1950s, oil on canvas, 120х150cm. Private Collection. 

A.M.Gerasimov(1881-1963), Herd. 1959, oil on canvas, 116х180cm. Private Collection.

1930 – Gerasimov painted “Lenin at Pulpit,” which was acquired by the Izogiz publishers. For the next fifty years, millions of copies of the painting were published by Izogiz.

1933 – On 6th July, the main art patron Voroshilov took A. Gerasimov , I. Brodsky and E. Katzman to Stalin’s dacha, where they spent the whole day until late evening, talking, playing ‘gorodki’ and dining. Gerasimov made sketches throughout the day in his sketchbook.

1934 – Gerasimov travelled extensively through Europe, visiting Germany, France, Italy and Turkey.

1936 – The artist had a solo exhibition in Moscow, celebrating 25 years of his artistic career. Also that year, he received the Order of Lenin and the title of Honoured Culture Worker of RSFSR.

1937 – Gerasimov received a Grand Prix at the International Exposition of Art and Technology in Modern Life in Paris for the painting “First Cavalry Army.” Before that, Gerasimov created a few works based on the subject of ‘Public Speeches of Comrade Stalin,’ in which the artist’s architectural competence and painting technique helped him find elements that later formed the big style of the epoch, approved by the vozhd’ himself.

1939 – Gerasimov received a Grand Prix at the World Fair in New York for the painting “Guarding the Peace. Stalin and Voroshilov in the Kremlin” (State Tratyakov Gallery, Moscow). Two years later, the artist was awarded a first degree Stalin Prize (a Soviet equivalent of the Noble Prize) for the same painting. Gerasimov was the only artist in the country who became a quadruple laureate of the Stalin Prize: for the “Hymn to October” (State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg) in 1943, for the “Portrait of Four Oldest Artists,” (State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow) in 1946, and for the “Stalin at Zhdanov’s Coffin” in 1948 (State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg).

1947 – Grabar and Gerasimov were the main contenders for the position of the first president of the newly created USSR Academy of Arts. The choice was made in favour of Stalin's Velázquez, who was in charge of fine art in the USSR for the next ten years, when adherents to the western movements found it difficult to exhibit their work.

1957 – Gerasimov was replaced as president of the Academy. After Khrushchev denounced the cult of Stalin, the works of Gerasimov began to slowly move from museum exhibition rooms to the storages. In the early 1960s, when an acquaintance of the artist, an art critic, asked him how he was, he responded ironically: “In oblivion. Like Rembrandt.”

On the picture above: Alexander Gerasimov’s exhibition room in The State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

Stalin's Velázquez.

Alexander Gerasimov and the Alchemy of Power.

Commercial Exhibition from European Private Collections.

Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 11.00 until 17.00

1st November - 5th December 2012

Please make an appointment to visit on other days. By invitation only.

Leonid Shishkin Gallery St. Georges House,
24 Queens Road, Weybridge,

KT13 9UX London
Tel: +44(0)1932 841323 e-mail: info@shishkin-gallery.com WWW.SHISHKIN-GALLERY.COM



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