SEPTEMBER 24 — NOVEMBER 23, 2014
Curator: Elena Kamenskaya
Research adviser: Elena Yakovleva
Display architect: Yuri Avvakumov
The Moscow Museum of Modern Art presents a large-scale retrospective exhibition of works by Vasili Ivanovich Shukhaev (1887-1973), a XX century artist, a master draftsman and painter. The exhibition held in the Museum’s main venue is meant to display Shukhaev’s lifework in all the varieties and genres of his art. Aside from containing some well-known artworks from the major museums’ collections, the exhibition also includes a number of paintings, drawings, theatre productions sketches and book illustrations which have never been exhibited to date.
The Vasili Shukhaev exhibition is the first part of a large research project conducted by the MMOMA. The second part will be embodied as a symposium on various aspects of life and work of the artist.
Vasili Shukhaev lived a long, complex and eventful life that fully reflects all the facets of the drama befallen the Russian artistic intelligentsia in the 20th century. Historical events, politics, plus certain peculiarities of the art scene of the pre- and post-revolution Russia and that of Paris between the two world wars — all the above combined in the artist’s personal life and his career alike.
Vasili Shukhaev was born in Moscow in 1887. He studied at Stroganov College in Moscow and at the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg, from whence he set off to Italy on a two-year pensionnaire trip to perfect himself in painting. He began teaching in Petrograd, and then continued to do so in Paris years ago. He also taught in Leningrad and Tbilisi. In 1920, Shukhaev immigrated to Finland. Afterwards he moved to France, where the artist spent 14 years. Having returned to his motherland, the artist spent a mere two years working in there — though it was a happy and productive stint for him — before he got arrested in 1937 for committing «crimes» stipulated in the notorious Article 58 (On the responsibility for counter-revolutionary activities) of the Soviet Criminal Code. As a result, Shukhaev was exiled to the Kolyma region. Since 1947 he lived and worked in Georgia for the following twenty-five years, spending his summertime in the village of Tsikhisdjvari, and later at his friends’ dacha in Nikolina Gora, Moscow region.
Thematically and chronologically, a full-fledged display of Shukhaev’s oeuvre spanning nearly seven decades of the 20th century, has been a mission impossible until recently. The artist’s works are quite scattered all over the world, they pop up occasionally in a variety of exhibitions, auctions and publications. At long last, the above will be put on view along with the works provided by the state-controlled and private collections located in Russia, Georgia, Kazakhstan and other countries.
In view of the 100th anniversary of World War I, special attention will be paid to the portraits of the Russian Army officers (1916) — the artist’s sketches for his major yet unfinished painting The Regiment in the Field (The Russian Museum). It is for the first time that the previously unknown Russian servicemen will retreat their names and biographical data.
Both the exhibition and its catalogue will include the records pertinent to the Shukhaevs’ case. The records are on display by courtesy of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation. The documents, which are made public for the first time, will enable one to remove the veil of secrecy from the circumstances as to the imprisonment of the Shukhaevs. The documents can also help to shed light on their life at a prison camp in Magadan.
Shukhaev’s work commissioned by the Russian theatre directors V.E. Meirkhold, N.F. Baliyev, L.V. Varpakhovsky and his work in a theatre of Magadan Gulag are yet another part of the artist’s legacy that has been in want of a proper research for a long time. The exhibits will throw a new light on those works.
Unique editions of A.S. Pushkin’s The Queen of Spades (1922) and Boris Godunov (1924) illustrated by Shukhaev, and the original sheets of the illustrations from museum funds will certainly enrich the exhibition. Shukhaev received several commissions from the American magazine Vanity Fair to draw caricatures of the famous politicians and writers in the 1930s. The caricatures on display are likely to stir the spectator’s interest. The MMOMA staff did a good deal of scientific research work including that for attribution purposes as part of the preparations for mounting this exhibition. The work enabled the staff to ascertain the titles, date and provenance of a number of the works.