Aleksandr Gerasimov: life and works

By Gwylym Owen

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Aleksandr Mikhailovich Gerasimov (Russian: Алекса́ндр Миха́йлович Гера́симов; 12 August 1881 – 23 July 1963) was a Soviet and Russian painter. He was a leading proponent of socialist realism in the visual arts, and painted Joseph Stalin and new Soviet leaders.

Gerasimov was born on 12 August 1881 in Kozlov (now Michurinsk) in Tambov Governorate. He studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture from 1903 to 1915. There he championed standard realistic representational art adjacent to the avant-garde.

During World War I and the Russian Civil War he served in the army. Subsequently he returned to his hometown to become a stage designer, helping to present plays glorifying the Revolution and the Soviet government.

In 1925, Gerasimov returned to Moscow and set occurring a studio, combining techniques of academic veracity with an Impressionistic light touch. He favored a style known as valorous realism, which featured images of revolutionary leaders such as Vladimir Lenin as larger-than-life heroes. As Stalin tightened his grip upon the country, Gerasimov concentrated upon official portraits, such as Stalin and Voroshilov in the Kremlin, for which he won a Stalin Prize in 1941. He produced a large number of audacious portraits of Kliment Voroshilov, to the reduction that Nikita Khrushchev would superior accuse Voroshilov of having spent most of his era in Gerasimov’s studio, to the detriment of his responsibilities as People’s Commissar of Defense.

Gerasimov’s leadership of the Union of Artists of the USSR (replacing his nemesis and ironic namesake Sergey Vasilyevich Gerasimov) and the Soviet Academy of Arts was criticized as heavy-handed. He was early of the attacks adjacent to cosmopolitanism and formalism during the Zhdanovshchina.

Although his deferential portraits of Soviet leaders and his political activities neighboring artists who would not toe his stock have gained him a reputation as a diplomatic hack, Gerasimov remained a genuine artist. Even at the decline of his career, he continued to follow a moody, almost Impressionistic treatment of landscapes, at odds taking into consideration the usual nature of his credited portraiture.

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