School of Technical Drawing of Baron Alexander von Stieglitz
State Stalin Prize
Alexei Fedorovich Pakhomov (2 October 1900 [O.S. 19 September 1900] – 14 April 1973) was a Russian avant garde painter. He is widely renowned as a master of lithography. Early in his career, he was a successful illustrator for children’s books. His work during World War II earned him the State Stalin Prize. He later became a professor of art and was named a People’s Artist of the USSR.
Pakhomov was born into a peasant family in a small village. For years, Pakhomov’s father was elected as village head, so the child Alexei had access to paper. He began to draw himself a lot. People came to see his drawing, and soon the local landlord, Zubov, came to see him and invited him to come and visit. During those visits Zubov gave the boy drawing paper and crayons and showed him pictures of Surikov and Repin. When the boy finished primary education at the village school, Zubov arranged for Alexei to go to high school in Kadnikov.
In 1915, Zubov’s father, former actor and art-lover Yu. Zubov, collected money for Pakhomov to study in Petrograd at Stiglitz Art School, where his teachers were N. Shukhaev, Sergey Chekhonin, Mstislav Dobuzhinsky and Alexander Savinov. He remained there until 1917. From 1921, the young artist studied at the Vkhutemas under V. Lebedev, N. Tyrsa and A. Karev.
Due to the October Revolution and the Russian civil war, Pakhomov’s studies were drawn out until 1925, when he graduated the Vkhutemas and quickly acquired the reputation of being a mature artist. In 1921-1923[clarification needed] he joined the Circle of Artists movement.
Though Pakhomov made a number of colorful, monumental easel paintings, he was first and foremost a graphic artist, renowned for his huge contribution to the illustration of children’s books. The warm glow of his idyllic childhood years found its way into images of peasant children, a simple life he depicted with masterful ease. In the 1920s he made trips to Young Pioneer summer camps, to study children and their special plasticity and expression in natural surroundings. Soviet illustrators had virtually revolutionized the approach to children’s book illustration. The images of old were replaced with dynamic, colorful and emotional pictures which lived in the text instead of accompanying it. At the same time fonts and covers were also considered and designed.
Pakhomov co-founded the Artists’ Society in 1926. He participated in all of the Society’s exhibitions until 1931. Pakhomov’s work reached Japan in 1927
, when his work were put up at an exhibition of Soviet art in Osaka. Shortly after that he began working with the magazines Chizh and Ezh. He also made illustrations for E. L. Schwartz’s, S. Marshak’s and G. Krutov’s children’s books.
In the first half of the 1930s Pakhomov found himself in a difficult situation in view of the narrowing official view of art and the Soviet campaign against “formalism”. His paintings, where half-nude, young men and women are tanning in the sun are so unlike the acceptable, correct, powerful Social Realism, were made the object of severe criticism. The artist had to choose whether to give up his professional principles or some parts of his art altogether. He chose the latter, concentrating on graphic work and limiting himself even more by almost completely giving up color in his illustrations.
When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union during Operation Barbarossa, there a was a need for propaganda placards and posters calling citizens to aid the war effort. Pakhomov hurried to Leningrad to do what he could to help. In July 1941, he helped dig anti-tank moats at Moloskovitza station. During the next three years Pakhomov remained in the besieged Leningrad. Between 1942 and 1944 he produced the a series of lithographs, Leningrad in the Days of the Blockade, in which he strove to bring forward and the very real emotion of the siege of Leningrad; the uniqueness of this particular setting of place and time; the human suffering and strong spirit. The series earned him the State Stalin Prize in 1946. During the siege, his workshop was hit by a bomb which came through the roof, smashed through the floor and blew up two floors below. It destroyed a lot of his works.
The Russian Institute of Blood Transfusions asked him to cooperate, and there he met Vladimir Konashevich, V. Dvorakovsky and Dmitry Mitrokhin. He received a poster-making order from V. Serov, who was chairman of the Leningrad Union of Artists at the time.
Between 1944 and 1947, Pakhomov worked on the series In our City, in which the artist strove to reflect the grand scale of the postwar effort to rebuild ruined Leningrad and to reinstate its formerly vibrant life. The presence of female workers in every traditionally male trade is a reminder of the recent war, which killed millions of Russians. In 1948, he began teaching at the Il’ya Repin Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture; he became a professor the following year.
In the final period of his work, in the 1950s-1960s, Pakhomov tried to revive his work after it became a bit too dry, perhaps too influenced by the strongly dogmatic requirements of post-war Russia. In the 1960s he even returned to the use of color, but his work during this period did not gain much critical acclaim.
Pakhomov died 14 April 1973.
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