Ilya Yakovlevich Ginzburg

Ilya Yakovlevich Ginzburg

1859 —1939
Ilya Yakovlevich Ginzburg can be rightly defined as one of the most talented and original Russian sculptors of the XIX and early XX century. The son of a famous Talmudist writer, Eliash Ginsburg (another version of the sculptor's name) was born to a poor Jewish family on 27 May 1859, in Grodno (now the Republic of Belarus) in the Russian Empire. Having lost his father in infancy, the boy was raised by his mother, brothers and grandfather, Girsh Lapidus, who was enthusiastically engaged in charity work. Ginzburg spent his childhood in Vilna (now Vilnius, Lithuania). Already from an early age, little Eliah has demonstrated a clear interest in the cutting of various objects and figures from the grindstone. Thanks to these first works, the gifted boy was noticed by the famous Russian sculptor, academician Mark Antokolsky, who arrived in Vilna in 1870. He took the eleven-years-old Ginzburg as an apprentice in his workshop to Saint-Petersburg. It was a turning point, a crucial moment in the fate of the future sculptor, as the creative style of Ginzburg and his approach to work had developed in response to Mark Antokolsky's teaching. Under the guidance of a wise mentor, Ginzburg was even commissioned to perform ornaments on the throne of the statue of Antokolsky, "Ivan the Terrible". The young man participated in the creation of many works that were executed in the workshop of the eminent sculptor, including an excellent opportunity to show his outstanding skills creating the bust of Konstantin Grot after Antokolsky's design. Then, the academician took his student with him to Italy for further expansion of artistic horizons and creative landmarks. Until his death in 1902, he and Ginzburg remained good friends and faithful companions in their work. Perhaps, both sculptors were so close because in addition to the productive cooperation of two talents they had quite similar origins and destinies. Subsequently, Gunzburg, going already through his mature artistic phase, portrayed his friend and teacher in the form of statuettes and even created him a bust (for instance, "Antokolsky at the machine", 1897, or bronze bust of 1907). Also, Ilya Yakovlevich created a tombstone for Mark Antokolsky in 1909.

In 1878, after graduating from high school in St. Petersburg, Gintzburg applied at the Imperial Society for the encouragement of the arts where he studied until 1886 and also simultaneously started to study at the Academy of Arts. As his teachers at the faculty of sculpture Ilya Yakovlevich had accomplished professionals such as Alexander Bock, Nicholay Laveretsky and Ivan Podozerov. Ginzburg completed his studies with honours and a large gold medal for the final work, the bas-relief "Weeping of the prophet Jeremiah on the ruins of Jerusalem". While being a student at the Academy, he was also awarded one small gold medal in 1885 and two silver medals, a small one in 1883, and a large one in 1884. Overall, the career of this fascinating sculptor was developing quite successfully, and his works were appreciated. Already at an early stage of his academic education, Ginzburg began to put his works on a public display: in 1882 he took part in the 2nd exhibition of the Society of Exhibitions of Works of Art. This first experience was followed by other academic exhibitions, in which he participated intermittently from 1884 to 1918. The sculptor also exhibited his works at the expositions of the Association of Traveling Art Exhibitions in 1895 and 1896, at the exhibitions of the St. Petersburg Society of Artists in 1898, and at the show of the Association of South Russian Artists in 1912. Among other things, he participated in exhibitions of the Society of Artists named after A. I. Kuindzhi in 1929 and 1930, and at the exhibition "Artists of the RSFSR for XV years" in Leningrad and Moscow, and others. Personal exhibitions of the sculptor were held in Petrograd in 1918, and in Leningrad in 1934. Ginzburg also has found recognition of his talents abroad: in 1900 he received the First Gold Medal at the world exhibitions in Paris, in 1904 - the gold medal at the world exhibition in St. Louis. He actively participated in the international art exhibition arena: Ginzburg showed his sculptures in Munich (1893, 1895, 1901, 1909, 1913), Berlin (1896), Venice (1897, 1914), Liege (1905), as well as at The World Exhibitions in Chicago (1893) and Rome (1911).

The first significant independent project for the sculptor was a monument to the great writer Nikolai Gogol in the small town of Sorochyntsi, in the Poltava region. Ginzburg was awarded the title of academician in 1911, and in 1918 he became a Professor. After the revolution, from 1921 to 1925, Ilya Yakovlevich taught sculpture at the Petrograd's Free State Art Studios (Vkhutemas). Ginzburg was also appointed as a Dean of the faculty of sculpture at Vkhutemas from 1921 to 1923. In Soviet times, he mainly undertook monumental projects, creating statues and monuments to scientists and cultural figures. However, he is widely known mostly for his miniature figurines-portraits and busts of famous Russian people, such as novelist Leo Tolstoy, the artist V. Vereshagin, conductor Anton Rubinstein, the lawyer V. Spasovich, art critic V. Stasov, etc. In general, the area of the portrait has become one of the most important directions in the work of the sculptor. Also, there are often images of children of children in his work presented as genre figurines (for example, "A boy descending into the water", "On a swing" or "A musician boy"). Ginzburg has written essays, critical articles and stories in the periodicals "News", "Russian Word", "Son of the Fatherland", as well as the autobiography, which was published in the "World of God" in 1880, and in 1908 he also published his book of memories called "Out of my life". Since 1912, Ilya Yakovlevich was a full member of the Society of Architects and Artists, he also served as Chairman of the arts section of the Society of People's Universities and was a member of the Committee of the Society of the Museum of Tolstoy and the St. Petersburg Literary Society. Ginzburg died at the age of seventy-nine on January 31, 1939, in Leningrad. Ilya Ginzburg's works are present in the collections of famous museums of Russia, Ukraine and the Republic of Belarus.

Bibliography: (n.d.). Энциклопедия русских художников: ГИНЦБУРГ (Гинзбург) Илья (Элиаш) Яковлевич. [online] Available at: (n.d.). Ilya Ginzburg. [online] Available at: (n.d.). Гинцбург Илья Яковлевич. [online] Available at: (n.d.). ЕЭБЕ/Гинцбург, Илья Яковлевич - Викитека. [online] Available at:ЕЭБЕ/Гинцбург,_Илья_Яковлевич