Konstantin Mefodevich Maksimov

Konstantin Mefodevich Maksimov

1913 —1993
  • Stalin prize of the second degree (1950)
  • Stalin prize of the third degree (1952)
  • People's Artist of the RSFSR
Konstantin Mefodevich Maksimov was a Soviet painter, and, above all, a master of psychological portrait, the author of famous depictions of the poet A. T. Tvardovsky (1947) and academician N. D. Zelinsky (1951), as well as, an excellent teacher. The artist mainly worked in the media of oil painting and watercolours, though he was also creating a lot of graphic works. He often used to paint from life, using the method of “en plein air”, making sketches during his many trips across the country and abroad. Konstantin Maksimov also created numerous still lifes, landscapes and genre scenes — the artist’s oeuvre is highly diverse. From the very beginning of his artistic career, Maksimov preferred to paint in a realistic manner. He may be regarded as the founder of the school of realistic oil painting in China. The story of the artist’s life contains one of the brightest periods of his career that fell at a time when Konstantin Maksimov taught art in Beijing. 

The artist was born on August 27, 1913 in the family of a civil servant in the village of Shatrovo near the town of Plyos in the Ivanovo region (now Furmanovsky district of the Ivanovo region). He began to show interest in drawing quite early, and with the support of his parents, started to attend classes of the painting group in the small town of Furmanov, which is located near the native village of Konstantin Mefodevich. The classes were taught by Dmitry Alekseevich Trubnikov, whom Konstantin Maksimov later recalled fondly in his letters. Maksimov wrote: "...I was passionate about drawing and felt that without guidance I would not achieve the desired results, then I decided, by all means, to get into this class, and at least look at the "real" artist”. Maksimov was attending the class two or three times a week, drawing from life, and, during the warm days, going with his group outside to sketch. The aspiring artist was studying for three years in that way and has achieved a lot during this time in his creative development. In 1929, he first showed his works to the public in the foyer of the People's house. A year later, after graduating from high school, seventeen-year-old Konstantin Maksimov brought his works for the judgement of teachers of the Ivanovo Art and Pedagogical College, where, in the end, he was enrolled even without any admission examinations, despite the fact that the semester had already begun. Five years of study under the close supervision of the leading teacher Nikolay Gerasimovich Burov followed. It was Burov who instilled in the young artist attention to the psychological side of the portrait. Also, at that time, the young man was influenced by a thoughtful, skilled teacher and talented artist Mikhail Semenovich Pyrin. Famous artists such as F. S. Bogorodsky, F. F. Lecht, F. A. Modorov, S. V. Gerasimov, G. G. Ryazhsky, who came to Ivanovo, recommended Maksimov to continue his education at the Moscow Art Institute. It should be noted that only Konstantin Maksimov and A. S. Muravyev received such attention of all the art pupils in Ivanovo. At the end of his studies at the college, Maksimov took part in the regional exhibition dedicated to the International Youth Day, as well as participated in the design project of the city for the regional party conference. These two events were incredibly inspiring and vital for the formation of Maksimov as a Soviet painter, for his self-consciousness and allowed him to be imbued with professional pride that his work is socially valuable. 

In Moscow Konstantin Maksimov initially entered the painting faculty of the Polygraphic Institute. Soon, in 1937, he moved to the newly-formed Moscow Institute of Fine Arts, which after a while was called the Institute named after V. I. Surikov. The artist studied in the personal studio of Georgy Ryazhsky, who trusted the young artist so much that during his travels he handed over to him the most important duties at the Institute. Thus, already during his student years, Maksimov began to take the first steps in his teaching career. Other teachers were painters Boris Vladimirovich Ioganson and Gregory Mikhailovich Shegal. Konstantin Mefodevich's life in Moscow was filled with tireless work. In 1939, the artist began to participate in Moscow, Republican and all-Union exhibitions on a permanent basis. In accordance with the Institute's program, Maksimov spent a summer internship in the Crimea. When the tragic news about the beginning of WWII was announced, Konstantin Maksimov immediately applied to join the volunteer militia. But soon, by the orders of the Supreme Commander, he and his companions had returned from military units intending to complete artistic education. At that time, Maksimov had to start working on his diploma work, his final academic painting. In autumn 1941, Maksimov together with other artists was evacuated to Samarkand. During this period he became close friends with his classmates: Vasily Kirillovich Nechitailo, Victor Grigorievich Tsyplakov, Yuri Petrovich Kugach, Stepan Ilyich Dudnik. Upon his return to the capital in 1943, Konstantin Maksimov joined the Union of Artists of the RSFSR. In the same year, he took part in the exhibition of diploma works, which were then shown at the exhibition dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the Lenin Komsomol. The work of Maksimov was highly praised by art critics, teachers of the Institute, as well as the former head of the Institute, a respected and significant artist, Igor Emmanuilovich Grabar. Reproductions of Maksimov's works were published in magazines. The artist actively travelled to the places of recent battles to feel and understand the character of the national heroic deed, which had a beneficial effect on the further creative search for Maksimov. At the end of 1944, the newspaper “Soviet art” noted the work of Konstantin Maksimov as the best among the works at the exhibition of the Central House of artists “Travel sketches of Moscow artists. In places of historical battles of the Red Army”. The patriotic theme has always occupied an essential place in the artist’s work. 

In 1945 Maksimov officially began his teaching activities. Today, this artist is known not only as an established and important Russian painter, but also as an experienced and talented teacher who has invested a lot of effort in the education of new generations of masters of Soviet art. The fruits of his labours in the teaching profession were the successes of many now established painters. Among them are T. T. Salakhov, A. P. Tkachev, V. A. Igoshev, V. I. Savenkova, A. M. Dubinchik, Vladimir S. Balankin. A well-deserved success comes to the artist — in 1950 and 1952 he was awarded State prizes. In 1954 Konstantin Maksimov received the title of Professor of the faculty of painting of the Institute named after V. I. Surikov.

At the turn of the 1940s and the first half of the 1950s Konstantin Mefodevich, expressing his love for his native land, to his people, participated in mass trips to the Virgin Lands (The Virgin Lands Campaign). Going on a long creative journey around the country, the artist spent many months creating sketches from life. He wanted to be closer to the people and portray the lives of ordinary people more accurately and abounding with details, thereby, engaging his art in building a bright future of the country. Maksimov was in love with Russian nature; he enjoyed life in the village, which served as an inexhaustible source of inspiration for him. The famous painting “Sashka, the tractor driver” (1954), which is now stored in the State Tretyakov gallery, was one of the results of such creative trips. In addition to his native land, during his life, Konstantin Maksimov travelled abroad a lot. He visited Germany, Spain, Italy, France, and Yugoslavia. The artist returned from trips with a huge number of works painted under the impression of new countries. Thus, a series of watercolours "In Spain"," In Italy", and "In Yugoslavia” were created. 

Maksimov’s creative life and artistic heritage are closely linked to China, where, since 1954, he lived with his wife, who was also engaged in painting, and his son. Forty-two-year-old Maksimov left the Soviet Union at the invitation of the government of the People's Republic of China. In a foreign country, he taught the art of oil painting, as well as led master classes in Beijing at the Chinese Academy of Arts from 1954 to 1957. Most of the students from the “Maksimov’s group”, which was led by the artist, later became famous deans and rectors of various respectful art institutions in China. Now, the “Maksimov’s group” in a funny way is referred to as the “group of rectors”. In China, Maksimov is called “Russian Rembrandt”, which indicates how highly Chinese people appreciate the work of this Russian artist. Upon his return to the Soviet Union, Konstantin Mefodevich worked with great enthusiasm in the medium of watercolour. He participated in the creative trips of watercolourists, which the state sent to the major construction sites of the country. In the late 1960s and 1970s, Maximov created interesting watercolour series “Around Karelia" (1968), "Karelia" (1969), "Donbass" (1971), "people of KAMAZ" (1972 — 1975), "Forty days in Moscow" (1976). The artist has always worked a lot and fruitfully; he did not abandon portraiture, which has reached remarkable hight of sophistication. Maksimov was elected to the governing bodies of the Union of Artists. He died in Moscow in 1993. Today, his paintings are held in in such significant museums and galleries as the State Tretyakov Gallery, the State Russian Museum, the Odessa Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of the People's Republic of China, as well as, among a number of other cities, in the art collections of Sverdlovsk and Kalinin, Cheboksary and Astrakhan, Pereslavl-Zalessky and Kostroma, and in private collections around the world, including Germany, Spain, Holland, France, Japan, China, USA and Italy. Maksimov’s solo exhibitions were held in Moscow in 1960 and 1978, as well as in Kostroma, Ivanovo, Amsterdam (2001, 2003), and Shanghai (2003).


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