Nikolai Ivanovich Andronov

Nikolai Ivanovich Andronov

1929 —1998
  • Laureate of the State prize of the USSR (1979)
  • A corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Arts (1988)
  • Honored Artist of the RSFSR (1979)
  • People's Artist of the Russian Federation (1996)

Nikolai Andronov was a gifted and thoughtful Russian-Soviet artist who was one of the founders of 'Severe' style and has played a vital role in the process of transformation of art and changes in its fundamental concepts in the 1960s and later. At first, the artist was in the middle of all the new trends that were happening in the 1950s -1960s in Soviet art, but then he stepped aside from the common flow. He was eager to construct a less artificial alternative which would be contrasting with glorified, idealised Socialist Realist painting. Much of Andronov's early work is monumental and decorative with a restricted, even gloomy, colour palette filled with a sense of unease. These works represent a quite narrow range of subject matters consisting mainly of mundane scenes of labour or preparation for work with withdrawn and introspective figures. Also, Andronov is known for his monumental works such as frescoes and mosaics in the architectural design of public buildings. His later main subject matters were deserted Northern landscapes, interiors of traditional Russian houses, rustic still lifes and melancholic, contemplative self-portraits. The artist has managed to create an image of himself as one holding the truth in high regard and fighting with Soviet artistic ideologies. Although his art has never been politically motivated, many of Andronov's works, particularly his monumental works, are not devoid of civil pathos and craving for big statements. Through the course of his artistic career, Andronov was often, all of a sudden, quite radically changing directions in which his art was going, even occasionally contradicting his previous work and its manifestoes.

Andronov was born on April 30, 1929 in a family of a scientist in Moscow. His first acquaintance with the Russian countryside, which was one of the main topics in his art, happened during the Second World War, when he was sent to a small village on the river Sura, where his mother was born. Andronov started his artistic education in a secondary art school in Moscow in 1943. He relocated to Leningrad in 1948 and entered the Ilya Repin Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, where he studied until 1951. Andronov started to participate in group exhibitions in 1951. The artist returned to Moscow in 1952 and continued his education in Surikov Art Institute under Dmitry Mochalsky. He was always experimenting, trying to find a new way of practising the art and developing his artistic style. It was a very advantageous period during the 1950s in Moscow for such young and aspiring artists as Andronov. There were numerous exhibitions of new art, built upon the legacy of the early avant-garde group Bubnovyi Valet (Jack of Diamonds), and revealing a tendency for Monumentalism, harsh truth and pure austerity, which later was named 'Severe Style'. Andronov graduated in 1954 and settled in Kuybyshev for a couple of years. In 1958 Andronov joined the Moscow branch of the Artists' Union. Andronov was part of a group of like-minded, young, progressive artists such as M. Ivanov, K. Mordovin, N. Egorshina, M. Nikonov, B. Birger, M. Favorskaya, L. Berlin and V. Weisberg. As a consequence of this engagement, an experimental show called 'Exhibition of Nine' happened in 1961 and stirred a great deal of interest and controversy. The artists involved in this group have been fundamental to those changes in the artistic community of Moscow that were happening in the 1960s.

In 1960 Andronov worked in Siberia and what he found there was precious for his future landscape works featuring the heart of Russia represented in all these northern villages with sagging, dilapidated dwellings, and resilient, tough people. In 1962 Andronov participated in a famous show, marking the 30th anniversary of the Moscow branch of the Artists' Union, at Manezh in Moscow. His painting 'Rafters' (1961), amongst his other works, was especially harshly criticised by the Soviet authorities and has become a starting point for the devastating campaign of trashing through the newspapers and magazines calling the artist a 'formalist dabbler' and making him an outcast. Andronov was expelled from the Artists' Union and left all these disparaging lies and fabrications of the Soviet practices of political propaganda and deceitful demonstrations of Communist prosperity for a tiny village Ferapontovo in Vologda Oblast. After spending several years at his spiritual homeland, at the Russian hinterland, and finding purification by truth as well as developing his new artistic style, Andronov returned to Moscow and started to work on public commissions in 1967. Also, in 1967, the artist participated in his first international exhibition in Paris, and then, in 1970, he exhibited in Prague. In addition to working in the Northern areas of Russia, Andronov, starting from the early 1950s, was coming regularly to the recognised artistic destination, Abramtsevo, in the Moscow suburb, where the artist had his country house (dacha) and, later, his artistic studio. Andronov's first solo exhibition was held in the Museum of Abramtsevo in 1974.

In 1976 Andronov headed the Department of Monumental Painting of the Moscow Union of Artists, and until the late 1980s, he was working tirelessly on a variety of different design and architectural projects, which usually were quite grand, such as, for instance, Paveletsky Railway Station decoration in 1988. Andronov was awarded an honorary title 'Honored Artist of the RSFSR' in 1979. In the same year, he also received the USSR State Prize for the mosaics in the interior of the building of the newspaper 'Izvestia'. Andronov was not only a great, thought-provoking artist but also an accomplished teacher, who was teaching at the Surikov Art Institute and was in charge of the Department of Composition, which had been created on Andronov's initiative, at the Surikov Institute as well. In 1996 Andronov was awarded by the title of 'People's Artist of the Russian Federation'. Andronov died on November 10, 1998, in Moscow at the age of sixty-nine.

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Сарабьянов, Д. (1982). Николай Андронов. Москва: Советский Художник.
Morozov, A. (2009). NIKOLAI ANDRONOV TODAY | The Tretyakov Gallery Magazine. [online] Available at:
Thatcher, I. (1999). Regime and society in twentieth-century Russia: Selected Papers from the Fifth World Congress of Central and East European Studies, Warsaw. Basingstoke: Macmillan.