Yuri Ivanovich Pimenov

Yuri Ivanovich Pimenov

1903 —1977
  • Winner of the Stalin prize of the second degree (1947; 1950)
  • Silver medal of the USSR Ministry of culture (1958)
  • Gold medal and Diploma of the USSR Academy of Arts (1964)
  • Winner of the Lenin prize (1967)
  • Corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Arts (1954)
  • Honoured Artist of the RSFSR (1957)
  • Academician of the USSR Academy of Arts (1962)
  • People's Artist of the RSFSR (1962)
  • People's Artist of the USSR (1970)
Yuri Pimenov is an acknowledged, well-known classic of Soviet Russian art. Yuri Ivanovich was an immensely versatile person: an imaginative and bright creator of easel and decorative-monumental painting, teacher and Professor, author of countless Soviet film posters and a talented graphic artist, book and magazine illustrator. He also tried himself in sculpture, worked a lot on stage design in theatrical productions, was engaged as a production artist on the set of Soviet cinematography. Pimenov was not only an artist but also a publicist - he wrote a number of books and articles. For a long time, Pimenov was the chief artist of the magazine "Ogoniok", where he published his articles on the fine arts and prominent masters. Yuri Ivanovich was a socially active person: he was one of the organisers of the Easel Painter's Society (OST) in 1925, later participated in the artistic society called "Izobrigada", worked a lot in the Moscow Regional Union of Artists (MOSKh), was elected a member of the Presidium of the Academy of Arts of the USSR. He was teaching at the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) for more than thirty years, leading a studio of painting and bringing up more than one generation of successful artists of theatre and cinema.

The artist Alexander Labas described Pimenov in the 1920s: "Pimenov was very active, fast, lively, cheerful, he laughed a lot, he liked to talk about trifles, liked to dress up, to show off a bit. There was an impression that he does everything without thinking, on the move, with a smile, sometimes with a smirk, liked to laugh at someone, to joke, and then all this was instantly forgotten, and he already spoke and laughed about someone else. But regardless empty, childish conversations that Pimenov could have, he was a thoughtful and analytical person. Sometimes he even surprised me: how much this person inside of him did not correspond to the first impression of his character. And the more I got to know him, the more I saw this side, his ability to synthesise and weigh everything based on a great imagination. His paintings were somewhat graphic, which I cannot fully appreciate, but the images were powerful indeed. His keen sense of modernity was fully developed." When the period of fascination with German Expressionism at an early stage of his career has passed, Yuri Pimenov imbued his still lifes, portraits, landscapes, genre scenes with a sense of warmth, soulfulness and optimism, as well as with the feeling that every day he lived is unusual and valuable, worthy to be forever depicted in the artist's picture. Even though the artist's style is often attributed to socialist realism, Yuri Ivanovich's works never rose to the status of "official" art, and even at some time were scolded for formalist tendencies due to the use of Impressionism. However, during the most of his artistic career, he was recognised in the Soviet Union and abroad.

Pimenov was born on December 9, 1903, in Moscow, in the family of the assistant attorney Ivan Vasilyevich Pimenov and Claudia Mikhailovna Pimenova, who was a descendant of the Moscow merchant Babanin family. The future artist spent his childhood in Zamoskvorechye. The boy's talent was noticed by his school drawing teacher in the 10th Moscow gymnasium. His teacher, Alferov, has contributed to Pimenov's admission in Zamoskvoretskaya school of drawing and painting. Thus, the artistic journey of young Yuri Pimenov has begun: visits to the State Tretyakov Gallery, the tireless practice of life drawing, the endless work with the plaster cast, creation of the first still lifes… Pimenov could not have rest even at home: he often was making copies from reproductions of Serov's and Somov's paintings that he saw on the postcards and was busy with painting landscapes. The works of I. I. Levitan, K. A. Somov, A. N. Benoit have made an indelible impression on Yury Ivanovich, who has repeatedly copied the great masters, trying to achieve perfection. Later, he was just as much fascinated by the works of distinguished French artists such as O. Renoir, E. Degas, C. Monet. When Pimenov was seventeen years old, he took his drawings, copies, sketches and went to the famous artist Sergei Malyutin, who taught at the Higher Art and Technical Studios (Vkhutemas). Malyutin was so impressed by the skill of the young artist that he accepted him immediately and so Pimenov's studies in Vkhutemas have begun. Yuri Ivanovich studied at the Faculty of Painting and then at the Faculty of Printing until 1925. Among his teachers who particularly influenced the development of the artist were M. M. Shemyakin, V. D. Falileev, and V. A. Favorsky, whom Pimenov recalled with exceptional gratitude and admiration. The first course has brought new acquaintances and friendships for life, as in the case of Andrei Goncharov, with whom Yuri Ivanovich worked together on illustrations and collages all nights long to provide themselves financially in their young years. The illustrations sent to newspapers and magazines, the creation of signboards and the production of scenery for theatres have brought earnings. Since 1923, Pimenov has collaborated with various magazines such as" 30 days"," Plane"," Soviet screen"," Spotlight", "Red field". The artist recalled his student years: "We, the students of VKhUTEMAS, made noise in the audience of the Polytechnic Museum at the reading of poems, supporting Mayakovsky and Aseyev. Made noise at Meyerhold's performances... But we were not only noisy. We learned the skills".

The central themes in the 1920s and early 1930s in the artist's work were aimed at the present, its life realities and ideals: sport, protest against war, the latest technology and scientific progress, cinema, industrialisation and images of workers, enthusiasm and heroics of work. Back in 1924, while studying at Vkhutemas, Pimenov was a member of the "Group of Three", which included Aleksandr Deyneka and Andrei Goncharov. The "Group of Three" presented their works at the First Discussion Exhibition of Associations of Active Revolutionary Art. The manifestation of urbanism, the rapid movement, that the young artists had clearly learned from their teacher Favorsky, was ostensibly present in these works. Gradually, this group grew into a Society of Easel Artists (OST), which thanks to the progressive ideas of its members, has remained solidly and vividly captured in the Russian art of the first half of the XX century. This schematic, graphic appearance of Pimenov's works that Labas has mentioned in his memoirs, was particularly evident during the time of activity of the OST. In his magazine and book illustrations of that period, Pimenov has turned to the comparison of the present and the past and anti-fascist theme in satirical, caricature way. In 1927, the artist was awarded the jury prize of the Exhibition of Works of Art for the Tenth Anniversary of October for the painting "Get Heavy Industry Going!". When in January 1931 the OST was divided, Pimenov, together with the separated artists, joined a new artistic Association- "Izobrigada", in a statement of which, as the main goal, was clearly identified the strengthening of the proletarian sector in art.

The public and critics, who took Pimenov's works particularly well in the mid-1920s, began to note by the end of this decade and in the early 1930s that the artist had stopped moving forward and was mired in formalism, giving more and more negative assessments of his work. The beginning of the 1930s was a difficult period in the life of Yuri Ivanovich. "Izobrigada" was forced to disband, for political reasons, critics were tireless in their attempts to attack, and the artist himself fell seriously ill. Pimenov has said about this stage of life that, "My nerves were shuttered, I could not work. In addition, I suffered professional troubles: the book, which I had illustrated, was declared as a formalist one, and I ended up without money and work; after this incident I could not get any commissions for book illustrations, and we have survived only because of the money that my wife has earned being a stage designer". As a consequence, under the influence of rethinking of his creative path and goals for the future, the artist has embarked on the journey of creating his unique plastic language, which has continued to develop in his work during the next decades. It was then, in a difficult period, when the artist began to wander a lot through the noisy streets of his native city, thoroughly looking at bustling life around. It is how this urban theme was formed - construction sites, streets, citizens - everything was filled with speed, modernity, progress, life in its very present manifestation. Yuri Ivanovich devoted many works, created throughout his life, to the representation of modern Moscow, including the famous painting "New Moscow" (1937). This painting vividly shows the artist's new style of painting: illuminated, radiant, life-affirming; ones that remind of the impressionistic brushstroke and light. In 1937, Yuri Pimenov achieved international success: he received a gold medal at the international exhibition "Art and Technology in Modern Life" in Paris.

During the Second World War, together with his friend from the OST, Vladimir Vasiliev, Pimenov worked for the TASS Windows. The artist also created a series of works on the military theme, while returning to the expressionistic trends. When in 1943, Yuri Ivanovich was sent to the North-Western front, to the region of Staraya Russa and Leningrad, one of the main themes in his work was the image of the heroes of the rear. After the war, Pimenov began teaching at the VGIK (all-Russian State Institute of Cinematography named after S. A. Gerasimov) at the Art Faculty, where he stayed until 1972. This brings the artist closer to the world of cinema, which had attracted Yuri Ivanovich for a long time. He was involved in the creation of "Kuban Cossacks", one of the most famous Soviet films of the post-war years. In general, decorative arts have occupied a significant place in the biography of Yuri Ivanovich. He has collaborated with such famous Soviet directors as S. A. Gerasimov, A. M. Zguridi, M. O. Knebel, A. I. Pyriev, A. D. Popov, I. Y. Shlyepanov. Whether in theatre or film, Pimenov could masterfully create an entire world in the stage space, conveying the spirit of the era and the plot. He was thinking through all the smallest details of the built interiors, still lifes of mise-en-scéne, images of actors. Again, urban landscape has got a major position in the artist's work: for those paintings, full of optimism and cheerful spirit, depicting Moscow, taking a new look after the military devastation, Pimenov was awarded the Lenin prize in 1967. In fact, the 1960s are the heyday of the artist's career and his official recognition: he has become a People's Artist of the RSFSR, a full member of the Academy of Arts of the USSR, and he has got the Order of the Red Banner. Pimenov was actively writing and travelling. He went to Italy, France, England and India. Published books by the artist include: "A year of travel" (1960), "The Art of Life or the Art of Nothing" (1960), "The Story of a Trip to London" (1964), "The Extraordinary Ordinary" (1964), "New Quarters" (1968), "Flowers" (1970), "The Mysterious World of Spectacles" (1974). In 1970, became a People's Artist of the USSR. Pimenov died on September 6, 1977, in Moscow and was buried at Novodevichy cemetery. The artist's works are present in public and private collections in Russia, England, France, Germany, USA, Japan and other countries.


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