The State Memorial and Natural Preserve "Museum-estate of Leo Tolstoy "Yasnaya Polyana"
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Exhibition: About Children and for Children

12September 8 - October 22, 2017
Yasnaya Polyana Gallery

The exhibition will feature illustrations to Leo Tolstoy‘s ABC Book done by different artists during almost all of the 20th century and kept in the collection of the Yasnaya Polyana Museum. They include works by V.A. Favorsky (1932), M.Kh. Gorshman (1941), V.I. Kurdov (the 1940s), E.M. Rachev (1949), A.F. Pakhomov (the 1960s), N.A. Rashchektaev (the 1970s), M.N. Romadin (1978), and S. Kharlamov (1988). 

155 years ago, in 1872, Leo Tolstoy‘s ABC Book and four readers were published. In one of his letters Tolstoy admitted: “My proud dreams about this ABC book are as follows: using this abc book only, two generations of all Russian children will learn, from the czar‘s to peasant ones...“ At present this book is not used in Russian schools in its entirety, but short stories from the ABC Book are included in the program for pre-school and school-age reading and are still published. The language of the stories is so simple that they are comprehensible for the smallest children, and illustrations, without which it’s impossible to imagine any ABC book, help the young readers to follow the plot.

Artists of various styles and schools turned to Tolstoy's ABC Book. The works shown at the About Children and for Children exhibition let us see and compare specific features of their methods, views, and attitudes to life and art. Illustrating a book reveals not only the artist's professional qualities, but also his ability to see the very essence of the literary work and highlight its main idea. In addition, the character of the work is influenced by technical specifications, such as the format of the edition, the size of pages, and the font, and each illustrator finds harmony between the text and the images in his own way.

The exhibition opens at 17:00. It can be visited from Tuesday to Sunday, from 11:00 to 18:00. Cost of admission: free of charge for visitors under 16; 15 rubles for a discounted ticket; 30 rubles for a full-price ticket.

Background information:

Vladimir Favorsky (1886-1964) – a recognized classical book illustrator, and theorist of the art of book illustration. Favorsky’s work was connected with the history of world art, with the periods when graphic arts and book arts were flourishing. The ancient language of the woodprint seemed fresh and original in his works. Trying to creatively interpret a literary work, the artist strove to determine whose eyes had revealed the world in which the characters lived and acted, and to try and see what the writer described with words from the point of view of each of them.

Mendel Gorshman (1902-1972) –  graphic artist, painter, and book illustrator. Studied at the graphical department at Vkhutemas (Higher Art and Technical Studios) under P. Miturich, V. Favorsky, and N. Kupreyanov. In the 1930s, worked mainly as a book and magazine graphic artist; there were many books related to Jewish culture among those he designed. It was only natural for Gorshman to work with books in Yiddish, as it was his native language; in addition, from the 1920s, he had friends among Jewish cultural figures. In 1941, Gorshman and his family were evacuated to Kirghizia, where he worked at the local TASS branch and painted landscapes. This genre was the central one in his work in the 1940s-50s, although he still worked a lot as a book illustrator.

Valentin Kurdov (1905-1989) –  graphic artist, watercolourist, and master of book illustration and engraving. Studied at Vkhutein (Higher Art and Technical Institute, later transformed into Vkhutemas). He intended to become a painter and didn’t even think about book illustration, but then he came across a small book with illustrations by Vladimir Lebedev, head of the art department of the Children's Literature publishing house at the time. After he met Vitaly Bianki, he began illustrating children's books. Many considered him to be an “artist of animals,” but he himself remarked that he “proved to be more complicated.” Moreover, animals didn’t look very “childish” in his drawings. They are not lovely furry creatures, but exactly animals with all the strength and sometimes cruelty characteristic of them. For his illustrations to R. Kipling’s tales done in 1980, Kurdov received, two years later, the Hans Christian Andersen Award in Cambridge.

Evgeny Rachev (1906-1997) – a Soviet artist of animals known for his work as a book illustrator. In 1928, he graduated with honours from the Kuban Art and Pedagogical College in Krasnodar, and then studied for a while at the Kiev Art Institute. He chose Russian folk tales, fables and prose as his specialty. He worked for the Children‘s Literature publishing house and cooperated with many other publishers. When in the late 1940s he first brought to the publishing house his drawings with animal characters that so much resembled people, everybody there was surprised. Nobody drew like that. They didn‘t venture to publish his works for nearly a year. But then they were published, and the books with them were immediately bought up. Imagination, inventiveness, the expressiveness of the fairy tale characters, the artist’s insight into the folk culture, his humor and kindness-- one could feel all these in the illustrations, and, of course, a true graphic skill.  All this evoked a keen interest in readers and love in the little ones. Rachev worked as the chief designer at the Malysh publishing house for about 20 years.

Aleksei Pakhomov (1900-1973) is famous as an artist who depicted children. He studied under V.V. Lebedev, and in the late 1920s began, under his guidance, his work as a book illustrator. For many years he contributed to the children‘s magazines Thistle-finch, Hedgehog, and Bonfire. The artist’s skill and his love for children made his works very thoughtful and moving. His knowledge of children’s life, observational skill, and clear manner of drawing helped him create memorable images. The specificity and emotional intensity of the plots were in perfect accord with children's psychology with its ingenuousness and freshness of perception and became one of the specific features of illustrations to children's books. Pakhomov’s illustrations were characterized by great compositional diversity.

Nikifor Rashchektaev (1929-1995) – painter and book illustrator. Worked as a designer. Studied at the faculty of decorative and mural painting of the Moscow School of Industrial and Applied Arts. From 1955, lived and worked in Kaluga, and designed books for the Prioksky Publishing House; some of them were Leo Tolstoy’s works.  

Mikhail Romadin (1940-2012) – a Soviet and Russian painter, graphic artist, book designer, and film and stage designer. Honorary member of the Russian Arts Academy. Graduated from the State Institute of Cinematography. He was a third generation artist: his grandfather, M.A. Romadin was a naive artist, and his father, N.M. Romadin, was a landscape painter and a member of the Arts Academy. Mikhail Romadin was a production designer for the following films: The First Teacher; The Story of Asya Klyachina Who Loved, But Did Not Marry; A Nest of the Gentry; and Solaris.

Sergey Kharlamov (1942) – a member of the Russian Artists’ Union, winner of the Award of Andrew the Apostle. Graduated from the department of applied arts of the Moscow Higher School of Industrial and Applied Arts. Works as an easel graphic artist and book illustrator in various techniques (such as woodcut and linocut). His illustrations done in the woodcut technique are the most well known. His love of books and Russian literature became the keynote of his whole work. The artist devotes years of hard work to illustrating each book or creating a series of easel engravings.

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