Publications / December 01, 2012
Great Russian contemporary artist Ilya Sergeyevich Glazunov holds the title of People’s Artist of Russia, and is a full member of the Russian Academy of Arts. Other titles and distinctions include academician, honorary member of the Royal Academy of the Arts in Madrid and Barcelona for contributions to world culture, recipient of awards of the Russian Federation and the Russian Orthodox Church, Laureate of the State Award of the Russian Federation for work in designing and carrying out the reconstruction and restoration of interiors of the Grand Kremlin Palace, recipient of the Jawaharlal Nehru Award, the Vishnu Award (Laos), and the award of the World Peace Council. Glazunov is also the founder and rector of the Russian Academy of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, founder and artistic director of the Ilya Glazunov State Picture Gallery, and author of the major work, “Russia Crucified.”
Ilya Glazunov was born in Leningrad on June 10, 1930 to a cultured family descended from St. Petersburg intellectuals. His parents died of starvation during the Leningrad Blockade of 1941- 42. The eleven-yearold future artist was transported along the “Road of Life” to the village of Greblo in the Novgorod region. Upon his return to Leningrad in 1944, Glazunov enrolled in the Secondary Art School under the auspices of the I.E. Repin Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture. Following his graduation, he enrolled in the institute itself.
In 1956, while still a student, Glazunov was awarded first place at an international exhibition of work by young artists in Prague, and the following year opened his first personal exhibition in Moscow, which became an instant sensation and elicited a great deal of press abroad. Enthusiastic visitors stood in long lines to view the exhibition, which displayed for the first time the four major pictorial and graphic cycles which have come to define the entire creative life of the artist: “Images from Russian History,” “City,” “Images from works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Russian Classic Literature,” and “Portrait of a Contemporary.”
During the fifty-five year span of his career, Glazunov has come to be known, first and foremost, as a remarkable thinker, and as an expert on world and Russian history and culture. As the crowning achievements of his philosophical interpretation of the events of Russian history, the world famous large-scale canvases “Eternal Russia,” “Mystery of the Twentieth Century,” “The Great Experiment,” “The Destruction of the Church on Easter Eve,” “Market of our Democracy,” and “Dispossession of the Kulaks” depict the tragedies suffered by the Russian people, and foster the revival of national consciousness.
Through their boldness of conception, highly emotional timber and virtuosity of execution, the works of Ilya Glazunov carry on the traditions of the Russian school of high realism. The artist’s works testify as well to his love of the ancient Russian art of iconography.
Today Glazunov stands alone among his contemporaries as a great master of the historical painting genre. He is rightfully considered a classic artist and is known for his innovative techniques, especially in his works devoted to the history of ancient Russia. He pioneered a new art form that incorporates the use of fabric, including “parcha”, a rich brocade cloth woven of gold and silver threads, as well as the application of pearls and precious stones.
Glazunov achieved international fame through his masterful portraits of Russian and foreign public figures, including Italian actors and film directors such as Federico Fellini, Luchino Visconti, and Gina Lollobrigida. Having earned his reputation as an outstanding portraitist, the artist was invited to paint the portraits of kings and presidents the world over, including King Juan Carlos I of Spain, King Carl XVI of Sweden, King Sri Savang Vatthana of Laos, and the presidents of Chili, Finland, Italy, Denmark, India as well as other high level political dignitaries both in Russia and abroad. His famous large scale painting, “The Contribution of the Peoples of the USSR to World Culture and Civilization” hangs in the headquarters of UNESCO in Paris. He designed and carried out projects involving the restoration of interiors of the Russian embassy in Madrid, which became a celebrated event in the European art world. Later, from 1996 through 1999, he designed and carried out the renovation and restoration of interiors of the Grand Kremlin Palace.
Glazunov has achieved public recognition not only as a painter and portraitist. His graphic illustrations of the works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, his favorite “writer and prophet,” have earned a place in the treasure house of Russian and world literature. The artist’s stage designs and costumes for various opera productions, such as “Tale of the Invisible Town of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya” by Rimsky-Korsakov for the Bolshoi Theater, Borodin’s “Prince Igor” and Tchaikovsky’s “Queen of Spades” for the Berlin State Opera, made a valuable contribution to the Russian theater arts.
The artist’s works hang in Russia’s largest museums and galleries, including the Tretyakov Gallery, the Russian State Museum, the State Central Museum of Modern Russian History, the State Literary Museum, the Bakhrushin Museum of Theater, the Bolshoi Theater Museum, as well as many museums throughout the Russian Federation, and private collections in Europe, Asia and America. Exhibitions of Glazunov’s work have met with resounding success in the capitals and large cities of many countries of the world, including countries of the CIS.
Through both his artistic work and public activism, Ilya Glazunov has played a prominent role in the Russian national revival movement of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Through his exhibitions, starting from the mid-60’s, his prominent role in the creation of the All- Russian Society for the Preservation of Historical and Cultural Monuments, and his regular public appearances in the media, he has been a major catalyst in the reintroduction of spiritual elements into Russian national culture.
In 1987 Glazunov founded the Russian Academy of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture that presently bears his name. The artist devotes much time and energy to his work as an instructor and mentor, and is justifiably proud of many of his students, who have gone on to become very well known both at home and abroad.
Simply stated, Ilya Glazunov is our great contemporary and the national pride of Russia.