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The representative of the Soviet avant-garde in painting, Pavel Filonov, is a mysterious and ambiguous figure. The artist spent most of his life in Leningrad, where he fanatically created unique masterpieces until his death during the blockade.
He lived modestly, sometimes even in extreme need, which made him forget about his personal preferences in the themes of art and take on government orders. One of these works is a canvas depicting I.V. Stalin in 1936 by order of the Club of Sailors.
Although it was necessary in state order to abandon the main direction that inspired the artist, which combined the features of expressionism, Fauvism, Cubism and futurism, in short, the avant-garde, “Portrait of Stalin” still carries a deep meaningfulness characteristic of Filonov’s canvases, despite the style socialist realism.
Before us is a portrait of a young man. His face seems to be somehow wooden, the conical shape of the skull is covered with thick black hair, his forehead is narrow, his eyes are surrounded by swollen eyelids, the thin line of his lips is covered by a large cropped mustache. He is dressed very carefully: in a military coat, through which a white shirt collar peeps. The figure is depicted on a cold bluish background.
What is most striking is the man’s eyes: large and black, they confidently, without a single hesitation, look forward. It seems that some impenetrable darkness stared at us, menacing and fierce.
In the guise of Joseph Vissarionovich, determination and adherence are guessed. What decision did he make this time and is preparing for execution? Guessing repel and scare. Soldier equanimity and murderous trick complete the characterization of the portrait.
Pavel Filonov carefully preserved his creative heritage, refusing to sell abroad, so that now everyone could see the masterpieces of painting in the St. Petersburg Russian Museum.