Sergey Khachaturov

“Moskovskiye novosti” newspaper, April, 26, 2011

In April, 28th, in “Biblio-Globus” bookstore Heritage Froundation of the artist A.D. Tikhomirov shall present two new broad size books devoted to the art of Alexander Tikhomirov, the painter almost unknown not only to a broad circle of art amateurs, but also to professionals. Exhibition of art and graphic works of the painter devoted to 95th anniversary from the date of his birth will be open in Saint-Petersburg Russian Museum (branch of the Marble Palace) till May, 16th.

Leniniana has been in all terms the most remarkable part of the artist’s heritage, however, I believe, not the most important one for him personally. Alexander Tikhomirov (1916–1995) has been drawing portraits of the leader of the proletariat for a quarter of a century (1949–1976) in Moscow Monumental and Decorative Art Concern. Lenin’s world biggest face (42 to 22 m) has been regularly displayed on the frontage of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During the celebrations Tikhomirov’s Ilyich materialized in a shape of hydra-headed snake. His enormous full-face and side-drawn heads drowning in scarlet red tossed on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Kutuzovsky avenue, and on the Lenin’s Library. Nowadays these portraits are associated with kind of infernal heroes of opera performances at the turn of the centuries. Such allusions are unlikely to be coincidental, if we look at creative biography of the master, with its milestones reflected in show-pieces displayed at the Russian Museum exhibition.

Born in Baku, Tikhomirov passed through two art schools, both of principal importance for the Russian art of XX century: Repin’s school (studied in Baku at the workshop of Ilya Ryzhenko, Repin’s student) and Cezanne’s (at the end of war he moved to Moscow and started studying in Sourikov’s institute under supervision of Alexander Osmyorkin, member of the “Jack of Diamonds”). These “universities” defined his extraordinary perceptiveness to various pictorial methods of new art – post-impressionism, neoclassic, up to fauvism, cubic futurism and analytic school of Pavel Filonov. And life in Baku, where young master engaged himself into drawing of the circus posters, gave him specific perception of reality, captured in grimaces of the clown’s makeup, in acrobatic pantomime, in ardent arena illuminations disheveled by impassioned performance. So, Mephistophelian Lenin did not come from nowhere. Theatre, ballet and circus became faithful companions of Tikhomirov’s creative search. These themes defined his path of a hermit, as officially they were considered to be unreliable. Apart from the fact that the artist has been expelled from Sourikov’s institute for formalistic views (together with his teacher Osmyorkin), Tikhomirov’s name has been intentionally concealed until very recently. Even in the 1990s and 2000s exhibitions of the artist’s work have been regretfully rare.

Another reason for this is that the artist has not been “accepted” in the world of unofficial art either. Amazing colors of fire ashes burning in the dark of a frosty night on Tikhomirov’s work with tragic giant buffoons who have given their gift of sight to small birds and puppets, with Shakespearian mysteries and Italian mannerism, with vanitas variations (vanitas vanitatum, still lives with attributes of caducity – playing cards, vine, pipes) place him in a group of those migrants who have never fled Soviet union finding an escape in a feeling of affiliation to the world culture, “seen” through the split of theatric curtain. This mission of Observing buffoon is a leitmotif of post-thaw culture, admiring Fellini, Bergman, Stravinsky and Bahtin. Moreover, in his gift of intelligent Insight a hero of those times performs exploit compared to those accomplished by short-spoken workers on the paintings and in “austere style” performances. With his perception of buffoonery as titanic, far away from thoughtless work, the artist complies with the principles of poetry of rough artistic life of Moscow Taganka Theatre.