The Politics of Paint: Landscape Painting in the Soviet Union, 1953-1964

Elma and Milton A. Gilbert Pavilion Gallery, The Hebrew Home at Riverdale

Feb. 9, 2023 - Jul. 31, 2014

5901 Palisade Ave
Bronx, New York 10471

The Hebrew Home at Riverdale is pleased to announce its latest exhibition, The Politics of Paint: Landscape Painting in the Soviet Union, 1953–1964, which will be on view February 9–April 20. The exhibition features 14 works created between 1953–1964 during the Thaw—a period of unprecedented artistic freedom in the Soviet Union following the death of the Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and the rise of Nikita Khrushchev. Various modernist styles emerged in painting at this time, influenced mainly by Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.

Artists during the Thaw were given the freedom to work in previously banned styles, yet there remained an expectation that they would adhere to the party line, even among landscape painters. For example, Working-Class Impressionism–a term coined by scholar Dr. Vern G. Swanson–combined an impressionistic aesthetic with socialist content. The work of Alexander Dubinchik, Vladimir Gavrilov, Alexey Morosov, Alexsei Pisarev and Igor Popov, all of whom are included in the exhibition, exemplify this approach. In particular, Gavrilov’s painting, Uglich, The Church of Iowan (Church of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist) (1963), with its nationalist subject, broad, loose brush strokes and luminous color palette, is a classic example of Working-Class Impressionism. It depicts a 17th-century church in the historic town of Uglich, which sits along the Volga River—the unofficial national river of Russia.

From at least the 1920s, when many artists drew inspiration both from national styles, such as folk art, and from modernist sources, painting in Soviet Armenia was typically characterized by simplified schematic forms painted in vivid, saturated colors. Works included in this exhibition by Albert Papikian, Aram Kupetsian and Peter Shlikov depict familiar geographic landmarks that carry strong nationalistic overtones, demonstrating the persistence of this approach into the 1960s.

The paintings and works on paper in this exhibition were all acquired from the Grosvenor Gallery in London. Founded in 1960 by eminent art collector Eric Estorick, and his wife, Salome, the gallery was a premier venue for Eastern European artists to exhibit in the West. Estorick was born in New York City in 1913, his family having emigrated from Russia to the United States in 1905 to escape anti-Semitism. He became a political writer and lecturer in sociology at New York University before settling in London.

Jacob Reingold, the Hebrew Home’s Executive Director for almost four decades, met Estorick through a family connection. In the mid-1970s, with the assistance of donors and Estorick’s support, Reingold, an art lover who established the Home’s renowned art program, was able to acquire many works from Grosvenor Gallery by artists who were mostly unknown in the West. Today, however, many of those artists—both Russians and others from former Soviet republics—have become recognized names in the history of Soviet and Russian art. Their works have been “rediscovered” in the Hebrew Home’s collection in recent years.

As a member of the American Alliance of Museums, The Hebrew Home at Riverdale is committed to publicly exhibiting its art collection throughout its 32-acre campus including the Derfner Judaica Museum and a sculpture garden overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades. The Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection provide educational and cultural programming for residents of the Hebrew Home, their families and the general public from throughout New York City, its surrounding suburbs and visitors from elsewhere. The Home is a nonprofit, non-sectarian geriatric organization serving more than 7,000 elderly persons through its resources and community service programs. Gilbert Pavilion Gallery Museum open daily, 10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Museum hours: Sunday – Thursday, 10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

This exhibition is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

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