Museum offers interesting new meetings with old acquaintances — or the ‘unknown’ artistry of well-known painters

Art exhibition at National Art Museum confirms universal truth that best works have soulful colour

By Victor Mikhailov

The major museum of the country is showcasing works by famous Belarusian painters, graphic artists and sculptors from at least a hundred years ago this year. Audiences keen on the culture, art and history in general will be able to see how artistic and conceptual priorities have changed over the course of time. The exhibition gives an individual interpretation of reality and the artistic images of times past, showing how various masters viewed life; it is a ‘roll-call’ of artistic personalities from the last century.

I feel emboldened to say that modern artists fail to draw in the same way. With this in mind, the exhibition arouses particular interest. Audiences are transported to a level of high mastery, with each artist deserving the utmost respect and recognition. Their artistic success is unrivalled and unquestioned; their legacy will be handed down through generations to come into infinity.

Academically precise and reserved Valentin Volkov was able to portray images with convincing accuracy; he is unrivalled in his genre. His huge canvas entitled Minsk. July 3rd, 1944 is his most significant work — currently on permanent display at the National Art Museum. No doubt, it is his most perfect work, depicting Minsk residents welcoming Red Army soldiers who have freed the capital from the invaders. It depicts over a hundred people — each individual and well-painted. The psychological approach to the characters is the strongest angle of the picture. Each figure is uniquely characterised. Meanwhile, the latest show demonstrates Mr. Volkov in a new light. His works are less epic, including many portraits in which he confirms his ability to reveal human character and inject his own soul into his work.

Nikita Khotulev tends to be brighter and more picturesque in his works, though using the academic style of painting. More Than a Century reveals his interesting manner. Other artists are also exhibited: delicate and lyrical Arkady Astapovich; Lev Leitman — who painted the ‘cloth of life’ with excitement; decisive Sergey Katkov; artistic jeweller Konstantin Kosmachev; dramatically life asserting Mikhail Filippovich; and ‘easy talent’ Abram Ostrovsky. Pictures by impressionist Yevgeny Tikhanovich and expressively-theatrical Vladimir Starchakov neighbour those by Boris Zvinogrodsky and Nikolay Duchits — who painted Belarus’ endless landscapes. Emotional and open Abram Zaborov is showcased beside restrained and tragic Isaak Davidovich, while romantic Natan Rappoport’s pictures neighbour those by modestly feminine Olga Dedok. Mikhail Stanyuta and Vladimir Khrustalev have left just a few works for future generations but, nevertheless, have managed to create classical pieces.

The works are usually on show either permanently or via temporary exhibitions, confirming their merit. Today’s show focuses not just on well-known pictures but on those rarely seen — some ‘hidden’ for over fifty years. As a result, the exhibition demonstrates the ‘unknown’ artistry of well-known painters. For example, the museum always has famous works by Arkady Astapovich, Valentin Volkov, Lev Leitman, Mikhail Stanyuta and Mikhail Filippovich on show. However, the canvases chosen for the More Than a Century exhibition are rare, showing us a new side of the artists; their diverse artistic palette becomes truly apparent.

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