Posted: 03.05.2024 09:49:00

Power of the teacher

Personality. Artist. Teacher — Belarus’ National Art Museum hosts an exhibition dedicated to the 85th anniversary of the birth of the People’s Artist of Belarus, Vasily Sharangovich

Vasily SharangovichPeople’s Artist of Belarus

Vasily Sharangovich is one of those classics whose creative work cannot be overestimated and does not hide any secrets. He was a brilliant master with an infallible sense of style, an exquisite graphic artist, whose works have long become part of the artistic culture of our country. Sharangovich is one of the main domestic illustrators — his numerous illustrations to works by Belarusian and foreign authors are considered to be exemplary. He was also a teacher and a mentor, whose students eventually turned into great recognisable creators themselves. The anniversary of the People’s Artist of Belarus is an excellent occasion to once again see the creative path of a bright master of national culture through the collection of his iconic works, and to assess the impact of the maître on young talents. The Vasily Sharangovich. Personality. Artist. Teacher exhibition has become the focal point in the largescale celebration of the 85th anniversary of the master’s birth.

Graphics gained the upper hand

Vasily Sharangovich managed to achieve a lot in his life, although popularity and fame did not come to him immediately. Today he is an indisputable authority who left us a huge, primarily graphic, creative legacy. Vasily Petrovich started out as a painter, though. He got acquainted with painting back in college and was very fond of it at first. Yet, upon entering the Theatre and Art Institute, he still gave preference to graphics, which, in his words, he immediately fell in love with for the opportunity to freely work with the form, line, and composition. Already in his second year of studies, he received his first serious order — to make illustrations for a children’s book for the Belarus Publishing House. Sharangovich went on to work with this publishing house for many more years.
According to the artist’s daughter Natalya Sharangovich, the exhibition concept is embedded in the title itself, “We wanted to show him not only as an artist but also as a teacher.” Natalya Sharangovich is sure that it is her father’s generation that looked at Belarus comprehensively. “They revealed the theme of Belarus in their creative work, and brought this love to their students. Love for Belarus penetrates through everything — landscapes, people’s faces, cities. I would really like people who come to this exhibition to see the reverent attitude of the students towards their Homeland, laid down by the teacher,” she admitted.
Aleksei Matyushonok, Head of the National Art Museum Exhibition Department, curator of the artist’s exhibition, drew attention to the fact that Sharangovich’s artistic thinking was manifested clearly and widely especially in graphics.
“The exhibition can be divided into two parts. The first is the works by Vasily Sharangovich. The exposition begins with classic linocuts, autolithographs, monotypes and drawings of the 1970s and 1980s, where the author continued the tradition typical of the art of that time. Thus, it includes a series dedicated to Vladimir Mayakovsky — illustrations for the poem Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. A famous series In Memory of Fiery Villages by Sharangovich is also presented here. Then we turn to the works of a later period, where the artist summarised the idea of Belarus’ history and modernity, and created a whole gallery of symbolic and monumental images. This includes, in particular, watercolour landscapes, mainly of Myadel area, created in the last years of Vasily Petrovich’s life,” explained Aleksei Matyushonok. 
The second part of the exhibition features the works of the master’s students and apprentices. A well-known fact is that in the late 1960s, public work was added to his vigorous artistic activities. At first, Vasily Sharangovich was invited to teach at his alma mater, Theatre and Art Institute. And in 1989 he was chosen the rector — not appointed, but chosen! Sharangovich turned out to be not only a good teacher, who was very much loved by his students, but also a talented manager. Thus, it is on his initiative that the institute received the status of an academy in the early 1990s.

   Illustration for the New Land poem by Yakub Kolas, artist Vasily Sharangovich

    Illustration for the New Land poem by Yakub Kolas, artist Vasily Sharangovich

People’s and beloved

In 1991, Vasily Sharangovich was awarded the title of People’s Artist of Belarus, of which he was extremely proud. In the same way as he was proud of his students. 
Over three decades, Sharangovich educated a galaxy of students. Among them are Valery Slauk, Nikolai Seleshchuk, Anatoly Aleksandrovich, Vladimir Savich, Vasily Baranov, Konstantin Vashchenko and many others. Like a big ship, he led them along. It is just impossible to show the works of all his students within one exhibition as there will not be enough museum walls. Therefore, the National Art Museum took a different approach — they showcased the works of selected masters in the exhibition in order to clearly illustrate that even artists absolutely different from each other in terms of style called Sharangovich their mentor. After all, this is the power of a true teacher — to educate not those who imitate, but those who do as they see and feel.
The famous book illustrator, Valery Slauk recalled that Sharangovich was never ‘too kind’ as a professor and treated his students in a strict manner. “In general, my admission to the Theatre and Art Institute is a vivid example of Vasily Sharangovich’s pedagogical foresight. In those years, mainly students who had secondary specialised art education entered the institute. I did not have anything like that — first, three years in the army, then work at the automobile plant in Zhodino... Professor Pavel Lyubomudrov was a member of the selection committee at that time. He looked at my scribbles and said, ‘This is interesting, but you will not pass even the first exam… There is going to be nudity, you’ve got to have skills to paint that. You can take a chance, though, if you wish.’ Vasily Sharangovich usually had long conversations with students during exams to understand their personalities. He somehow managed to immediately notice my potential, so he accepted me on one condition, ‘If you fail to do well and learn during the first semester, then goodbye, no hard feelings.’ If it were not for Vasily Sharangovich, I am not sure that I would have tried to enter the institute a second time,” Valery Slauk reflected.
Target, from the Memory of Fiery Villages series, artist Vasily Sharangovich
The Yakub Kolas State Literary and Memorial Museum helped the National Art Museum to design the exposition. Today, the collection of this museum holds 198 works of art by Sharangovich, including ten illustrations for poems by Yakub Kolas, and the prominent series of illustrations for the New Land poem by Yakub Kolas. The Chief Curator of Museum Collections, Vasilina Mitskevich, pointed out, “It is known that Vasily Sharangovich treated the creative work of Yakub Kolas with great affection, and felt the beauty of his poetic word — it was especially close to the artist’s heart. That is why the master managed to convey so figuratively and at the same time realistically everything that Yakub Kolas had written about.”
Anna Kononova, Director General of the National Art Museum, shared what new dimension visitors of the exhibition can discover in such an outstanding artist. “In addition to works from the National Art Museum collection, works from the archives of the Belarusian Union of Artists and the Belarusian State Academy of Arts are displayed. These works were not often exhibited in the public space, so we offer a unique collective exhibition. I would advise to pay attention not only to Sharangovich’s lithographs but also to his amazing watercolours, which were rarely presented to the viewer. I think many visitors will discover Vasily Sharangovich from a new and unique perspective through these watercolours,” the director emphasised. 
It is possible to see and admire all iconic and must-see works by Vasily Sharangovich as well as rare pages of the artist’s creative work in the exhibition building of the National Art Museum until May 19th. 
 Illustration for the publication Yakub Kolas. From My Chronicle, artist Vasily Sharangovich 
 Illustration for the publication Yanka Kupala. 
Poems, artist Vasily Sharangovich

By Yuliana Leonovich