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статьиVasily Koroteyev

Василий Коротеев. Страшная месть. Иллюстрация к повести Н.В. Гоголя, Середина 1920-х

Vasily Andreevich Koroteev was born on December 31, 1905 (January 13, 1906 N.S.) in the village of Grishino, Ukraine. The village, which was the center of a major railroad junction, was later renamed Krasnoarmeysk, and as such this is the name given for the artist’s birthplace in well-known biographies. His father was a railroad employee and so, when work required that he relocate, the family moved to Yelets.

This is where Koroteev’s artistic biography begins.

The young boy painted often in watercolors. He was as serious about painting as one could expect an adolescent to be: his works from that time, still entirely childish, were kept in his archive, something he never concerned himself with. The genre sketches, slightly fairytale-like or fantastic landscapes are unquestionable evidence of the youth’s talents; but what draw particular attention are the few illustrations or, more accurately, works, that were the result of his impressions from reading Gogol: his portrayals of the action in A Terrible Vengeance provide an amazingly accurate recreation of the chilling reality of Gogol’s magical prose in a gloomy world of burned-out color to a setting of darting, hardly discernable figures. And so, even in childhood, it was apparent that he had an ability to impart complex emotions to the surface of a page.

The future artist truly drew attention when he sculpted a bust of Maxim Gorky. The decision was made to send him to Moscow to receive professional education as an artist. However, the first stage of his studies in Moscow came to an unexpectedly quick end: Koroteev quit school. Both in his youth and, later, throughout his entire life, he was set apart by his penchant for taking actions that seemed impetuous and even careless to those who observed him. He was always governed not by thorough consideration, but rather by the first spontaneous impulse that came from his internal will to freedom and that was given weight by a sensation of naturalness and truth, honesty towards himself and towards everything around him, towards everything that entered his life and that he did in life. He felt stifled, wanted to leave, and so he left, simply went out to the street; he fell in with a group of homeless youth and was caught up in the hungry, beggarly, criminal life of the city underworld, a world of street thieves and vagrants. He didn’t remain there for long, but the images of that world’s lead characters remained in the artist’s memory for many years. He wound up in an orphanage and again began drawing and for many years thereafter did portraits of street kids, orphans and vagrants, all of which form an incredible series of pencil and pastel drawings and watercolor paintings.

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