Pavel Filonov - Two Biographies
|The Banquet of Kings (1913)|
Pavel Nikolayevich Filonov was a Russian avant-garde painter, art theorist, and poet.
Filonov was born in Moscow and early orphaned in 1897 he moved to St. Petersburg, where he earned money through embroidery, house painting, restoring buildings and icons, and other tasks such as retouching photographs and making posters and wrappers for goods (a practical apprenticeship he never forgot). From 1908 to 1910, he attended the Academy of Arts, but was expelled in 1910.
Through his art, Pavel Filonov sought to observe and understand the forces that comprise the human existence, both the internal and external factors.He aimed to achieve a systematic knowledge of the world and it's human inhabitants. Filonov's paintings were in effect not mere images with meaning; -- his work went beyond that -- they were manifestations of intellectual concepts, something derived from his theory and ideology. The viewer of the art was to observe a "projective intellect" within the imagery. "A picture suggests to the mind of its viewer a single conclusion, which cannot be translated into words."
After the 1917 revolution, Filonov worked to complete the development of his "analytical painting". The changes in the Russian society brought inspiration to the Futurist artists. Filonov dedicated much of his time and effort to artistic research and creativity, working on his paintings as much as 18 hours a day. In 1925, having found many followers and supporters for his style of expression, he founded a school in Petrograd, which was shut down by the government in 1928, together with all other private artistic and cultural organizations.
In 1929, a large retrospective exhibition of Filonov art was planned at the Russian Museum; however, the Soviet government forbade the exhibition from going forward. From 1932 onward, Filonov literally starved but still refused to sell his works to private collectors. He wanted to give all his works to the Russian Museum as a gift so as to start a Museum of Analytical Realism. He died of starvation on December 3, 1941 during the Nazi Siege of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg).
Most of Filonov's works were saved by his sister Yevdokiya Glebova. She stored the paintings in the Russian Museum's archives and eventually donated them as a gift. For a long time exhibitions of Filonov's work were forbidden. But, eventually, an exhibition took place in Novosibirsk in 1967. In 1988 his works were oficially allowed to be exhibited in the Russian Museum, St. Petersburg. In 1989 and 1990, the first international exhibitions of Filonov's work were held in Paris.
During the period of half-legal status of Filonov's works it was seemingly easy to steal them; however, there was a legend that Filonov's ghost protected his art, and anybody trying to steal his paintings or to smuggle them abroad would soon die, become paralyzed, or have a similar misfortune.
Pavel Filonov was born in Moscow. Early orphaned, he moved to St. Petersburg, where he began taking art lessons. From 1908 to 1910, he attended the Academy of Arts, but was expelled in 1910. In 1911, he came in contact with the Union of Youth and contributed to its exhibitions. Next year, he traveled to Italy and France. In 1913, Filonov designed the stage set for Vladimir Maiakovskii's tragedy Vladimir Maiakovskii. Over the next two years, he worked as an illustrator of futurist booklets, published his transrational poem The Chant of Universal Flowering (Propoved' o porosli mirovoi), and started developing his artistic theories, the so-called Ideology of Analytical Art and the Principle of Madeness (see extracts below). In 1919, Filonov exhibited at the First State Free Exhibition of Works of Art in Petrograd. In 1923, he became a professor at the Academy of Arts and an associate of the Institute of Artistic Culture (Inkhuk). In the same year, he published the "Declaration of Universal Flowering" in the journal Zhizn' Iskusstva. Two years later, the painter established the Collective of Masters of Analytical Art (known today as Filonov School). Because of continuing attacks and ostracism, Filonov's exhibition planned for 1929-30 at the Russian Museum did not open. In 1932, he contributed to the exhibition Artists of the RSFSSR Over the Last 15 Years. His life and creativity was cut short by the war. He died of pneumonia during the siege of Leningrad in 1941. In 1967, he had a posthumous exhibition in Novosibirsk.