A Portrait of Pavel Korin
A portrait of the student by his teacher. A great honour, indeed…
KORIN Pavel Dmitrievich
Born: 25 June/7 July 1892, Palekh, Vladimir guberniya
Died: 22 November 1967, Moscow
Russian painter, People’s Painter of the USSR (1962), full member of the Academy of Fine Arts (1958), Lenin Prize Winner (1963), Director of the Aleksandr Pushkin Art Museum Restoration Atelier (1931-59)
Biography and Works
Pavel Dmitrievich Korin was born on 7 July 1892 in the village of Palekh in Vladimir guberniya into the family of a professional iconographer, Dmitri Nikolaevich Korin. Palekh first appeared in official documents in the first half of the 17th century, in connection with an iconography school located there. At that early date, the Korin family had connections with iconography, according to “autographs” on icons and entries in account books. When he was only five, his father died, in 1897. Korin’s life work appeared predetermined, but, his talent needed proper instruction and development. In 1903-07, he studied at the School for Iconography at Palekh, earning formal certification as a professional iconographer. In 1908, he went to Moscow, and, until 1911, worked at the iconography atelier of the Donskoi Monastery. In 1911, he became an assistant to Mikhail Nesterov and helped him paint the frescoes in the church of the Protection of the Mother of God at the Martha and Mary Convent on Bolshaya Ordynka Street. His instruction by Nesterov, who understood art to be a spiritual podvig (“struggle” or “exploit” are weak translations), and his encounter with the work of the celebrated Russian painter Aleksandr Andreyevich Ivanov, in particular, Ivanov’s monumental canvas The Appearance of Christ to the People (1857), intensified Korin’s resolve to devote his entire life to art, to reach the apex of craftsmanship, so that he could carry on the grand tradition of Russian painting.
The Eyes of the Saviour
Nesterov insisted that Korin gain a formal education in painting and arranged his admission to the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture (MUZhVZ) in 1912. During this period, he frequently travelled to his hometown of Palekh in the Vladimir guberniya. In 1916, Korin graduated, after studying with Konstantin Korovin, S V Malyutin, and Leonid Pasternak. Also in 1916, he worked on the frescoes for the mausoleum of Grand Princess Yelizaveta Fyodorovna at the Intercession Church at the Convent of Martha and Mary. In accordance with the wishes of the Grand Princess, he travelled to Yaroslavl and Rostov to study traditional fresco work in Old Russian churches. In February 1917, he began independent work in his attic studio on Arbat Street in Moscow and worked there until 1934. He wasn’t satisfied with his early work. He found that he fell far short of his desired ideal, and he felt that the path to his intended goal was almost impassable. In 1918-25, a time of great ferment, not only in Russia at large, but, in the Russian art world in particular, Korin worked as though he was under a voluntary obedience (“obedience” in this sense refers to the assigned task of a monastic, it implies a very high standard of responsibility). In particular, in 1918-19, he taught at the Second State Art Studios (GSKhM). In 1919-20, he worked at the anatomical theatre of Moscow State University, as he believed that a painter needed a deep knowledge of human anatomy. In the evenings he copied paintings and sculptures from the Museum of Fine Arts. In 1923, he travelled throughout Northern Russia, visiting Vologda, Staraya Ladoga, Ferapontov Monastery, and Novgorod. In 1926-1931, he worked as an instructor of painting classes for beginners at the Museum of Fine Arts. He was convinced that the new artistic forms of the avant-garde didn’t enlarge the artistic horizon; rather, he felt that they restricted it. In 1926, the Convent of Martha and Mary was closed by the Soviets and all the art there was to be destroyed. Pavel and his brother Aleksandr managed to smuggle out and save the iconostas and some of the frescoes. On 7 March of that year, he married Praskovya Tikhonovna Petrova, a former novice of the Convent of Martha and Mary.
In 1925, Korin found a theme for his life’s work. In April of that year, Patriarch Tikhon Bellavin of Moscow and all Russia died, and the many thousands in the crowd at the Donskoi Monastery made it seem like all of Orthodox Russia gathered for his burial. Shaken by what he had seen, Korin vowed to paint the religious procession that took place during the service, for he wished to portray Holy Russia on the verge of a cataclysmic tragedy. Very soon afterwards, he began preparatory work on sketches for a painting that he entitled Rekviem (Requiem). At the same time, he created his first large-scale work; a panorama entitled Moya Rodina (My Motherland), which was a view of Palekh as seen from a distance. In 1928, Korin’s aquarelle Artist’s studio and his landscape Moya Rodina were bought by the State Tretyakov Gallery, which showed recognition for his work from the Soviet government. It took some ten years for Korin to work on the studies for Rekviem. One of the first of these etudes was a portrait of Metropolitan Trifon of Turkistan, for he intended to place his figure at the centre of the composition. The last of these preparatory sketches, a portrait of Metropolitan Sergei Stagorodsky, later, the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, was painted in 1937. These studies were done in a very realistic style rare for 20th century art, and, taken together, they comprise a unique series of portraits. Before the eyes of the beholder, the entire panoply of Orthodox Russia, from the most common parishioner to the highest Church hierarch, appears in all its fullness. These characters are suffused with a common spirit, they are full of internal spiritual fire, yet, each retains their distinctive individuality.
St Aleksandr Nevsky
In 1931, the writer Maksim Gorky unexpectedly visited Korin’s atelier. He suggested that Korin rename the projected painting Rus Ukhodyashchaya (A Farewell to Rus, literally, “The Russia that’s Departing”). This new title was a departure from the original concept, but, Gorky believed that it would “shield” Korin from any possible attacks by the Party. Due to Gorky’s influence, the brothers Pavel and Aleksandr Korin were allowed to go to Italy and Germany to study the works of the Old Masters. Pavel Dmitrievich also painted landscapes and executed a portrait of Gorky in Sorrento in 1932. At this time, the characteristic style of Korin came into full flower. It was typified by strong and plastic modelling, a general respect for form, a restrained, yet, saturated palette with the introduction of colour accenting. One could say that his style was dense and multilayered. However, his personal style was much more austere than that of his mentor Nesterov. In 1931, Korin started to work as the Director of the Restoration Atelier of Museum of the Foreign Art (former Museum of Fine Arts, later, Aleksandr Pushkin Art Museum). He held this position until 1959. After this, he held the position of the Director of the State Central Art Restoration Works (GTsRKhM) until his death. As one of the most senior Russian restorers of the time, he contributed enormously to the saving and restoration of famous paintings. In 1933, Korin moved to the studio on Malaya Pirogovka Street in Moscow where he worked until his death. In 1936, with the death of Gorky, his circumstances abruptly changed, and he was forced to abandon work on his planned masterpiece. He had received direct threats from the NKVD. The already-prepared canvas was left untouched. The completed study for the work shows that Rus Ukhodyashchaya could’ve been the most significant, powerful, and symbolic painting of the post-1917 period if it had been completed. It portrays the Church, going forth as if to battle; it symbolises the Church, “departing” to eternity.
A Portrait of Nadezhda Peshkova
In the same way, the same quality of spiritual selflessness is found in Korin’s portraiture of prominent cultural figures, a stream in his work that started in 1939. Amongst this set of paintings are portrayals of Mikhail Nesterov, Graf Aleksei Nikolaevich Tolstoy, and Nadezhda Peshkova (Gorky’s daughter-in-law), and the actors V I Kachalov and Leonid Leonidov. The painterly craftsmanship and power of these works brings forth a sensation of tragedy, the painting itself is direct and focused, executed with smooth and dense brush-strokes. He painted the fresco March to the Future for the Palace of Soviets in the Moscow Kremlin. During World War II, Korin turned to historical themes, a direction that he continued until his death. Korin portrayed the essence of the soldier, whom he saw as not only the defender of the Motherland, but, also, the guardian of the spiritual ideals of Russia. One could see this in his famous triptych of 1942, which featured the famous hero Grand Prince St Aleksandr Nevsky. The saints of Old Russia and the powerful heroes of the Italian Revival are seen in these canvasses. Korin’s entire life is best understood as a battle. First of all, he was an artist. Besides this, he was also a collector of seemingly-doomed Old Russian art and an outstanding art-restorer of universal import to mankind, for he restored many of the masterpieces of the Dresden Gallery after World War II. On top of all this, he was also a cultural activist who defended the cultural monuments of Russia from destruction. However, the completion of his projected masterpiece, the work to which he gave over so much of his life, was never realised.
A Portrait of Marshal Georgy Zhukov
His best-known works are his triptych Aleksandr Nevsky and his portraits of Marshal Georgy Zhukov and the writer Maksim Gorky. The most significant (although unfinished) of his works is Rekviem/Rus Ukhodyashchaya. Amongst his monumental works are the mosaics at the Kosomolskaya station on the Ring Line of the Moscow Metro, the stained-glass panels at the Novoslobodskaya station and the mosaics at the Smolensk station, executed in the 1950s. In addition, he did the mosaics at the Great Hall of Moscow State University (MGU). Korin’s extensive icon collection is one of the most widely-known and most-studied in Russia. He died on 22 November 1967 in Moscow and was buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery. In 1971, his home became the House-Museum of Pavel Dmitrievich Korin (address: Moscow, ul. Malaya Pirogovskaya d. 16 fligel 2), affiliated with the State Tretyakov Gallery.
- 1954: State Prize of the USSR, for the mosaic panels of the Komsomolskaya metro station. Elected corresponding member of the Academy of Fine Arts.
- 1958: People’s Painter of the RSFSR. Elected full member of the Academy of Fine Arts.
- 1962: People’s Artist of the USSR.
- 1963: Lenin Prize for portraits of M S Sarayan, R N Simonov, and R Guttuzo.
- 1967: Order of Lenin.
http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Корин,_Павел_Дмитриевич (in Russian)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pavel_Korin (in English)
Additional information on Pavel Korin, and in particular, concerning his magnum opus, A Farewell to Rus, can be found in this earlier post on this site: