Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Russian Master

On Monday January 26, I had the great fortune of hearing, Mikhail Kugach, a living master painter from Russia give a short talk (in Russian and translated by John Wurdeman) about his life and art. The talk was given at Lazare Gallery in Charles City Virginia, about an hour from my home. For many years, Russian art has been a great inpiration to me. During the last century Russian artists were dedicated to beauty, nature and the pursuit of excellence while the rest of the western world had abandoned these timeless principles for more political and temporal concerns.

Mikhail Yurevich Kugach was born January 2, 1939 in Moscow. He is the son of the famous Russian artists Yuri Petrovich Kugach and Olga Grigoryevna Svetlichnaya. In 1949 he enrolled in his first art classes at the Moscow secondary art school, which was affiliated with the Surikov Institute. He studied here until 1956 when he was accepted into the Surikov Institute. He graduated from the Institute in 1962 and began to actively exhibit his works.

From 1987 to 1989 he was the director of the "1905" Moscow Art Institute. Since 1988 he has been the chairman of "Moskvorech'e", the creative union of artists. In 1995 he was selected to be the member-correspondent for the Russian Academy of Artists. He is also an active member and has been the president of the legendary Moscow River Group. Mikhail continues to paint today primarily in the Tver' region, along the Msta River. This Russian countryside is continuously a theme in the artist's work. His works can be found today in galleries, museums, and private collections around the world.

Yuri Kugach , Evening Sun

Yuri Kugach , In the Village

Yuri Kugach , June Green
Mr. Kugach spoke of his youth and growing up with artists for parents. He talked of the fertile environment of the group of artists surrounding his parents and the advantages of artists in community sharing ideas and helping one another. It was not an easy life but a fulfilling one dedicated to his art and surrounded by such talented artists and some of the legends of Russian art.
I asked him about his philosophy of choosing and handling of subject matter. He said that it was not enough just to correctly paint the information of a tree or whatever subject you choose. He stated that God made creation and nature and the artists job is to honor Him. "To be a slave to God and nature." An artists job is to live deeply and to feel deeply and describe in his art the emotional content of the subjects he paints. He also spoke about the need of the artist to fail and feel the pain of these shortcomings and how these faults and the role of humility spur us on to create better paintings.

Mikhai Kugach, Calm River

Mikhail Kugach, Spring Day

Mikhail Kugach,, Lake Stino
I am inspired to have met this great artist and to hear from him his thoughts on painting and its meaning. The lineage of great western art is unmistakeable. Great art does not occur in a vacuum and we artists are indebted to the great artists that have come before us. Without them the state of the arts would suffer immeasurably.

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