'Yunyi Khudozhnik (Young Artist magazine)' tells the story of the travels by the Russian painter Nikolai Kuzmin to Denmark and to England.
WITH HIS EASEL IN DENMARK AND ENGLAND
As an admirer of Nikolai Kuzmin it was particularly interesting to see his reactions to a world very different from Moscow. Nikolai Kuzmin visited the West and Denmark for the first time in June 1995, staying in Herning but on excursions to both Funen and the West Coast. The new motives of town, country and coast are all portrayed with a firm sensitive hand, capturing the spirit and atmosphere of each, with the special Kuzmin color combinations and composition. The paintings give an immediate thrill on first view and a lasting constant pleasure for the owner of his works of art.
Hilton Luke, Denmark.
Following this, these retrospective works were exhibited in the Central House of Artists, the Annex of Modern and Contemporary Art of the Tretyakov Gallery, on the Crimea Embankment, in Moscow.
The visitors have been able to experience the charm and the intimity of the Danish architecture, the bracing air of the North Sea, the delicacy of colours of parks, of jetties, of a port with frail boats. They have also been able to admire famous shrines of the Misty Albion, together with very poetic and picturesque interpretations of the English wilderness, of its architecture, of the nooks of its wonderful parks. Kuzmin’s studies, quickly-made (in one or two working sessions) happened to be really perfect works of art with their chromatic harmony, whereas his paintings, more conceptualized and accomplished, still had the fleetingness and the strength of sketches.
Nikolay Kuzmin was born and grew up in Nizhny Novgorod. But since 1965, when he passed the competitive entrance examination to the Stroganov Institute, he has been living and working in Moscow.As a child, he already loved making big drawings with colour pencils, and watching the reproductions in albums and art books. But to tell the truth quite often he went for little trips in the capital city to the Tretyakov Gallery to admire the original paintings of Russian masters. Still he feelingly remembers it: ‘As I was a child, I went to the Tretyakov Gallery. I spent the night at the station, in the morning I gave my face a quick wash in the lavatory, and let’s go to the Tretyakov Gallery...
Russian architecture, pictures of nature on his native soil are centrally important in Kuzmin’s work. Paradoxically his passionate craze for those themes is the reason why he had so fruitful and prolific trips in Europe. This is the way Nikolay Vasilievich Kuzmin tells how erratically and unexpectedly fell to him this piece of good fortune:
On a fine winter’s day I was painting the Church of Archangel Michael in the district of the Yugo-Zapadnaya metro station (lit.: ‘South-West’). A man approached, stayed there following my work without disturbing me.A while passed by. It was cold, he was frozen. I had the feeling he wanted to ask me something, but as I understood, he doesn’t speak Russian. After that I knew he was born in England and lives in Denmark, as an adjunct professor without much money by western standards. His name is Harry Luke. And then seeing my paintings he was interested and invited me to Denmark. I even did not dream to go abroad. And in the simpliest way Harry provided tickets and everything in Denmark, and I was paying him with my paintings. After that came the invitation to England by Muscovite art lovers.
I was very inspired by the people, the pictures, the towns, the paintings I saw there. But let me try to give you a better-ordered account of what moved, touched and surprised me most.
Harry accompanied us from the Copenhagen airport to the town of Herning. The roads looked fantastically smooth. We drove past neat, toylike villages and farms, hilly countryside with tidy fields, flowering meadows, picturesque-looking trees. We had such a sensation of unreality as if we were put inside a marvellous advertisement and only the fact that we saw everything with our own eyes made us believe in it. This is the island of Funen. A famous Danish composer Carl Nielsen lived there.
The town of Herning. It looks so cosy and modern. The house where we stayed has an open annex with a fire-place in it.It is a popular gathering place for people to sit near the fire, have a rest and admire the view of the garden that faces it. And really there are things to admire: a tidy and smooth lawn, apple-trees, multicoloured bushes, plenty of flowers. You even forget that you are in Northern Europe. The garden near the house is a special subject for pride and love of every owner. When we got acquainted with some inhabitants of Herning, all of them showed us their little gardens first of all. And in each garden we could see flowers and trees the owner prefered. It is a selfcreated small paradise for a Dane where he can regain his peace of mind and harmony with nature.
I spent all the days with my painter's case. There was so much fresh, interesting, mysterious and beautiful around, everything gave food for inspiration: an old farm in Skovstrup with a lawn and daisies, fishing-boats in the harbour, hills-graves of the first Danish Christian dukes, ancient cathedrals, streets, wonderful parks and everlasting flowering of orange bushes. I couldn't help painting the pictures of them.
Andersen's home town Odense met us with a gentle, calm, peaceful rain, as if nature itself tried to make no noise to help us understand and love the country of the great tale-teller.And the mood, the very atmosphere of folkart became clearer to me: paintings of rich vegetation, nice houses with balustrades, ponds where swans swim, ladies in smart dresses and wide-brimmed hats.
A wonderful land and wonderful people. I'm very thankful to Harry and his family for their hospitality, cordiality, for those unforgettable days I spent in the country of Andersen. It was he who taught us to see and discover the beauty of the world around us.
The name of my exhibition in the Central House of Artists was ‘Connection of Times’. It’s surprising how everything is connected in life. I grew up with the sound of ‘Pavel Bure’ clocks. Beside this, in England you can find cocks in cathedrals, and to us cocks are ‘The tale of the Golden Cockerel’ by Pushkin...
When we think about Big Ben the Russian Spassky Tower comes to our mind. English and Russian people check their time by these famous clock-towers.The image of Big Ben is reflected in old clocks with a measured swing of pendulum and musical striking. For me Big Ben is not only a symbol of time but it is an image of English architecture. When you walk along one of the Thames bridges, the views familiar from Claude Monet's paintings open. Old London, its parks and gardens surround majestic buildings, monuments, palaces. Parks joining each other seem endless. They surprised me with their beauty, light and cleanness. Crowds of noisy people add to the life of old parks.
The Tower is an ancient castle and a magestic bridge. The combination of a chivalrous castle and the architecture of the most beautiful bridge makes a lasting impression on everybody who sees it. The Tower as well as Big Ben are the symbols of England. St Paul's Cathedral which is not far from the Tower astonishes each passer-by with its beauty and greatness. It is seen from different parts of London. The canals and the churches with high spires on them are characteristic of London. In old times the canals were used for carrying different goods. And now one can see gondolas with merry tourists on board. It reminds you of Venice.
Night-time comes. The face of Big Ben lights up, the moon rises, the far-away stars begin to twinkle. Numerous lights of bridges, embankments, electric signs light up.The sky is filled with the play of violet and lilac colours, the colour-range of London paintings by Claude Monet.
The National Gallery, The Tate, The Royal Academy of Arts, cathedrals, parks, green houses - they all constitute immortal invaluable cultural treasures. I was grateful to the creators of these treasures and all those who still work there. My trips to Windsor, Canterbury, visits to the old water-mill and private school carried me away. I wanted to express all these bright impressions in my paintings. Journeys like this help me to discover life, nature and culture, to understand the truth of painting. The painter is called to do it all his life. It is his service.