ONCE UPON A TIME, THERE LIVED AN ARTIST

HE WAS A RUSSIAN ARTIST …

Dear Friends, I would like to share my short story about the people’s artist Gennady Mikhailovich Dobrov. On the Internet, both at home and overseas, he is best known for his portrayals of the disabled Great Patriotic War veterans.

“A Parting Glance” painting has also earned him acclaim on the Internet; this is a story of a woman and her son walking away from her stone drunk husband, a violin player. However, there are many other things that the artist achieved during the seventy-three years of his life.

In the 1960s, Gennady Dobrov embarked on his path that would set off to lead an independent life following graduation from an Art School and the Surikov Moscow State Academy Art Institute. Things happen, and his professional career did not start right away. For several years, he would change trades working as head of an art studio in Dubno, and as a Moscow police officer, and as a hospital paramedic. As a young man, he traveled a lot across his country; he loved visiting the Far East; he would often visit his native Omsk where his parents lived; he would go Central Asia… In a nutshell, as an artist, he always had a keen interest in learning more about people from different walks of life across our vast Homeland.

In the 1970s, in search for his career path in arts Gennady Dobrov would build on those impressions of youth, he would often remember the immediate postwar years… He would prefer to paint from life just as his father had taught him to do his work, from his early childhood.

The career path of the artist was not an easy one. The leadership of the Union of Artists took a united stand against Gennady Dobrov’s first noble impulse to create and imprint the living images of disabled Great Patriotic War heroes in the memories of the nation as a recognition they had deserved. Fellow artists recognized Gennady Dobrov’s great skills and appreciated his realism in art. However, they all subscribed to an opinion that the theme of war in our art should only be focused on being victorious and optimistic. Subsequently, the portraits of 40 disabled war veterans were put into cold storage for years to come. They were disallowed from the exhibitions for ten years.

Gennady Dobrov did not succumb to his hurt feelings; instead, he took up paintings. Even though he did love the harmony of forms and colors in art, he wouldn’t paint just for the sake of painting. Apart from a sense of comfort, art is a tempest to impress and change the soul of a viewer, just as literature does, he believed, That’s what he learned from his great iconic teachers including Rembrandt, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky…

In 1982, he presented his painting, A Parting Glance. For two years, they would refuse to exhibit this artwork. The artist was criticized for his out-of-date realism, trivial and insignificant subject matter, and for the denigration of the image of the Soviet intelligentsia…

However, since the beginning of 1984, the painting would be in the limelight of the Manege, and the House of Artists exhibitions and that included other exhibition halls as well. The newspapers, magazines, and TV stories would feature and promote his artwork; a wall calendar was released in 1990. Without question, it was a great success…

With the onset of the Perestroika times, public opinions and perception of the past, history, and arts changed as much as many other things in our life did turn around as well. That’s when they made him an offer and asked that Gennady Dobrov showed his forbidden and refused portrayals of the disabled Great Patriotic war veterans he had created ten years before.

The Autographs of War show had a bombshell effect when it was first exhibited at the Moscow House of Artists. The visitors wiped away their tears and colleagues shook Dobrov’s hand firmly. The milestone follow-up included the solo shows organized by the Soviet Peace Protection Committee, the Novosti Press & News Agency, and the Foreign Ministry’s press center… The exhibition had a streak of real triumph including the release of the trilingual album of Dobrov’s “Autographs of War” and a documentary entitled “Artist Gennady Dobrov” which was run in Moscow cinemas and in other cities as well; there were TV clips featuring the Dobrov story, and people would even recognize him both in the subway and in the streets…

Concurrently, the ongoing protests and public meetings engulfed Moscow’s downtown areas; throngs of homeless and poor people were swarming in the streets. On the way to his Stoleshnikov studio, Gennady Dobrov watched, sketched, and drew those sad and bitter scenes. Like many others, he could neither realize nor understand that the market economy was calling shots as the new Russia emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Shortly, the artist experienced the rules marking out the new times. They evicted him from his favorite Stoleshnikov Studio where he had worked for seventeen years… In the summer of 1995, he moved to his new workplace, which was an old and dilapidated property estate featuring an overgrown courtyard, at the Taganka district. Though every cloud has a silver lining, which was the relocation, as folks would say. With the renovation and improvements to his new studio completed, the artist discovered a retreat for inspiration and consolation with the birds singing, the church bells tolling and his favorite cats and dogs playing. A tiny paradise it was for him when going away and coming back home from Afghanistan, Chechnya, South Ossetia, and other locations whereto he would travel to draw his pictures capturing the severe realities of military clashes and human conflicts.

During those years, Gennady Dobrov traveled to Afghanistan several times and finished an extensive series of graphics featuring the war-stricken country, and which he named ‘A Prayer for Peace.

To create his ‘International Terrorism’ series, he merged the pieces of artwork so to tell the tragic story of the peoples of Chechnya and South Ossetia.

‘Mental Patients in Russia’ proved the artist’s last extensive series of drawings; he believed it was a summary of the 20th-century disasters that he had witnessed.

In the early twenty-hundreds, his health condition was gradually getting worse as his illnesses progressed: diabetes, hypertension, loss of sight… Despite his infirmities, the artist refused to surrender to the bed. In his studio, he would continue to work on his large painting The Communal Apartment; he traveled to do his sketches in Germany, he went to Siberia, and then flew over to Magadan… In 2006, the most terrible thing happened, he lost eyesight. Then, when silence fell, at night, he used his tape recorder to record the story of his life…

He had his vision partially restored after several eye surgeries. It was a miracle! In 2008, another miracle occurred and it was his fantastic trip to America to attend the opening ceremony of his solo exhibition at the United Nations Headquarters. Two years later, in Kremlin, Gennady Dobrov was awarded the title of the People’s Artist of Russia by the President. And a month and a half before his death, Gennady Dobrov was elected a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Arts.

The artist passed away in 2011.

Afterword

2011: friends helped create the “gennady-dobrov.ru” website

2016: The release of the documentary “Night Chronicles of the Artist Dobrov”

2016: The publication of two volumes of memoirs entitled, “Gennady Dobrov’s Nocturnal Chronicles”

2020: The publication of the book entitled, “Orpheus Descends into Inferno”

After his death, the exhibitions of the artist’s artworks were organized in Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Salekhard, as well as in Germany and Venezuela…

Once upon a time, there lived an artist; he was a Russian artist

A Parting Glance and other artworks by Gennady Dobrov

A ten-minute story featuring Gennady Dobrov’s legacy, in English.

History Writer, WWII