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  • Aleksandr Drevin, Nadezhda Udal'tsova:An Exhibition That Never Was
  • Kirill Sokolov (bio)

This juxtaposition of autobiographical statements written in 1933 by Aleksandr Drevin and Nadezhda Udal'tsova, together with an introduction to their artistic careers and a select chronology designed to place them in the context of their times, is intended to show how early twentieth-century Russian art evolved in parallel to Western thought and artistic practice, taking into account contemporary developments in non-Euclidean geometry, physics, mathematics, the laws of perspective and the awareness of the impossibility of "realistically" representing spatial forms on a flat surface, which, at the time, were exercising many minds. The artists, though from very different backgrounds, were closely involved with one another, as husband and wife and as close colleagues in art. Their artistic course is traced through and beyond the experimental 1910s and 1920s.

Aretrospective exhibition of the work of Aleksandr Drevin and Nadezhda Udal'tsova was scheduled to open towards the end of 1991 at the principal Moscow exhibition space for contemporary art, the House of the Artist. It was the year of the fall of the Soviet Union, and the exhibition, organized by the Artists' Union of the USSR, did not take place-in spite of the implication to the contrary published in the catalogue to the Russo-American exhibition The Great Utopia. A catalogue, however, was published under the imprint of the Artists' Union "Sovetskii Khudozhnik" (Moscow, 1991), but did not go on sale at the time. It is from this catalogue, with texts by Veronika Starodubova and Ekaterina Drevina, that Avril Pyman has translated the artists' 1933 autobiographical statements and an interview given to the journal Tvorchestvo by Drevin in the following year.

Aleksandr Davidovich Drevin (or Rudolph-Aleksandr Drevins, in the Latvian version of his name) was born in 1889 and was, in official post-20th Party Congress terminology, "illegally repressed" and shot on 16 February 1938 in Moscow at the height of the Great Terror (the term is Robert Conquest's). Like countless whose cases were re-examined and charges found unproven, he was officially "posthumously rehabilitated" [1] in 1957, and his works began to reappear in the public galleries of museums. In 1979, a one-man exhibition was held in Moscow and went on to the Russian Museum in Leningrad in the same year. Further one-man exhibitions followed in 1981 in Riga and in 1982 in Tallin. Some pictures in the Costakis collection were shown around the same time in the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and Drevin's work has since figured in exhibitions arranged by galleries specializing in Russian art in various European venues and in Tokyo.

Drevin's wife, Nadezhda Andreevna Udal'tsova, née Prudkovskaya, born in 1886, was an artist in her own right. She began to paint under the name of her first husband, which she retained for professional reasons. She outlived Drevin by 23 years, dying in Moscow in 1961. They were partners from 1920, and this partnership was based on an organic creative affinity.

Drevin began his career as an exhibiting artist in Moscow with a series of oil paintings (Refugees, 1915-1917) (Fig. 1) clearly inspired by images of the First World War and the then-current vogue for Neo-Primitivism. He then went through a period of constructivist abstract painting but, in the mid-1920s, returned to the depiction of a reality not merely observed from without but transformed from within and continued to work in that direction until his death. It was during his last 13 years that he established his own, highly individual, artistic manner.

Udal'tsova worked from the outset of her career with the Russian avant-garde: Tatlin, Malevich, Popova. Between 1912 and the mid-1920s she passed from analytical cubism (Fig. 2) to Suprematism (Fig. 3) but embarked with Drevin upon a

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Fig. 1.

Aleksandr Drevin, Bezhenka (A Woman Refugee), oil on canvas, 92 × 74 cm, 1917. (State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow, N.11949.) One of a series of "neo-primitive" works inspired by First World War refugees, with which the artist made his Moscow debut in 1918. (All images reproduced...


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pp. 263-269
Launched on MUSE
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