PAINTING THE HEART OF MOSCOW: A SUSTAINED VISION
The artworks of Russian artist Sergei Avksentevich Kolyada are intimately tied to his love for his home town of Moscow where he was a faithful resident for the ninety years of his life. A highly accomplished portraitist, still life and landscape artist; it is his series on “Old Moscow” that has received the greatest acclaim by critics, including renowned Russian art commentator Valentina Arzarkovich and art critic Vladimir Kostin.
With time, this collection will become essential as a unique and very complete witness of a faithful picture of Old Moscow already disappeared or on the verge of disappearing.
Valentina Grigorevna Arzarkovich, 1985
Sergei was born in Moscow in 1907. Admitted as an apprentice to famous artist Nicolai Krymov’s studio at the age of 18, it was a crucial meeting for Kolyada with a master of impression and light which would have an important influence on his future artistic career.
His apprenticeship was followed by four years of study at the prestigious Superior Institute of Arts and Techniques (Vhutemas – Vhutein) under Shterenberg and Guerassimov, after which he joined the OST (Society of Easel Painters) for two years prior to its disbandment by the authorities.
The beginning of Kolyada’s career coincided with the establishment of Soviet Socialist Realism as the only authorized style of art. Prominent artists and writers joined political authorities in declaring that art and literature must depict the “reality of Revolutionary Russia.”
Although he was admitted into the Union of Artists and participated in many group exhibitions, he did not gain the prestige of colleagues who fulfilled the Party’s plans for realistic Art. He kept his personal and artistic integrity, perhaps at the expense of lost opportunities for advancement. In 1945, a great number of his early paintings (including a number of avant-garde works) were destroyed in a fire at his parents’ home.
As with numerous artists of that time, Kolyada worked not only for the state in an official capacity; but also created a large body of impressive private works, including portraits, still lives and landscapes. Co-founder of the Society of Painters of the Moscow region and of the Union of Painters of Russia, after the Second World War, he participated in a few artistic missions in the “Pouchinsky-Gory” region (which inspired Pouchkine) and in the kolkhozes of the Moscow’s region during the 1950’s.
In the 1960s, he started painting the landscapes of “his” old Moscow; a long and patient work which he willingly and passionately continued for over 30 years. Focusing on the lesser known streets and laneways, and old condemned suburbs; the subject of each work was painstakingly researched. The artist retrieved old archival records and compiled a dossier for each work detailing the “life” of the house or building he was portraying – who its residents had been, the architect, significant design features, its unique “story.” His love for the landscapes of his youth would see him complete a unique collection that with time, is becoming increasingly important as a record of the Moscow that “was” – now replaced in many instances by new housing estates and mass developments, the old buildings lost forever.
In his last years, one of the (then) oldest member of the Union of Artists of Russia, Kolyada travelled, painted and exhibited outside the URSS; in Australia first, then in France in Etretat, Angers, Dinard and Paris.
He died in Moscow in 1996 at the age of 89.
Besides a great number of group exhibitions, Kolyada’s long career is marked by important solo exhibitions in the prestigious Tretiakov Gallery, the Krimsky-Val Gallery and the Glinka Museum, as well as the famous White House (Douma) for the 850th Anniversary of Moscow foundation. Some of his works have also been included in 5 different exhibitions at the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis in the United States.
Three important Moscow Museums hold a dozen of Kolyada’s works acquired when the artist was still alive: The State Tretiakov Gallery, The Moscow Historical Museum and the Lounatcharsky Museum.
All his life, Sergei Kolyada never sought fame. Modest, he always maintained recognition would come at an appropriate time. The legacy of Kolyada and his unique record of “Old Moscow” are today increasingly gaining the prominence they deserve.