Reviews and Articles

Biographical Retrospective of Moses Feigin in the Central House of Artists

“Culture” newspaper, Weekly newspaper of the intelligentsia, issue #34 (7647), September 2008.

Moses Feigin (1903 - 2008) lived a long life. He had been on a par with the century and moved into the new millennium, and was included into the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest working artist in the country.

And it’s hard to understand which one. After all, he was born in Warsaw, on the outskirts of the Russian Empire. Then he studied in Moscow. In various gymnasiums before the revolution, and after in the legendary VKHUTEMAS (Russian State Art and Technical School) under the guidance of Alexander Osmerkin, Lyubov Popova, Ilya Mashkov, Aristarkh Lentulov, all masters of avant-garde art. He became an artist himself. He served in the Red Army. A member of the Moscow Union of Artists since 1932. In 1941 he volunteered for the war, and returned home in 1945. He lived like everyone else and worked like everyone else. He responded to all the events of the 20th century. He painted and drew what was needed, the way it was needed, and was a quiet, modest, inconspicuous person. He was not an orator. He did not speak at the meetings of the Union of Artists, at the exhibition discussions, and did not paint festive decorations, nor was he seen doing anything he should not have been doing as a Soviet artist. He was a regular, average member of Moscow Union of Soviet Artists. And that is the way he remained after the collapse of the USSR.

And here is his final solo exhibition. It opened in the Central House of Artists on Krymsky Val. Moses Alexandrovich was very much looking forward to it. When he was already in the hospital, he asked about the preparations. But he did not live to see the opening. He died just before the opening day at the age of 104. And the exhibition itself was a huge, exciting event that showed an unusual and wonderful artist.

His first serious catalog was also a big event - before that there were only booklets. He came out with such a “family” induction of the descendants: “He had always been, and it seemed as he would always be there. His life is a work of art. And Painting is alive like Life. And suddenly this life story ended. And it became visible and completed. You can see it at an exhibition in the Central House of Artists. This is the most complete exhibition of works by Moses Feigin. From the family archives. These are the works that he collected and kept for his exhibition. He outlived both his teachers and his students, but he never managed to grow old. He died young at the age of 104."

The exposition includes more than a hundred works. From 1946 to 2008. The paintings created by Moses Feigin in the 1920s - 1930s have not survived: they were lost in the course of evacuation during the war. We can now see what he collected and preserved, what he barely exhibited and kept in his workshop or with his friends. Abstract art could not be shown at the time since it did not correspond to oppressive socialist realism and could bring about disfavor of party ideologists.

Moses Alexandrovich presented other canvases that were quite in the spirit of the time, with the desired theme and style at the obligatory exhibitions. Nevertheless, he knew how to be great as a realist. And he even managed to turn the paintings from commissioned trips to steel plants into avant-garde works in the spirit of his beloved "Jack of Diamonds" by admiring the beauty of flowing metal. What he drew and painted for himself, his family and friends he left in the workshop or gave away to the select few. That is what we can now see on display at the Central House of Artists - the works that he hid for safekeeping until the time came. It did but he did not live to see it.

What are these canvases and graphic sheets about? They are about life, a difficult, dramatic, hard, and sad one. That is why the artist often turns to biblical images, which is evident from the names - "Golgotha", "Crucifixion", "Descent from the Cross". "Self-portraits" by Moses Feigin are strange, and sometimes scary. He uses them to asks the audience the eternal "Hamlet" question "To be or not to be ... ”, when the artist peers at you with pain and bitterness, and you feel guilty that life is sometimes so very bad. This inquiring look of the author haunts viewers of the paintings with even the seemingly ordinary, everyday subjects. These include "Walk", “A Talk", "Conversation", "Return", "Remembrance".

His paintings are composed of contrasting "sharp" color spots and broken lines colliding with each other. They depict a contradictory and catastrophic world that is nevertheless filled with philosophical meaning, which cannot be contemplated right away by the meager mind. At that, his works have the most simple of names: "Figure", "Two Figures", or better yet "Untitled" and "Composition". As a matter of fact, most of his paintings do not need titles as their content is so wide and polysemantic. And in the event that they are devoted to Feigin’s favorite cavalry subject.

The fact is that Moses Feigin served in the Red Army in a cavalry regiment, and he retained his love for horses throughout his life. And here you are - "Red Horse", "Black Horse", "Cavalier". The avant-garde "cavalryman" Moses Feigin "jumped" the millennium barrier and rode into the new 21st century. However, the veteran artist stopped at a gallop. And now we are here to appreciate this flight from the past filled with vital force.

Reviews M.Feigin
Made on