Historical the paintings are the keepers of the cultural memory of the past. Those that are written in hot pursuit of events are especially valuable because they give an idea of the artist and era.
"Their grief was my grief"
The canvas "Defense of Sevastopol", created during the Great Patriotic War by Alexander Alexandrovich Deineka (1899 - 1969), actually made him famous. The picture was painted for the exhibition "The Red Army in the fight against the Nazi invaders," which opened on February 23 1943 in Moscow.
Most likely, the work on the picture did not take much time. The Committee on Arts at the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR in December 1942 entered into an agreement with the artist. According to this document, the sketch of Deinek's work had to be submitted by December 28, and the final version - by February 1 1943. It was assumed that the canvas, painted in oil on canvas, would be the size of 1,5 - 1,8 square. meter As a fee the artist was entitled 20 thousand rubles.
Judging by the memoirs of Deineka, the idea of a big picture of the heroism of the Soviet soldiers appeared in him after a trip to the front in February 1942 in the Yukhnov district, not far from Moscow. Being close to the front line, he made sketches for his future graphic series “On the roads of war”. After returning, the artist wrote a series of watercolors "Moscow Military". He also supervised the poster shop at the Moscow Military District and collaborated on the TASS Windows.
For the first time the idea to create a canvas about the Sevastopol defense arose in Deineka after the Soviet troops left the city in early July 1942. The message about this greatly upset the artist, who knew Sevastopol well and repeatedly visited it. Views of the city and its inhabitants were represented in some of his pre-war works. So in 1932 - 1934. He created a series of "Sevastopol watercolors" and the picture "Parachutist over the Sea." In 1937, the well-known work Future Pilots appeared.
Deineka recalled that he "loved this seaside city even in its youthful years, loved its cheerful inhabitants, its blue sea, the green of parks, the stairs of the streets."
Deineka could learn about the feat of the defenders of Sevastopol from radio and press reports. The story of how five Red Navy men defended 23 kilometers from Sevastopol near the village of Duvankoy (now Verhnesadovoe) became widely known. On November 7, 1941, they accepted their last battle, first from 7 and then from 15 tanks. Later, on October 23, 1942, by decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, political instructor N.D. Filchenkov and sailors I.M. Krasnoselsky, D.S. Odintsov, Yu.K. Parshin, V.G. Tsibulko received posthumously the stars of Heroes of the Soviet Union. By order of the commander of the Black Sea fleet they were forever enlisted in the lists of their military unit.
About the time before creating the picture, Deinek remembered: “In a difficult 1942 year, I returned from the front. Sevastopol was captured by the fascists. In one German newspaper, I saw a terrible picture. The handsome city was disfigured. I presented my“ future pilots ”who also stood up protecting my hometown, women and children who recognized the horror of the blockade. Their grief was my grief. "
The artist didn’t remember the period of work on the canvas: “This time ... seemed to fall out of my mind. I lived with one desire - to paint a picture, I felt that it had to be real, full of superhuman tension of the battle”.
Art style Deineka fit into the concept of a new romanticism, which was manifested in the film "Defense of Sevastopol". The central object of the artist's work was a man, the whole range of his emotions, expressed in various plastic outlines, gestures, silhouettes. "The romanticism of Alexander Deineka should be seen as an attempt to smooth the conflict between the aesthetic ideal of the era, which he as an artist sought, and the myth-making ideal, which the state regime imposed on him." During the war, such opposition is smoothed out, real heroes appear in life, corresponding to the artist's romantic ideal.
The picture shows an episode of the battle on a narrow strip of the embankment. Sailing paratroopers in white uniforms go to the counter. The defenders of Sevastopol, "like fairy-tale warriors who emerged from the sea," boldly swoop down on the enemy’s superior number and weaponry. The work clearly expresses the "pathetic expression of the highest voltage of battle".
From the point of view of real events, this battle could have occurred in June 1942, when the Germans broke through to the outskirts of the city at the North Bay. But the artist created a generalizing image of war, without correlation with specifics.
The main figure of the canvas is a sailor of an athletic build depicted in the foreground with a bunch of grenades in his hands, ready to throw it into the midst of the advancing German soldiers. Before us is a warrior-hero with bloody stains on a courageous face, leading a battle for his native land with calm fearlessness. Initially, on the sketch of the picture, this figure was absent. At first, the artist hoped to make the center of the image a battle between a sailor and a German soldier (depicted in the background). Interestingly, to create an image of a strong and muscular central male figure Deineka invited a familiar female athlete with a corresponding physique.
His comrades are advancing to the left and behind the central figure of a sailor. They rushed forward. In the left part of the picture is the figure of a sailor with a naked torso and with a grenade in his right hand. He makes a U-turn to throw. Another sailor froze motionless on the run, struck down by an enemy bullet. Hand-to-hand combat begins ahead and to the right of it - the sailor and the German soldier clashed in mortal combat, waving rifle butts at each other. A wave of sailors in white uniforms collides with a dark green enemy wave. There are dead and wounded on both sides.
Negative characters of the picture are ambiguous. Enemy soldiers boldly go in rows into battle. But there is no truth behind them. The figures of the murdered Germans carry a certain meaning. The posture of a soldier lying in the foreground with a bloody head and blond hair symbolizes "a bitter epiphany that came down at the hour of reckoning, a feeling of guilt for what he had done, in the outstretched hands of a dead man, as if frozen in prayer for mercy."
The background of the battle is tragic and anxious. The artist showed the atmosphere of pitch hell. The top of the picture is occupied by a dark red sky, crowded with fire and smoke. White buildings stand in ruins. Below is the Black Sea in lead-gray color. Over the dilapidated city dives "Junkers". His goal - sailing in the bay of Soviet ships. They are firing at a German plane. On the embankment stands a padded German tank, buried down the muzzle. In general, military equipment is presented in the background. For the artist, the most important thing was to show the clash of human characters.
The plot of the picture is built in two plans. On the one hand, we have before us a specific episode of the Great Patriotic War connected with the defense of Sevastopol. On the other hand, thanks to colors and shades, the inner meaning of the canvas appears - the struggle between the forces of light and darkness.
It is possible to distinguish antique motifs in the images created by the artist. After all, the ancient Greek Chersonesos once stood on the site of Sevastopol. Soviet sailors in white robes, defending on the embankment of marble, may be associated with ancient Greek warriors who, in the distant past, defended their high culture from dark hostile forces.
"This is not the best of what he wrote"
Reviews in the press on the "Defense of Sevastopol" were varied. The authors of some publications praised the artist for the "dramatic emotional expressiveness" of heroic images. Others, on the contrary, subjected the picture to criticism for "inconclusiveness" and "abstractness". The artist himself assessed his creation as follows: “I don’t know whether this is a good painting or a bad one, but it seems that it’s true. I would like to see my other paintings as well.
The issue of awarding Deineka was discussed in February-March of 1944 at several meetings of the Committee on Stalin Prizes. From the artists section of the artwork, Deineka was represented by I.E. Grabar After viewing the paintings at the Tretyakov Gallery, 25 candidates were nominated, including Deineka with his creations Defense of Sevastopol, Shot As and Transport Restored.
Grabar called him a "master", who has his "clearly expressed, unlike any other style." But at the same time he noted that on the canvas “Defense of Sevastopol” the lying figure of the defeated German turned out to be disproportionate: “short legs with a terribly long body”. At the same time, the directors F.M. Ermler and A.P. Dovzhenko gave a positive assessment of the picture.
Critical remarks about other works of Deineka were expressed by sculptors V.I. Mukhina, S.D. Merkulov and director Dovzhenko. Therefore, at the next meeting of the Committee from the artist’s works, only the “Defense of Sevastopol” was discussed. Chairman of the Committee for the Arts MB Khrapchenko noted that the picture is more like a mural or poster. Director of the Moscow Art Theater I.M. Moskvin stressed the incompleteness of the canvas, which, apparently, was created in a hurry. The artist A.M. Gerasimov, pointing out that the picture, "strong in temperament," unfortunately, contains many "annoying mistakes." First of all, Gerasimov paid attention to poorly written out central figures: the far left sailor throwing a grenade has the top of a “giant” and a “torso from a boy”; the lying figure of a German soldier is depicted with "legs from a boy" and "body from a peasant". Writer A.A. Fadeev expressed the opinion of many of those present about Deineka's work and, in particular, about this picture: “This is not the best of what he wrote. I love him as an artist, but I consider this picture to be a failure.” Despite the subsequent statements by the directors Dovzhenko and Ermler in favor of Deineka’s canvas, the artist’s majority still excluded them from the list of candidates for the prize.
"The picture is complicated by type"
Despite the fact that the “Defense of Sevastopol” was critically apprehended by many participants in the meeting and did not nominate for the Stalin Prize, the images of this canvas were firmly established in the cultural memory of the Soviet society about the war, clearly demonstrating the bitter struggle for Sevastopol. Reproductions of the picture were distributed in millions of copies, published in brochures, books, albums, and history books. The Soviet people knew the remarkable creation of the artist well.
Critics in the Stalin Prize Committee were traditionally thought and did not understand the design and innovative approach of Deineka. He used in the “Defense of Sevastopol” a method of large-scale approximation of individual heroes, simultaneous comparison of distant scenes with a large-scale action of the first plan. Deineka himself described this approach in the following way: “Defense of Sevastopol” - the picture is complex in type, which provided material for its fragmentation. In general, in this case, the fragment gives an aesthetic and cognitive benefit, as it brings the heroes closer to the viewer, makes it possible to get to know them better, to see their features better - it’s like a movie when from afar, a person gradually goes towards you. You see him as staffing, then as a silhouette of the whole figure and, finally, a close-up with all her character. "
Today, the painting is kept in the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, where it was received in 1949 by the decision of the Committee for Arts at the Council of Ministers of the USSR. Up to this point, besides the exhibition in Moscow, the work in 1947 was exhibited along with some other paintings by the artist in Vienna. One of the central Austrian newspapers noted that in this canvas Deineka "proved to be a skilled battle-painter".
The exhibition history of the "Defense of Sevastopol" is quite diverse in its geography. If in 1950 - 1980e. the picture was repeatedly exhibited at various exhibitions only in Moscow and Leningrad, then in the 1990-s and 2000-s. in addition to Russian capitals, it was taken to foreign exhibitions. Deineka canvas was exhibited in galleries and museums of Kassel, Prague, Turku, Stockholm, Jerusalem, Verona, New York, Bilbao.
1. Deineka. Painting. M., 2010. C. 133.
2. Alexander Alexandrovich Deineka. Life, art, time. Literary and artistic heritage. M., 1974. C. 322.
3. Nenarokomova I. "I love big plans ...". Artist Alexander Deineka. M., 1987. C. 157.
4. Sevastopol: Encyclopedic reference. Sevastopol, 2000. C. 178.
5. Alexander Alexandrovich Deineka. Life, art, time. C. 161.
6. Archive of the city of Sevastopol. F. P-183. Op.1. D. 356. L. 38.
7. Alexander Alexandrovich Deineka. Life, art, time. C. 161.
9. Ravinskaya V.B. The concept of a new romanticism in the national monumental painting of the thirties - fifties: On the example of A.A. Deineki. Diss. for the degree of Candidate art history. M., 2002. C. 97-98, 108.
10. Suzdalev P.K. A.A. Deineka. Defense of Sevastopol. L., 1967. C. 6, 8.
11. Sysoev V.P. Alexander Deineka // Alexander Deineka. Sat: 2 T. T. 1. M., 1989. C. 220.
12. Ibid. C. 216-217.
13. In the creative arsenal of A.A. Deineka had the painting "Amazon", created in 1947, based on his ideas about this ancient Greek myth. In addition, in his textbook for beginning artists, published in 1961, there is a section "Drawing an antique figure" (Deineka A. Learn to draw. Conversations with students of drawing. M., 1961. C. 65-75).
14. At the art exhibition // Truth. 1943. 31.03; V. Yakovlev. The Red Army in the fight against the German fascist invaders // Labor. 1943. 26.02; Beskin O. Notes from the exhibition // Evening Moscow. 1943. 08.04.
15. Red Army in the fight against the Nazi invaders // Red Star. 1943. 17.03.
16. Nenarokomova I. Decree. cit. C. 161.
17. RGALI. F. 2073. Op. 1. D. 9. L. 3, 33.
18. Ibid. L. 34, 45-46, 199.
19. Sysoev V.P. Decree. cit. C. 217.
20. Deineka. Painting. C. 143.