Alexander Tyshler

Born: 1898, Melitopole (Tauride Province)
Died: 1980, Moscow

Painter, graphic artist, theatrical designer, sculptor, illustrator. Born in the town of Melitopole in the Ukraine in the family of a Jewish cabinetmaker (Yiddish: tischler) and his Georgian-Jewish wife (1898). Studied at the Kiev School of Art (1912–17) and in the studio of Alexandra Exter in Kiev (1917–18). Decorated agitprop trains, trams and the streets and squares of Kiev on Communist holidays (1918). Joined the Kultur Lige (1918–20) and collaborated with Isaac Rabinovich on Kote Marjanishvili’s production of Lope de Vega’s play Fuenteovejuna at the Second Lenin Drama Theatre of the Ukrainian SSR (former Nikolai Solovtsov Theatre) in Kiev (1919). Worked as an artist for the Red Army (1919–20), serving on the Southern Front and designing propaganda posters for the Melitopole branch of the Russian Telegraph Agency (1920). Moved to Moscow (1921), where he studied under Vladimir Favorsky at the VKhUTEMAS (1921–23). Member of Kliment Redko’s Electroorganism group (1922), founding member of the Society of Easel Artists (1925, board member in 1931). Worked on such major series as Colour and Form in Space (1922–24), Civil War (1922–55), Makhnovschina (1922–65), Neighbours of My Childhood (1930–68), Gypsies (1931–64), Caryatids (1964), Puppet Theatre (1964–67), Fascism (1966–68) and The Legend of the Girl Centaur (1970s). Illustrated the Book of Ruth (1917), Vladimir Mayakovsky’s A Cloud in Trousers (1929), Ilya Selvinsky’s The Lay of Ulyalaev (1933–34) and Eduard Bagritsky’s The Lay of Opanas (1937). Drew portraits of Anna Akhmatova (1935), Solomon Mikhoels (1936) and Lily Brik (1949). Criticised for Formalism and increasingly concentrated on theatrical design (1930s). Designed the sets and costumes for over a hundred productions (1922–61), including Shmuel Godiner’s Jim Kooperkop at the Belorussian State Jewish Theatre in Minsk (1929), Georges Bizet’s Carmen at the Romen Gipsy Theatre of Music and Drama in Moscow (1934), William Shakespeare’s Richard III at the Bolshoi Theatre of Drama in Leningrad (1935), William Shakespeare’s King Lear at the State Jewish Theatre in Moscow (1935), Sholem Aleichem’s Blonzhende Stern at the State Jewish Theatre in Moscow (1941), Abraham Goldfaden’s Die kaprizneh Kaleh-Moid at the State Jewish Theatre in Moscow (1944), Zalman Shneer-Okun’s Freylekhs at the State Jewish Theatre in Moscow (1945), William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at the Alexander Pushkin Academic Theatre of Drama in Leningrad (1951) and Rodion Schedrin’s Not Only Love at the State Academic Bolshoi Theatre of the USSR in Moscow (1961). Principal designer of the State Jewish Theatre in Moscow (1941–49). Evacuated to Tashkent (1941), where he worked for local theatres (1941–45). Took up wooden sculpture (1950s–70s), creating the polychrome Dryads series (1969–73). Died and buried in Moscow (1980). Contributed to exhibitions (from 1920), including international exhibitions in Dresden (1926), Harbin (1926), Leipzig (1927), Venice (1928) and Riga (1929) and one-man shows in Odessa (1940), Tashkent (1943), Leningrad (1956, 1962, 1981) and Moscow (1956, 1964, 1966, 1969, 1974, 1978, 1983, 1988, 1998). Honoured Artist of Uzbekistan (1943), winner of the Stalin Prize (1946).

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