Vasily Shukhayev

Born: 1887, Moscow
Died: 1973, Tbilisi

Painter, graphic artist, theatrical designer, film designer, decorator, teacher. Born in Moscow in the family of a cobbler called Ivan Shukhayev (1887). Studied under Ignaty Nivinsky, Stanislaw-Witold Noakowski and Konstantin Korovin at the Stroganov School of Art and Industry in Moscow (1897–1905), in the studios of Samuel Dudin, Nikolai Gerardov, Valentin Bystrenin and Alexander Skalon in St Petersburg (1906) and under Dmitry Kardovsky, Vasily Savinsky, Hugo Salemann and Jan Ciagli?skj at the Imperial Academy of Arts (1906–12), where he met Alexander Yakovlev, who became his lifelong friend and collaborator. Performed in Vsyevolod Meyerhold’s productions of such pantomimes as Columbine’s Scarf (based on Arthur Schnitzler’s Der Schleier der Pierette) at the House of Interludes (1910), Vladimir Solovyov’s Harlequin the Marriage Broker at the Assembly Hall of the Nobility (1911) and Claude Debussy’s Les amoureux at the house of Nikolai Karabchevsky (1912). Married fellow Academy student Elena Yezhova (1911). Awarded a scholarship by the Society for the Encouragement of Young Artists in Rome (1912) and lived and worked in Italy (1913–14). Painted frescoes for Alexei Schusyev’s Russian Orthodox church of St Nicholas at 130 Corso Benedetto Croce in Bari (1913). Visited Capri with Alexander Yakovlev, where they painted a double self-portrait depicting Shukhayev as Pierrot and Yakovlev as Harlequin in costumes designed by Nikolai Sapunov (1914, completed in 1962). Returned to Petrograd following the outbreak of the First World War (1914). Drew portraits of officers and soldiers of the Uhlan Life Guards Regiment (1915) and the 4th Mariupole Hussar Regiment (1916). Invited to decorate the waiting room of the Kazan Railway Station in Moscow (1915–16). Taught at the Bagayeva Courses of Architecture for Women (1915–16), New Art Studio (1915–17), former Baron Stieglitz Central School of Technical Drawing (1917–18) and the Academy of Arts/Petrograd State Free Art Studios (1918–20). Copied Dionysius’s frescoes at the St Therapontus Monastery of the Nativity of the Virgin (1916) and painted a plafond in Vera Firsanova’s mansion in Moscow (1916). Member of the World of Art (1917), founding member of the Guild of St Luke (1917). Decorated the Lieutenant Schmidt Bridge on the first anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution (1918). Designed the sets and costumes for a performance of Richard Wagner’s opera Das Rheingold at the People’s House (1918) and Konstantin Miklashevsky’s comedy The Four Lady-Killers at the Maly Theatre of Drama (1919). Divorced his first wife and married the artist Vera Gvozdeva (1919). Emigrated to Finland by walking across the frozen sea from Russia to Kuokkala with Jean Pougny and Xenia Boguslavskaya (1920). Settled in the village of Mustamäki on the Karelian Isthmus and applied for a French visa (1920–21). Moved to Paris (1921), where he signed his works “Vassili Choukhaeff” (1921–35). Taught alongside Alexander Yakovlev in their studio at 17 Rue Campagne-Première in Montparnasse (1921–30), Russian Institute of Art and Industry at 12 Rue Victorien Sardou (1926–30) and Tatyana Sukhotina-Tolstaya’s Académie Russe at 11 Rue Jules-Chaplain (1929–30). Illustrated books for Jacques Schiffrin’s Éditions de la Pléiade, including Alexander Pushkin’s The Queen of Spades (1922) and Boris Godunov (1925), Ivan Turgenev’s First Love (1924), Nikolai Gogol’s Petersburg Tales (1925), Nikolai Leskov’s The Enchanted Wanderer (1925), Mikhail Lermontov’s A Hero of Our Time (1926), Anton Chekhov’s A Dreary Story (1926) and Alfred de Musset’s Les deux maîtresses (1928), designed the covers of Heinrich Heine’s Florentinische Nächte (1925) and Zinovi Pechkoff’s La Légion étrangère au Maroc (1927). Designed the costumes for such films as Victor Tourjansky’s Le chant de l’amour triomphant (1923) and Jacques Feyder’s Carmen (1926) and the sets for performances of Nikita Balieff’s Théâtre de la Chauve-Souris, including La puce after Nikolai Leskov (1924) and Nikita Balieff’s Le roi a fait battre tambour (1924–25). Decorated Felix Yussupov’s Russian restaurant at 38 Rue du Mont-Thabor and private concert hall on Rue Pergolese (1925). Painted portraits of Alexander Yakovlev (1927), Sergei Prokofiev (1932), Igor Stravinsky (1934) and Fyodor Chaliapin (1934). Travelled across the south of France and Corsica (1928–29), visited Spain and Morocco (1930). Drew caricatures of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Paul von Hindenburg, Adolf Hitler, Franz von Papen, Maxim Gorky, George Bernard Shaw and Gabriele d’Annunzio for Vanity Fair (1932–33). Designed the sets for Ida Rubinstein’s production of Mikhail Fokine’s ballet Sémiramis at the Opéra de Paris (1934). Returned to Leningrad (1935), where he taught at his own studio in the Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (1935–37). Worked on the interior decor of the Lenin Library (1935), Moscow Hotel (1935) and Gorky Park in Moscow (1935). Designed the sets for productions of Alexander Pushkin’s play The Stone Guest at the Bolshoi Theatre of Drama in Leningrad (1935), Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Luisa Miller at the Kirov Theatre of Opera and Ballet in Leningrad (1936), Konstantin Trenyov’s play Pugachovschina at the Russian Theatre of Drama in Kiev (1936) and Maurice Maeterlinck’s play L’Oiseau bleu for the Kiev Theatre of the Young Viewer (1936). Accused of espionage and sentenced to eight years in corrective labour camps (1937). Felled trees in Kolyma (1937–39) and repaired engines at a motor depot in Nagayev Bay (1939). Transferred to Magadan (1940–45). Released from prison (1945) and worked at the Magadan Regional Theatre of Music and Drama (1945–47), where he designed the sets and costumes for productions of John Fletcher and Philip Massinger’s The Spanish Curate (1945), Dmitry Lensky’s Lev Gurych Sinichkin after Emmanuel Théaulon and Jean-François Bayard’s Le Père de la débutante (1945), William Shakespeare’s Othello (1946), Alexander Pushkin’s The Stone Guest (1946), Alexander Ostrovsky and Nikolai Solovyov’s The Marriage of Belugin (1947), Eugène Scribe’s Le Verre d’eau (1947) and Carlo Goldoni’s La locandiera (1947). Granted permission to move to Tbilisi (1947), where he taught drawing at the Georgian Academy of Arts (1947–73, professor from 1948) and designed sets and costumes for the Kote Marjanishvili Theatre of Drama (1947–48). Rearrested and imprisoned for two months (1948). Painted portraits of Svyatoslav Richter (1951) and Stanislav Neuhaus (1967). Wrote autobiographical notes (1960s) and illustrated Ivan Turgenev’s Asya (1973). Died and buried in Tbilisi (1973). Contributed to exhibitions (from 1906). Contributed to the exhibitions of the Imperial Academy of Arts (1909, 1911, 1912), Exhibition of Paintings and Sculptures by Russian Artists in Aid of Belgian Refugees at the Galerie Lemercier in Moscow (1915), New Society of Artists (1914–15, 1917), World of Art (1918), First State Free Exhibition of Works of Art at the former Winter Palace (1919), Exposition des artistes russes à Paris organisée par les membres et exposants de la Société Mir isskousstva (1921, 1927, 1928, 1930), Exhibition of Modern French Art at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow (1928), exhibitions of Russian art in London (1921), Paris (1921, 1929, 1932), New York (1923, 1924), The Hague (1924), Brussels (1928), Birmingham (1928), Copenhagen (1929), Sydney (1929), Berlin (1930), Belgrade (1930) and Prague (1935), international exhibitions in Rome (1924), Pittsburgh (1924–28), New York (1925, 1926, 1928), Dresden (1926) and Munich (1926) and one-man shows in Petrograd/Leningrad/St Petersburg (1914, 1936, 1962–63, 1968, 1977, 1988, 2006), Paris (1921, 1922, 1924, 1929), Moscow (1936, 1958, 1994) and Tbilisi (1954, 1962, 1971, 2008). Honoured Artist of Georgia (1962).

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