Gymnasts of the USSR

Date: 1964–65
Media: Tempera and synthetic resin on fibreglass
Dimensions: 268 x 216 cm
Ownership: Russian Museum, St Petersburg
Property of the Union of Artists of the RSFSR (until 1972)
Gymnasts of the USSR


Dmitry Zhilinsky often manifested his creative aspirations in portraiture. One of the idiosyncrasies of his art was his habit of depicting in the concrete not the fleeting, but the most important element of a man’s personality.

Zhilinsky preferred clear, collected and intellectual images. He was inspired by the art of the Old Masters, particularly the early Italian Renaissance and Old Russian painting. The artist openly addresses the art of the past in his modern images: “I love exactness of expression and completeness of form – in my own understanding of these words, of course.”

Zhilinsky’s works are distinguished by their pure and decorative tones, melodious lines, plastic silhouettes and harmonic compositions. The artist’s painting technique was also unusual; he frequently worked in tempera on levkas, lending a colourist sublimity to his works.

Gymnasts of the USSR is, in essence, a group portrait of famous Soviet sportsmen, many of them world and Olympic champions. Among the figures in the background are Polina Astakhova (triple Olympic and double world champion), Boris Shakhlin (triple Olympic and double world champion) and Yury Titov (Olympic and world champion, later president of the International Federation of Gymnasts).

An original personal “tuning” of thought, will and feelings can be seen in the heroes’ faces and expressive gestures. The distinct composition, sharp foreshortenings and pure tones are also psychological.

«Гимнасты СССР» Дмитрия Жилинского – это картина-портрет, где происходит своеобразная индивидуальная настройка мысли, воли, чувства. Это видно в лицах, ощутимо в выразительности жестов. Ясность и четкость композиции, острота ракурсов, чистота цвета психологичны. Среди изображенных - подлинные герои спорта. В их числе: на дальнем плане Полина Астахова, трехкратная олимпийская и двукратная чемпионка мира; Борис Шахлин, «железный Шахлин», как его называли спортсмены и зрители за мужество и волю к победе, трехкратный олимпийский и двукратный чемпион мира; Юрий Титов, олимпийский чемпион и абсолютный чемпион мира, впоследствии президент международной федерации гимнастики. Произведение отличается повышенным интересом к выражению индивидуальности каждого, что вполне соответствует духу времени середины 1960-х годов.

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