Yefim Royak (Rayak)

Born: 1906, Vitebsk
Died: 1987, Moscow
Painter, graphic artist, architect, designer, collage artist. Born in Vitebsk in the family of a Jewish tailor called Moisei Royak (1906). Allegedly took up painting after Marc Chagall asked his father to alter an old jacket, saw one of the twelve-year-old boy’s drawings on the family stove and presented him with a box of paints, paper and a brush (1919). Studied under Yehuda Pen, Marc Chagall, Vera Yermolaeva and Kazimir Malevich at the Vitebsk School of Art (1919–22). Member of UNOVIS (1921). Accompanied Kazimir Malevich and a group of other students to Petrograd (1922), where he lived for a time in Malevich’s apartment at 2 Pochtamtskaya Street (1923) and worked as a practical student and research assistant at the Institute of Artistic Culture (1924–26). Moved to Moscow for medical treatment (1927) and collaborated with El Lissitzky on a project to design the House of Textiles (1927). Returned to figurative art (late 1920s) and painted a series of watercolour landscapes of Moscow (1930s). Married Faina Kaplan (1930). Worked at the architectural studio of Alexander and Victor Vesnin (1934–41). Helped to design the Soviet pavilions at the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne in Paris (1937) and New York World’s Fair (1939–40). Fought in the Second World War (1941–45), taking part in the Battle of Stalingrad (1942–43) and the Battle of Berlin (1945). Designed lamps for underground stations at the All-Union Institute for the Scientific Research of Glass (1945–48) and worked at the architectural studio of Alexander and Victor Vesnin (1948–54). Head architect of Kiev district in Moscow (1954–74). Returned to the motifs of Suprematist faces (1950s–60s), painted works inspired by Kazimir Malevich’s peasant cycles (1970s–80s) and his own version of Black Square (1982). Continued to work despite suffering from partial blindness (1980s). Died in Moscow (1987). Contributed to exhibitions (from 1921). Contributed to the UNOVIS exhibitions in Vitebsk (1921), Die erste russische Kunstausstellung at the Galerie van Diemen in Berlin (1922), Exhibition of Pictures of Petrograd Artists of All Directions at the Academy of Arts in Petrograd (1923) and posthumous one-man shows at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow (1989), Kunstmuseum in Bochum (1991) and the Wilhelm-Hack-Museum in Ludwigshafen am Rhein (1991).

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