Ernst Neizvestny

Born: 1925, Sverdlovsk
Died: 2016, New York

Sculptor. Born in the family of Josif Neizvestny in Sverdlovsk (1925). Volunteered to fight in the Second World War (1942), wounded in Austria at the very end of the war (1945). Believed killed and posthumously awarded the Order of the Red Star. Studied at the Latvian Academy of Arts in Riga (1946), Vasily Surikov Institute of Art in Moscow (1947–54) and the Faculty of Philosophy of Moscow State University. Sprung to international fame after the infamous debate at the Manège exhibition with Nikita Khrushchev leading to a long period of persecution of nonconformist art in the Soviet Union (1962). Following the Manège exhibition, Ernst Neizvestny was banned from taking part in official art life. Even his commissioned works had to be made underground, in a smelting workshop far from Moscow. Designed Prometheus at the Artek Pioneers Camp (1966), Lotus Flower at the Aswan Dam in Egypt (1971), Mask of Sorrow memorial to the victims of Stalinist purges in Magadan (1995) and the Tree of Life composition in Moscow (2004). Commissioned by Khrushchev’s widow Nina to sculpt Khrushchev’s tombstone at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow (1974). Constantly persecuted by the Soviet authorities and eventually forced to emigrate (1976). Emigrated to Zurich (1976) and moved to New York. Professor of Columbia University, full member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, European Academy of Sciences and Arts in Paris and the New York Academy of Sciences. Died at the age of ninety-one in New York (2016).

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