Eduard Steinberg

Born: 1937, Moscow
Died: 2012, Paris

Painter, graphic artist. Born in Moscow (1937) in the family of Arkady Steinberg (1907–1976), a poet, translator and graduate of the VKhUTEMAS. Graduated from a school for workers. Forced to find work after the seventh grade when his father was arrested. Worked as a navvy, factory labourer and fisherman. Moved to Tarusa after his father’s release from the camps (1957). First taught art by his father, a graduate of the VKhUTEMAS. Studied painting independently, advised by his father and Boris Sveshnikov. Painted landscapes, still-lifes and portraits and copied drawings by Rembrandt and Jacques Callot. Settled in Tarusa after his father’s release from prison camp (1957). Held one of the first independent exhibitions at the Tarusa Town Club (1961). Moved to Moscow (1961). Influenced by Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematism (early 1960s). Became acquainted with the abstract Suprematism of Kazimir Malevich in the George Costakis collection (early 1960s). Member of the metaphysical movement in Russian art (1960s–80s). Departed from traditional landscapes and created his first symbolical cycle (1963). Arrived at the theme of the metaphysical still-life, which formed the language of his plastic symbols; the motifs of stone, bird and fish appeared (mid-1960s). During his meta-geometric period employed muted tones, primarily on a light background (1970–85). Active member of the nonconformist movement. After his first exhibition in Tarusa, Steinberg organized apartment exhibitions and participated in shows of underground art in Moscow. Vladimir Weisberg’s monochromatic metaphysics had a great influence on him at this time. In the late 1960s, Czech friends helped to spread the artist’s name in the West, and he contributed to many group exhibitions. Took up abstract art (early 1970s), leading member of the geometric abstract movement. Lived and worked in Paris, Moscow and Tarusa (from early 1990s). Died of pneumonia in Paris (2012). Contributed to exhibitions in Russia (from 1961) and abroad (from 1970), including a joint one-day exhibition with Vladimir Yakovlev at the Fyodor Dostoyevsky Museum in Moscow (1963) and the Bar-Gera/Gmurzynska Gallery in Cologne (1970) and a one-man show at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow (1992).

Eduard Steinberg was a representative of the metaphysical movement in Moscow underground art (Vladimir Weisberg, Dmitry Krasnopevtsev, Dmitry Plavinsky, Ulo Sooster, Vladimir Yankilevsky and Mikhail Schwartzmann). This movement addressed abstract spiritual and philosophical issues, quests for the truth and the eternal questions of existence. The artist’s oeuvre developed in constant inner dialogue with Kazimir Malevich, a dialogue documented not only by the stylistics and semantics of his works, but also in special texts directly addressed to his idol – “letters to the other world”.

In the 1970s, Steinberg created his own, highly personal version of geometric abstraction, in which the plastic construction was the result of a spiritual impulse. The Suprematist figures were employed as sacral signs, opening the way to direct contemplation of the truth. Shedding their “corporeality”, the outlined forms wandered through a weightless white background – the space of pure thought.

In the mid-1980s, Eduard Steinberg crossed over from metageometry to compositions including figurative elements and a clearly thematic orientation. The link with the issues and motifs of Kazimir Malevich’s late peasant cycle was evident. The light palette grew darker; the density and richness of colour intensified. Contemplation gave way to a more active and tense relationship with the world. Large, energetic forms appeared in Steinberg’s abstract works, replacing the former monotony of the painterly narrative based on likenesses and reflections of fragile elements.

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