Bykhovsky Alexander Yakovlevich

Alexander Yakovlevich Bykhovsky Heritage

About thirty graphic works by Alexander Bykhovsky (1888 –1978) were donated to the Museum of Private Collections in 2005 by his daughter, the costume designer Mariam Bykhovskaya. His name is practically unknown to the authors of the historical art reviews, either official, or alternative. The artist had never been a member of any art association. He rarely exhibited his works publicly. Being one of those who sincerely and completely believed in the moral ideals of the 1917 Revolution, Alexander Bykhovsky was, during his long life, faithful to the "feeling of the artistic space" he discovered in himself in the early 1920s.

The artist's heritage, known so far, is rather small in terms of numbers, especially if one compares their number with the volume of work done. It turns out, though, to be quite enough to make an impression of the artist's personality, strong-willed and unusual, and of the calibre of his talent.

Alexander Bykhovsky's individual manner was formed at the beginning of the 1920s, in his propaganda posters. He had found it, and then developed, strange as it may sound, when the teenage painter was working in an iconographic shop. Some of his future techniques had been learned from decorative wall painting when he used to make plastered limestone walls look like marble or wood, stencilling them or sponging or ragging. His manner became a unique blend of the basics of iconography and Constructivism.

Bykhovsky was able to see from his own experience how close those artistic systems, no matter how different they looked, could come to each other in affecting the viewer. More, he experimentally discovered a profound kinship of iconography and avant-garde art that would take art historians years and years to understand and describe. Further, one should not overlook a Jewish element in this strange cocktail. Its taste is quiet apprehensible. Such different factors which influenced Bykhovsky's work mixed with the revolutionary pathos and dynamic temperament brought about the creation of a laconic, but very expressive, figurative language that is most prominent in his graphic works.

The Bykhovsky collection shows different aspects of the painter's talent. Its centrepiece is undoubtedly a series of drawings in charcoal meant for the film "Love and Hatred" (1934 – 1935). That was a film about the Civil War in Russia. The events develop in a mining town in 1919. There are only women with children and old people left in the town occupied by the White army. The film made by Albert Gendelstein at the Mezhrabpomfilm Studios starred Vera Maretskaya, Mikhail Zharov, Nikolai Kryuchkov and Emma Tsesarskaya. Of the few films made by the same film-maker this one enjoyed an overwhelming box-office success and the unanimous praise from the film critics. Both at home and abroad "Love and Hatred" had the acclaim comparable only with that of "Bronenosets Potyomkin" [Battleship Potenkin] and "Chapayev". But in the 1940s the film was banned from the screen and passed into oblivion for a long time.

Beside the black-and-white flash pictures for the film, the collection presents some early sketches taken from life and satirical drawings as well as a few works of the 1920s of which the most interesting is a 1927 sketch for the cover of the music sheets "Ruth" by composer Lev Yampolsky. There are also sketches for the Irkutsk Pavilion at the All-Union Farmers' Fair-Exhibition (1937) and sketches for the panel "Heralds of Fame" of the late 1940s.

Now the Museum will find itself in the possession of a more or less representative collection of Alexander Bykhovsky that may encourage further study of his work. This is sure to better define his place in the motley mosaic of the 20th-century Russian art that, without his name, has proved to be incomplete.

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