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Pavel Filonov: The Master Of Analytical Realism


Refuting the surface geometry of cubism and proposing a new theory of analytical realism by revealing the inner soul of the objects in the painting, the Russian avant-garde painter, art theorist, and poet, Pavel Nikolayevich Filonov, is celebrated as one of the greatest Russian artists of the 20th century.

The most remarkable artist of the Russian avant-garde, Filonov was born on January 8, 1883, in Moscow in a working-class family. He became an orphan during his childhood and began to dance in the corps de ballet in small Moscow theaters to earn a living. At the age of fourteen, he began art lessons in St. Petersburg and in 1908 he entered the Academy of Arts.

Filonov’s work attracted the attention of both students and professors by their unusualness, but his unique style did not conform to the Academy standards and Filonov was dismissed “for influencing students with the lewdness of his work”. After his expulsion from the Academy in 1910, he joined the Russian art group “Soyuz Molodyozhi”, and was the contributor to the group’s magazine.

In 1912, Filonov published an essay “The Canon and the Law” in which he expounded his ideas on analytical realism, also known as “Universal Flowering”. In 1913, he initiated the founding of a new artistic group which united artists who followed the principles of analytical art. In 1914, he published a manifesto of analytical painting, “Sdelannye Kartiny” (The Made Paintings). Among the best works of the period are “The Dairy Woman”, “Three People at the Table’, “Flowers of the Universal Flowering”, and “The Workers”.

Upon the beginning of World War I, Filonov enlisted and served on the Romanian front. His experiences in the war led him to be an active member of the Russian Revolution of 1917, serving as Chairman of the Revolutionary War Committee of Dunay Region. After the tumult of the war and revolution, Filonov exhibited in the First Free Exhibit of Artists of All Trends at the Hermitage in 1919.

In 1923, Filonov served as a professor at the St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts, the same academy from which he had been expelled thirteen years earlier. In 1925, he organized the large art school of Master of Analytical Realism, which eventually had up to seventy members. Staying true to his artistic theory, Filonov rarely made money from his paintings, as he refused to sell them to individual patrons. He wanted to give them all to the Russian Museum as a gift, so they could start a Museum of Analytical Realism.

Filonov died of hunger during the siege of Leningrad on December 3rd, 1941. His works were saved by his sister Evdokia Glebova and later she gave his paintings and graphic works to the Russian State Museum, which is where all of his works can now be found.



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