Actor, ballet master, and teacher. In 1920-1933, A. Rumnev was
a member of the company of Alexander Tairov’s Moscow Chamber Theater.

In 1940, he was invited to teach dance and choreography at the Mosfilm School of Acting.
In 1944, he began to teach at the All-Soviet State Institute of Cinematography. Rumnev authored several monographs
on the art of pantomime, including On Pantomime (Moscow, 1964) and Pantomime and Its Possibilities
(Moscow, 1966; published posthumously).From his first meeting with Anatoly Zverev and until his death,
Rumnev admired and supported Zverev, bringing him to the attention of many patrons and collectors.

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“When you encounter a striking and original phenomenon in art, you want to understand, after the first shock passes, what impressed you and why?

“The paintings of Anatoly Zverev, a young artist that is virtually unknown in his homeland yet that has long been attracting the attention of Western art lovers and collectors, belong to those unexpected and unique phenomena that strike us not only with their utmost mastery but also (and above all) with the originality of the world that the artist opens before us.

As every striking personality, Zverev is difficult to classify in any painterly movement familiar to us. Let us simply say that his painting is objective, figural, and realistic in the best sense of the term. Zverev may be called an expressionist only in the sense in which Van Gogh, say, could be called an expressionist: in his work, he expresses, reveals and lays bare above all his own self.

“This explains the rapidity and nervousness of his rhythms, which reflect the unstable mentality of a person that grew up in our uneasy times. The latter also explains Zverev’s striving to find beauty and harmony in the frightening world in which there still exist good people, gentle animals, shady trees and fragrant flowers.

“The dynamism of Zverev’s art lies in the confrontation of the worrying and the comforting, the ugly and the beautiful. As viewers, we become witnesses to this tragic confrontation that takes place in the artist’s soul. At the same time, we become his accomplices, struck by his discovery that the world is better and more beautiful than we had thought before seeing Zverev’s art. This is not due, of course, to the artist embellishing the truth by straightening out his models’ noses, say. On the contrary, Zverev often amplifies and emphasizes ugliness. Nevertheless, he is able to see beauty in ugly, worrying and frightening things, transforming a fact of reality into a fact of art.

“The power of Zverev’s art on the viewer may become easier to understand if we look at how he works.

“As many great artists, Zverev is infantile. He has not lost his childlike spontaneity, immediacy of perception, and trustfulness. His soul and his eye have very quick reaction times. This requires the artist’s hand and its nerves and muscles to record impressions rapidly and precisely. Zverev’s hand responds to these demands with a febrile change of rhythms where tragic zigzags alternate with a refined lyricism of lines and where the frantic energy of brushstrokes, spots and drops can give way to a very tender and caressing contact between the brush and the canvas or paper. All of this is in such close harmony with his emotional states that, after a few minutes of work, the surface of the painting turns into documentary evidence of sorts of the artist’s spiritual state evoked by external impressions. The paper or canvas resembles a cardiogram that reflects the process of psychic exhibitionism. At the same time, the most trivial impression becomes captivating and joyous thanks to an unexpected perspective, a shift of proportions, deformations, unusual color relations, and, most importantly, a faster pulse. Empty dishes, toilets, stray cats, children with TB, alcoholics and prostitutes – this world of the city outskirts becomes no less beautiful and captivating than flowers and trees or swans and gazelles that Zverev admired at the zoo. The fact of reality is transformed into a fact of art with such energy, such conviction and such mastery that it cannot help but move, inspire and overwhelm the viewer.

“Perhaps it is still too early to speak about different manners or ‘periods’ in Zverev’s art. Nevertheless, they clearly exist and are well known to his collectors. Such periods are numerous, for Zverev’s painterly manner changes frequently and radically. Each period of his would assure fame and fortune to any less talented artist. Yet Zverev is a squanderer. He finds and abandons, finds again and then changes his style and technique once more without regret, forgetting about his earlier acquisitions and not worrying that his riches may be depleted one day… Yet they are inexhaustible. Moreover, despite his different techniques and means of expression, he always remains himself: you can always recognize his artworks, as they reflect, during all his periods, the purity of his soul and its unique and inimitable poetic nature.”
GEORGE COSTAKIS (1913- 1990)
A prominent collector and patron, Costakis gathered one of the biggest
collections of Russian avant-garde and Soviet underground art.

In 1977, he donated a major part of his collection to the Tretyakov Gallery before emigrating to Greece. Costakis was one of the first to actively support A. Zverev in the 1950s by buying and promoting his work.

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A prominent collector and patron, Costakis gathered one of the biggest collections of Russian avant-garde and Soviet underground art. In 1977, he donated a major part of his collection to the Tretyakov Gallery before emigrating to Greece. Costakis was one of the first to actively support A. Zverev in the 1950s by buying and promoting his work.

“I was introduced to Anatoly Zverev in 1954 by the composer Andrei Volkonsky, who brought me a large number of his drawings and watercolors. My interest in him began at that time and gradually evolved into friendship. MOMA Director René d’Harnoncourt and former MOMA Director Alfred Barr, who visited me in 1957, expressed the greatest esteem for Zverev’s work, singling him out among the young artists of the post-Stalinist period whose works were exhibited at my place. They purchased several works of his for the museum at the time.

“Zverev did not get a formal artistic education. He entered the Arts Vocational School in Memory of 1905 yet was expelled several months later for not respecting the rules. His ‘fault’ consisted of arguing with teachers and refusing to change the lines on his drawings and alter the composition, colors and hues. He once had the nerve to say quite unabashedly before the entire class that teachers’ powers should be limited. ‘The teacher,’ he said, ‘must keep the classroom in good order, supply the students with paints, sharpen the pencils, and nothing else.’ For this he was expelled from the school.

“Zverev’s early works, made in 1953, were executed on small pieces of ordinary cardboard in the style of classical Russian landscapes. In these black & white drawings of his early period, one senses a ‘raw nerve’. Although they were not imitations of Van Gogh, there is something very close to the spirit of the Dutch painter. Zverev was also prone to schizophrenia, and this may have made the two artists resemble each other. Zverev’s hearing was not affected in any way, yet he managed to break his fingers several times in fairly strange circumstances. Nevertheless, the fingers of his right hand were never affected.

“I have the impression that Zverev always carried a pencil and paper with him, even when he went to bed. Any artist, whether living or dead, would be envious of his output. When his creative genius was at its height, his artworks, according to certain Western critics, were comparable only to the work of Matisse or Picasso. I usually classified his gouaches and watercolors of 1957 as his ‘marble period’. This was a period when Zverev was not particularly interested in ‘pure’ colors. He mixed watercolors not on a palette but on a plate where the paints, combining with each other, produced an attractive surface resembling marble. There were no pure red, blue or yellow colors at all: only a brilliant collection of gemstones that emerged from the artist’s spontaneous brushstrokes. An alternative was a huge metal basin in which Zverev boiled water and a brush that constantly floated in it: the brush was dipped in different layers of gouache in turn. The speed of brushstrokes constantly alternated, recalling drumsticks in the hands of a drummer. Drops of gouache flew in all directions, covering the walls. One had to erect plywood screens on three sides of the table. When the gouache dried and the image of the model could be made out on the portrait, it was difficult to imagine that the portrait had been made in such a way. Along with representative art, Zverev began to take an interest in abstraction. This period continued during all of 1958. Subsequently, each drawing became a search for the new expression of forms. It seemed as if Zverev was unable to find satisfaction: he never repeated himself when looking for new paths in art.

This period continued during all of 1958. Subsequently, each drawing became a search for the new expression of forms. It seemed as if Zverev was unable to find satisfaction: he never repeated himself when looking for new paths in art.

“During many different periods of his work, he employed a three-color technique: using white paper and three colors, he made romantic still lifes and portraits and drew tree trunks. ‘Even if he doesn’t have any paints at all, a real artist should be able to draw with earth or clay,’ often said Zverev.

With his evident affinity for expressionism, he adopted the motto, ‘Anarchy is the mother of order.’ This order was always present in his work. The white sheet or canvas did not frighten Zverev. He looked at them like a musician looking at his instrument – e.g., a cello. Zverev’s bow was a big brush that he constantly used. When he was working with oil or gouache, it seemed as if he was playing effortlessly: he never corrected anything. As to his drawings, I would say that Zverev never worked like ordinary graphic artists. He depicted everything around him. Zverev drew a lot, working everywhere he could – in the subway, in the suburban train and in the tram. He even took his notepad to the cinema and sketched before the beginning of the film. His well-known trips to the zoo with his numerous notepads, in which he drew animals and birds, may well have represented the zenith of his work.

“There one could compare Zverev’s sharp eye with a camera lens with the only difference that one has to change the film in a camera, while Zverev’s supply was inexhaustible. I was lucky enough to witness two such sessions (for lack of a better word). He made 6-8 sketches of each animal or bird from different perspectives. Anatoly drew animals with his fingertips dipped in India ink, using both hands. Deer, gazelles and other animals emerged from the shaky strokes of his fingers on the paper; the animals seemed to be alive. When he worked with watercolors, he used one big brush, as I have already mentioned. Working with gouache, he generously dipped the brush in water. Interestingly enough, when Zverev worked with oil, he also used one big brush that he never cleaned with turpentine or any other solvent. After squeezing the paint onto the palette, he freely took the colors he needed, one after the other, constantly turning the brush over and applying the paint onto the canvas. Nevertheless, the paints on the palette remained pure and did not mix. I asked Zverev how he managed to do it. ‘It’s very simple,’ he said. ‘A big brush has more hairs – a lot more than several medium brushes taken together. Yet you must know how to use a single brush. Beginning with a small corner of the brush, you must carefully dip a few hairs into the paint you need and then apply it to the parts of the canvas where this paint is required for the composition. After you apply this paint to different parts of the canvas, virtually none of it remains on the brush, which becomes dry. Then I turn the brush over and use the next color, dipping the brush hairs that are still fairly clean into it, and apply this color where required. The next color can be applied to the canvas with the side of the brush that has been used previously. An almost dry brush gives a different shade to a pure color. Then I find a place on the canvas where I need this shade. In this way, my brush becomes a palette on which the paints mix spontaneously, creating a range of soft colors. To use this technique, it is very important to apply the paints in the right order. In such spontaneous painting, you can work with only one brush,’ added Zverev. ‘Imagine a soldier that has several guns instead of a single machine-gun and that he must constantly reload them.’

“One is particularly struck by the optical vision in Zverev’s spontaneous works. In Peredelkino, where the poet Boris Pasternak is buried, there is a 15th-century church with an adjoining residential building where the patriarch once lived. One early spring, when the snow still lay on the ground, Zverev painted 6 canvases (100×80) on which he worked for ten hours. Zverev painted different spots on the canvas without a pause. About an hour passed. I looked closely at the canvas where there was nothing that resembled a church. An abstract drawing stood on the easel with a chaotic accumulation of spots of different colors. A few minutes before signing the work, Zverev began to make a church with the other side of the brush. He made three spots stand out and then gave the other spots the onion-shaped form of a dome. There appeared the outline of the church and then, God knows how, trees in the church courtyard and melting snow. The pink walls of the church glimmered. While I stood with my mouth open, Zverev depicted so well the colors of the sky, the melting snow and the church walls on these six canvases that even the inexperienced viewer can effortlessly tell at what time of day each of the pictures was painted.

“Without a doubt, Zverev is a unique phenomenon. Moscow and Leningrad artists regard him particularly highly and say, ‘When the Lord anointed us artists, He poured the cup out on Tolya’s head.’

“As an individual, Zverev had ‘his head in the clouds’. For many years, this wonderful poet and artist gave his paintings to anyone that liked them. Always poorly dressed in a suit that did not fit him (someone had given it to him), he resembled a Parisian clochard. He did not like new and elegant clothing. Every time I bought him a new suit or coat abroad, he immediately went and sold it. At first sight, Zverev did not look his age. When he was 20-25 years old, he could spend hours kicking around a can with my 10-year-old son. At the same time, when he spoke with other artists, Zverev astounded them with his deep intellect and innate wisdom. I once left Zverev and Falk alone for a few hours, as I had to go away on urgent business. Although I never found out what they had talked about, Falk told me when I accompanied him to his place, ‘You know, Costakis, I esteem Zverev as an artist, yet, after speaking with him, I realized that his philosophical cast of mind is a lot higher than his great artistic talent. I was astounded by his intelligence.’

“It was a great pleasure to be Zverev’s friend, although it wasn’t always easy. Nevertheless, our friendship endured thanks to his honesty and tact for many years until my departure to the West.”
A French conductor and composer, Markevitch was born in Kiev, yet two years later his family moved to Paris.
His talent as a performer and composer became apparent at an early age (at the age of 12, he made his solo debut at Covent
Garden). He gained renown as one of the best performers of the Russian classical repertoire. All his life, he maintained
close ties with Russian culture (he participated in Diaghilev’s Russian Ballets and was married to Nijinsky’s daughter).

From the mid-1950s on, Igor Markevitch actively toured the USSR, where he met George Costakis and, thanks to him, Zverev. From the first encounter, he became a great admirer and promoter of Zverev’s work. In 1966, he organized Zverev’s first (and only lifetime) solo show in Paris at the Galerie Motte.

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A French conductor and composer, Markevitch was born in Kiev, yet two years later his family moved to Paris. His talent as a performer and composer became apparent at an early age (at the age of 12, he made his solo debut at Covent Garden). He gained renown as one of the best performers of the Russian classical repertoire. All his life, he maintained close ties with Russian culture (he participated in Diaghilev’s Russian Ballets and was married to Nijinsky’s daughter).

From the mid-1950s on, Igor Markevitch actively toured the USSR, where he met George Costakis and, thanks to him, Zverev. From the first encounter, he became a great admirer and promoter of Zverev’s work. In 1966, he organized Zverev’s first (and only lifetime) solo show in Paris at the Galerie Motte.

“Presenting Zverev’s work in Paris, Marguerite Motte and I hope that it will be quite useful for the viewer to get acquainted with art movements that are still unknown in the West and that I got to know during my voyages in the USSR. Is not such an exhibition a reflection of the contemporary revival of painting, literature and music in the East after the appearance of new people that abound with tenderness and do not conceal their weaknesses?

“Anatoly Zverev is little known even in his native country, as he is an elusive and difficult person that remains a riddle for even his closest friends. His admirers have told me about their first meeting with the pale and thin young man who was dressed in a sheepskin coat that was too big for him and different shoes yet who gave them his paintings ‘whose price they couldn’t have ever paid’. From this first encounter, they, just like the Western connoisseurs that had already seen his work, had no more doubts that they were dealing with an amazingly talented artist who was apparently destined to become one of the greatest artists of our time.

“This exhibit introduces him to us as a portraitist and landscapist that paints with gouache, oil and watercolor. A book of his drawings shall soon be published, followed by his woodcuts and etchings. One can only marvel at the apparent carelessness with which the materials are used: gouache is sometimes mixed with watercolor, and oil is applied to cardboard and even poster paper. Zverev uses anything that he finds at hand. I have seen how he finished painting a bough of lilac with wonderful touches of cottage cheese. When someone expressed concern with the use of such a short-lived material and the possible appearance of mould, Zverev calmly replied, ‘Who says that the painting wouldn’t become better as a result?’

“We have decided to present a considerable number of Zverev’s self-portraits, which are one of the most distinctive aspects of his work. Only Van Gogh’s self-portraits, in my opinion, show such a determined search for the essence of man through the study of one’s own self – a search that is clearly mixed with narcissism in Zverev’s case.

“Let’s turn to the position of such an artist in contemporary art. Zverev is a ‘phenomenon’ – the phenomenon of a person who reinvented, without realizing it, the history of contemporary art.

“The Soviet artist Falk said about Zverev’s early work as a teenager: ‘It would be useless to teach him what everyone knows, because he knows what others don’t.’ Full of allusions to aestheticism, Zverev’s works have frayed new paths in contemporary painting in directions determined exclusively by his intuition. Starting with icons and the paintings of classical Russian artists that he saw in Moscow museums, Zverev then ‘passed through’ Moreau, Odilon Redon, Rouault, Dufy, Soutine, Kokoschka, Chagall, and Bacon, whom he had never seen, inventing himself companions for a few days or sometimes just for a few brushstrokes. In his drawings one sense the proximity of the East. Looking at a series of his horses drawn with India ink, Jean Cocteau admired this ‘Chinese Daumier’, considering Zverev’s work to be a bridge to Western art.

“Nevertheless, Zverev’s inconstancy, which can be compared with Picasso’s inconstancy although Zverev’s work spans only 15 years or so, makes any classification premature. Yet one thing is clear: his work is lofty poetry that found itself in good hands and that is served by paints in all their power and beauty.

“Zverev at work is worthy being filmed by Clouzot. He goes into a frenzy, and his hand, as if obeying orders, produces a wild stream of images that seem to outstrip thought. This breakdown of psychological barriers and rapidity of thinking make certain works of Zverev resemble encephalograms according to people that witness their genesis. Zverev can make up to a few hundred drawings or a couple dozen gouaches a day. This endless invention of painterly material allows him to effortlessly adopt and soon abandon countless ‘manners’ and invent and rapidly exhaust techniques. This impatient fecundity, this haste to express one’s ideas, and the confident stride of a wanderer on earth make it possible to compare Zverev to Hölderlin in painting.

“Now a few words about Zverev as a human being. Comparing him with characters that are familiar to the Parisian public, I can say that he has something of François Villon, Jean Genet, Gavroche, Verlaine and even something (I don’t know precisely what) of a Franciscan monk. Yet Zverev reminds me above all of a common character of Russian literature that can be simply described by the word ‘ingenuous’ and whose immortal example is Platon Karatayev from War and Peace. It is hard to help a tramp, yet he inspires love, patience and paternal care from his friends, just as Van Gogh from Theo. He is crafty and meek like a little angel and mean when angry. His remarks seem to put everything in place and, at the same time, put everything in question. When I recently told him, hoping to please him, that Western critics have seen his paintings and found them wonderful, he simply replied, ‘They were very lucky to see what is good.’ I should add that his name means ‘wild’ in Russian, and Zverev is indeed a wild man.

Such is the artist that we are presenting to French art lovers. Now let us let his works speak for themselves.”
хArtist and member of the unofficial art movement, Nemukhin participated in the legendary
Bulldozer and Izmailovo Exhibits (1974). He experimented in the spirit of cubism and abstractionism.

In the mid-1960s, Nemukhin actively developed the genre of the semi-abstract still-life
with cards. Participated in over 50 exhibits in the USSR and abroad.
He organized and curated A. Zverev’s only lifetime solo show
in Moscow (City Committee of Graphic Artists, 1984).

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Artist and member of the unofficial art movement, Nemukhin participated in the legendary Bulldozer and Izmailovo Exhibits (1974). He experimented in the spirit of cubism and abstractionism. In the mid-1960s, Nemukhin actively developed the genre of the semi-abstract still-life with cards. Participated in over 50 exhibits in the USSR and abroad. He organized and curated A. Zverev’s only lifetime solo show in Moscow (City Committee of Graphic Artists, 1984).

“How did I get to know Anatoly Zverev? It was back in the sixties. At that time, we artists found each other from scraps of information, and it was very interesting to see how different people painted and what they did.

“As to us, we were abstractionists at the time. We were trying to make a name for ourselves. We were doing it every day and every minute, and figurativism wasn’t interesting for us anymore. If you could make something out on a painting – a nose or eyes, say – it meant that it wasn’t any good.

“I first heard about Zverev in 1959. All kinds of rumors circulated about him, and I was curious to see his work. I finally saw it when I visited Costakis one day. I remember that it didn’t make a big impression on me, in part because I was overwhelmed by Malevich, about whom I was crazy, and I had never seen Popova or Kandinsky before, because all these museums were closed. In short, Zverev’s works seemed interesting yet did not captivate me. As to Costakis, he treated Zverev with awe as an outstanding artist and kept citing Falk that ‘each brushstroke of his was precious’.

Costakis, naturally, had a deep feeling for Zverev, yet he nevertheless kept asking others about his talent, as if he was unable to assess it fully himself.

“Costakis also loved Vladimir Yakovlev, who greatly impressed him, I believe. Why?

“The thing is that Costakis secretly painted, too, and, when he emigrated to Greece, he painted everything that he had dreamt of in Moscow. I recall his words, ‘Collecting everyone, I stifled the genius in me’. And it may well have been true. So Yakovlev’s work seemed to have been closer and more understandable to him. He considered him to be a primitive artist, i.e., it was possible to imitate Yakovlev in some way. As to Zverev, it was totally impossible to imitate him, especially as Costakis collected Zverev’s early work, in which his genius was particularly evident. I believe that Costakis was not the only one to see this. Many artists saw it. Zverev’s work got high praise from Picasso. When Picasso’s friend, the French conductor Igor Markevitch, brought Zverev’s work from Moscow to Paris in 1965 and showed it to him, Picasso called Zverev a very talented artist. People often cite Picasso’s words that Zverev was ‘the best Russian draftsman’. This statement seems somewhat exaggerated and far-fetched to me. Picasso was mostly familiar with Russian avant-garde art, and so his assessment was not very objective. Nevertheless, as I said, this was naturally very high praise.

“Zverev first visited us in Khimki-Khovrino, where Lidia Masterkova and I lived in a one-room apartment. It was in 1964, and I had already heard many incredible stories about Zverev’s bohemian life. I observed him carefully and, as I recall, initially found him to be even somewhat banal. He was wearing a clean white shirt, whereas I had expected to see a drunkard. On the contrary, he even looked quite decent. Nevertheless, the way he spoke, somewhat disconnectedly and aphoristically, already aroused my interest back then. However, his remarks did not make such a big impression on Lidia. She considered herself a great artist and did not listen to anything that contradicted her own opinions. Zverev probably noticed right away the modest atmosphere at our place and decided that it was not for him. He took a look around, got to know us in a way, and left. I subsequently met him several times at Costakis’ place, yet our first real meeting that led to a close friendship took place in 1968.

“Masterkova and I had separated by that time, and I had moved to my studio. I was in a very bad state. I had suddenly found myself alone. I suffered and didn’t know what to do. One day, there was a knock at the door, and Zverev appeared. He had come alone. By that time, I had furnished the studio a bit, getting a table and a bench. I was happy to see Zverev. I had been in a state of virtual dementia, and Zverev’s visit immediately brought me out of it. Looking for solace and advice, I told him about my problems. He replied, ‘All your mishaps, old man, come from society. Society is making you depressed. Yet society is like a wall. You see, you’ve got a wall in front of you. Cover it with pictures. And it’ll recede.’ I recall liking his words a lot. Our friendship naturally began with a glass of vodka and subsequently continued for a very long time.

“Speaking of Zverev’s work, it is interesting to hear how he assessed it himself. He often told me, ‘Old man, I was an artist until the sixties, because I painted for myself. After the sixties, I began to paint for society.’

“He particularly valued his tachist period. He used to say, ‘I, not Pollock, invented Tachisme.’ He had already abandoned pictural composition and adopted a different worldview. He painted with spots – big spots. I saw such works of his at Costakis’ and other places. He believed that Tachisme was the zenith of his work: ‘I painted, old man, with my blood and wouldn’t be able to do it again.’

“So far as I know, Zverev painted very differently in different homes. This sometimes turned into a real farce. As if trying to please his host for letting him spend the night, Zverev painted anything that he was asked, and all this social politesse greatly changed him as an artist. When he came to someone’s home, people would ask him, ‘Tolya, paint the dog. No, the cat. No, you with the dog and the cat. How about the bird? Paint yourself with the bird.’ He almost never painted on his own and always asked what to paint. I recall how he wanted to thank the doctor when he was at the hospital with a broken finger for the last time. He didn’t know what he should depict and asked the doctor to write down what he wanted. The doctor’s wishes were quite unexpected. He wrote, “
1) An eagle,
2) A mountain,
3) Vacation at the country home, and
4) Something involving a car and a dog”.

Tolya painted for him his wife and something resembling a social gathering under a pine tree on the Moscow River.

“By the way, when I came up with the idea of making a Zverev exhibit, I was initially aghast: what a crazy idea! Why did I take it up? I was totally disheartened when I saw all these dogs, cats and so on. One got the impression that people simply told Zverev what to paint. As for him, he had never asked for this exhibit – he simply didn’t care. Only when we started gathering his works later, he tried to recall where they were. I had a few good works of his – they were really good – yet this wasn’t enough, of course. Naturally, there were a lot of works of his at Aseyeva’s place, yet, personally, I didn’t like them with the exception of a few outstanding drawings. The paintings that hung on the walls seemed too ‘artsy’, for the lack of a better word. I even found all these paintings, including Aseyeva’s portraits, a bit irritating. Aseyeva came out of the incredible bedlam of the twenties and suddenly turned into something powdered and saccharine. I recalled Zverev’s wonderful works at Costakis’, yet Costakis had emigrated to Greece and had seemingly taken everything along. I knew that many paintings had been destroyed during a fire at Zverev’s dacha yet, just in case, called his daughter Natasha up. She said that she did have Tolya’s works, and I went there to see them. When I saw them – even those that had been burnt – I heaved a sigh of relief. Yes, the exhibit was possible. I begged Zverev to behave properly during opening night: ‘After all, it’s your event. We’ll celebrate afterwards in the evening.’

“During the period when Zverev began to paint for society, changes also took place in his personal life. Although he had two wonderful children – a son and a daughter – he separated from his wife ‘Lusya #1’ and became a Moscow tramp. This is a story in its own right, as Zverev was a Moscow phenomenon, of course. He couldn’t have appeared in Leningrad or any other city.

“He was incredibly obsessive, and people took advantage of his obsessiveness. And, if they had only known how obsessive he really was, they would have taken advantage of it even more. He had a particular obsession for material. This was an expression of simple greed that stemmed from his childhood due to his poverty. No matter how much paper you gave him, he would use it all up. This obsessiveness characterized all his behavior. He once asked me, ‘Old man, give me a big thick notebook. I want to write a novel.’ And, by 4 a.m., the novel was finished! He had written it in block letters. Filling up a whole 100-page notebook with them wasn’t easy. That’s how obsessive he was… Costakis himself was surprised when he asked Zverev to draw a series of illustrations to Apuleius, leaving him at his dacha with a pack of paper and a bottle of vodka. He later recounted, ‘When I returned in the evening, he had used all the paper up and was playing with the dog as if nothing had happened.’

“By the way, I should say a few words about his signature. He began writing ‘AZ’ (‘АЗ’ in Russian) on his drawings and paintings from the age of 15-16, and then, from 1954 on, signed everything, absolutely everything. That’s interesting. After all, he was such a disadvantaged artist… It was as if the hand of providence had made him sign everything. After all, young artists had different attitudes towards signing works. Many of them believed that it was unseemly or immodest in a way, yet he signed everything.

“His ‘АЗ’ always seemed to be an organic part of the picture. His signature was often followed by the date. I recall how happy he was in 1983, because the digit ‘3’ could be simultaneously interpreted as the letter ‘З’. He took pleasure in this calligraphic signature, which almost resembled a Chinese stamp on his drawings. In my collection, I have seven versions of his signature, and I want to make a china dish with all of them. “Of course, he was greatly talented – incredibly talented! – from birth. He was an innate musician. I heard him play. He didn’t simply press the keys but played wonderfully. I recall how he sat down at a piano in one apartment, and I was simply astounded: I was listening to a real pianist. It was a remarkable moment!

“In the same way, he was an outstanding painter and graphic artist. And what a sculptor he was! I saw his horses in one apartment. He made them out of clay, gray clay… I even wanted to ask the owners to let me cast the sculptures in bronze, but they were planning to emigrate, and I lost track of them. Yes, he was a wonderful sculptor – just as good as Paolo Troubetzkoy, say. Yet Troubetzkoy was a product of one time, and Zverev of another.

“And he was an excellent checkers player. The famous Kopeyka said that, if it were not for Zverev’s art, he would have become a checkers champion. He attended the checkers club in Sokolniki, where people simply worshipped him.

“And, of course, his incredible passion for football! He was an innate goalkeeper. And how he stood in the goal! He was totally bent on not letting the ball get past him. It gave him supreme pleasure – pure bliss! We attended football matches together. He was extremely passionate. We always took vodka or beer along. He never went to the stadium without them. He bought tickets to all the different stands at once. He bought up to twenty tickets at once. What for? To get away at once, if he had to. He had a real persecution mania, although it is true that we were being followed at the time. After all, we had already begun to engage in some bold dissident activities. He would suddenly decide that he was being followed and would drag me to another tribune – from the north to the south tribune, say. It was just terrible: he dragged me along like a cat or something. ‘You’re a liberal – you don’t understand anything. Don’t you see that they’re watching and following us?’ Or he would grab and take me to another street where he would immediately catch a taxi to cover his tracks.

“One day, he took me out of the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum in this way. It was quite interesting. I proposed to him, ‘Let’s get over a hangover in a civilized manner today. Let’s go to the Pushkin Museum.’ He replied, ‘You know, you can buy hot dogs there. We’ll dine in the cafeteria. They sometimes serve beer. Let’s go.’

“And so we went there. The cafeteria was closed. We were going around the museum rooms, and I paused, probably for the first time ever, before the sculpture of the boy taking a thorn out of his foot in the Greek Room. I stood there and admired the sculpture. Suddenly, Zverev grabbed me and began to drag me out of the room. ‘Don’t you see? You’re crazy or what? Don’t you see that they’re following us! Fool! Liberal! They’ll arrest you if keep standing there! They’ll take you away, you <…>! Stop standing there, hear me?’ And, all in a huff, he grabbed me, and we left the room and continued on.

“In a word, he was an eccentric. For example, he was terribly squeamish. Once I spent the night at his place in Sviblovo. On the way, we stopped at a drugstore, where he bought an enormous amount of baking soda. Zverev sprinkled it all over the apartment – on the table, the floor, the chest, the couch on which I was going to sleep, etc. He almost never ate at home. I recall that his mother left him an apple and two eggs for breakfast. He said, ‘Old man, you can eat that if you like. I don’t want it.’

“He often spent the night outside my door. I would come home and see him sleeping on a couple of newspapers there. This often took place in winter. He would come when I wasn’t at home. People had expelled him from somewhere. And so he lay down to sleep there or waited for me: ‘Old man, it’s me.’ I would ask him, ‘What are you doing? Is that possible?’ ‘What could I do, old man? No one took me in.’

“So there were a lot of destructive and difficult things in his life. Yet he never complained. Never.

“Zverev got his arts education at the Tretyakov Gallery. He loved Russian art, even though he considered himself to be a disciple of Leonardo da Vinci. For him, the latter was omnipotent, as he was also a poet, an engineer, a sculptor, an architect, and a scholar. He couldn’t imagine anyone better, although that’s debatable, of course…

“His opinions were very original and very exact. He once spoke with me about my work. I recall him telling me, ‘Old man, you know what? If you had not made your white works, you wouldn’t have ever attained salvation.’ He was right in a way. I subsequently tried to understand why he said so and tried to speak with him about his assessment. Yet it was useless to ask him about it. He didn’t like questions. If you insisted and kept asking him, he’d avoid the subject altogether.

“He never spoke badly about artists – in part, because he simply didn’t have a need for it and took no interest in it. Yet, if he had a rival of sorts, it was Vladimir Yakovlev. Zverev was never indifferent to his work and reacted very aggressively to it. In contrast, Yakovlev liked Zverev a lot and always called him a fighter. When I showed Zverev drawings and paintings by different artists, he always reacted calmly. However, when I would speak of Yakovlev, he immediately became aggressive and began to give him marks. ‘F! F! F!’ ‘Why F?’ I would ask. ‘Let me show you another work of his.’ ‘OK, old man, C- and not an ounce more!’ There was something very complicated about it. When Zverev spoke about Yakovlev, he would say with his characteristic mockery, ‘Yes, of course, old man. He can do whatever he wants, because they all wear good coats.’ He said that after he had once seen Yakovlev’s parents, who wore coats with astrakhan fur collars. Zverev clearly considered that to be the epitome of wealth, behind which any artwork could hide. Just paint as you like! This was not humor – he always reminded me of these coats. In a word, he was quite sensitive about Yakovlev, as I recall quite well.

“Zverev liked poetry, and his attitude towards it was quite unusual, too. For example, he didn’t like Pushkin, considering him to be an official poet, and he disliked everything official. In contrast, Lermontov was not an official poet. He told me that himself. For him, Lermontov was more romantic, should we say, and he made numerous works based on Lermontov. I once asked him, ‘Perhaps you should try to illustrate The Demon?’ He replied, ‘You know, Vrubel has already done it.’ He loved Vrubel and sometimes even compared himself to him. His favorite work, which he painted as a child, was a rose. ‘You know, old man,’ he said to me, ‘it was a wonderful rose, just like Vrubel’s.’ This rose was at Rumnev’s place. Although I have never seen it, I’m sure it wasn’t painted with oil. By the way, many people tried to get his oil paintings, yet I believe that Zverev was a pencil and a watercolor artist. He didn’t like oil. He always spoke pejoratively about it. He didn’t even use it at first – in particular, because he could afford watercolors, which were cheaper. He liked this material and had a feeling for it.

“Was Zverev aware of his own worth? Yes, of course. And he was aware of his possibilities, too. He was an ace draftsman, and his talent was innate. Nevertheless, not all artists appreciated his work. After all, you have to be free to be able to appreciate others generously. For me, for example, freedom lies, above all, in the intellectual possibility of exercising it. I believe Zverev did not particularly strive for this. Perhaps it was alien to him.

“Strange though it may seem, Zverev’s talent was in many ways contradictory to him. He remains a riddle to me – a very complicated riddle. However, Zverev’s biography can appear salutary if one looks at it from the standpoint of Christianity, which is very apparent in his work. It is simply surprising: such a life – and such purity in art. His work may be called divine. This is true of all great artists. This was true of Vladimir Weisberg, and it is true of Vladimir Yakovlev. Yet all these people suffer immensely.

“During the period of my first meetings with Zverev, he fell in love with Oksana, the widow of the poet Nikolai Aseyev. For me, it was very interesting to see her, as she was such a legendary woman from such a historic period. He always touchingly bought her flowers and literally showered her with letters. Once he came to spend the night at my place, bringing a pile of newspapers with him. He spread them out on the floor, and they rustled all night as if a hedgehog was walking over them. In the morning, while I was still asleep, he began to write an enormous number of letters with only a few words in each. He immediately sealed them in envelopes and asked me, ‘Old man, help me stuff all of them into the postbox!’ All these letters were addressed to Aseyeva. We took them to Sadovaya and Malaya Bronnaya Streets. The next day, we started all over again. I said, “Old man, let’s write one long letter. It’s awfully difficult sending so many letters.’ Zverev only replied, ‘You don’t understand anything in such matters!’

“One day, I finally saw her. She came to me with Tolya and, from the start, made the impression of a very nice, exuberant and unaffected person. It was December, as I recall. She was wearing an orange sheepskin coat and had a big black eye! She immediately began to complain that he had hit her, while he accused her of infidelity. As it turned out, her doctor had provoked his jealousy. The doctor began to examine Oksana when she was ill, and Zverev told him, pointing at the stethoscope, ‘Use that rubber thing of yours and don’t dare touch her with your paws!’ It should be said that he was terribly jealous. At that time, one decided to put a memorial plaque on the house in Aseyev’s honor. Zverev began to speak out against the plaque, saying that it was totally pointless.

“Aseyeva had three sisters: Maria, Nadezhda and Vera. They tried to forbid Anatoly from coming to Oksana’s place. They said that she should break up with him and that he would be her demise. Anatoly waged a war against them, calling them ‘attic hags’. In short, there were a lot of funny and unusual situations.

“I was once struck by his phone conversation with Aseyeva. He kept chastising her with very rude words, and I simply couldn’t bear it. ‘Listen,’ I told him, ‘either stop it immediately or hit the door. I can’t listen to that.’ Yet he continued to chastise her, while she, to my great surprise, listened to him and returned in kind. And then I thought, ‘There’s something wrong with me, not with them.’ I understood that I was simply not ready for such relations that were not just good but big and powerful. That’s how I would characterize their relations: powerful. They were very complicated, yet they were equal relations. She was madly in love with him. I think that he was someone who could replace something for her, remind her of something, and give her something in her desolate old age. After all, she was already getting very little at the time. Her life mostly boiled down to eternal rummaging in archival material. Numerous dissertations had already been written about Aseyev’s work, and Oksana could only recount different facts and situations relating to him. In contrast, Zverev was totally unpredictable. She adored his artworks, and he gave them to her in large quantities. She recalled how he lay in Tarusa with a broken arm and a broken leg and incessantly painted her portraits. As to me, I greatly regretted that he had not painted her portraits in 1955 or 1957 or 1959, say, when he was at the height of his creative powers. He naturally tried to please her and made her look younger on the portraits. That was how he perceived her, in any case.

“Of course, this meeting and love affair between Oksana and Tolya had a special meaning. After all, he felt safe when he was with her: she was like a brick wall behind which he could hide and take refuge. I once had a very serious talk about this with him. In fact, he was terribly afraid of reality and was constantly on his guard. He was afraid that they would shut him up in a psychiatric hospital and dreaded of being put in a drunk tank. He finally learned to be careful and tried to go everywhere by taxi and spend less time in public places where he could be arrested. Was he ever confined to a psychiatric hospital? Although I never asked him about it, it seems that he was at one point. By the way, Oksana and Costakis visited him there. Yet they were well-wishers that realized that he needed medical assistance. They thought that he would get medical treatment and become a totally outstanding artist. However, it was very difficult for him not to drink, except in exceptional circumstances. Nevertheless, he once told me, holding his hand next to his heart, ‘Old man, I should stop drinking.’ ‘What’s the matter?’ I asked. He replied, ‘My heart aches. Yet, you know, I thought about quitting drinking and becoming very healthy. Yet only football players are healthy, old man.’ He said it quite earnestly and without joking: only football players could be healthy. It was 1984.

“After Zverev’s death, I decided to take a picture of his room. That very room in his Sviblovo apartment in which he spent the last hours of his life. I asked friends that came there not to touch anything so make the photos as authentic as possible. When I came there, I was astonished. I saw that everything in the apartment had been displaced and turned upside down: even the bed had been moved from its place. It was as if the apartment had been searched. And all of this was done by people that had been close to him. I won’t cite their names here. That’s not my intent. All the people that did it know whom I’m speaking about. What were they looking for? I don’t even want to think about it. They were apparently looking for paintings – for everything that could bring them a good profit later on…

“Zverev died on December 9, 1986. He suddenly felt bad in his apartment in Sviblovo, which he disliked so much and that he prophetically called “Giblovo” (from the Russian word gibel’ ‘death’). The doctors at the hospital where Zverev was taken said that his condition was hopeless. He had had a stroke. I recall seeing him a day before he died. He lay unconscious and breathed unevenly. Yet he was so calm and blissful, as if he was surrendering himself. It was the first time that you could put your hand on him… And that was all. The next day, he died. The doctor said, ‘He was incredibly strong, you know. His brain was simply floating in blood.’

“Zverev’s death made us look at him in a different light. It was clear that a great artist had died. Saying farewell to him, we were saying farewell to freedom in a way.

A film about his funeral was made by the photographer Sergei Borisov. The film is totally authentic. It shows how touchingly people were saying farewell to him and how much they loved him. Not everybody, of course. Some people may have recognized his talent yet did not assess it so highly that they felt it necessary to come to the funeral of such a person and such an artist.”
A historian, political scientist and writer, Shumsky graduated in 1949 from the Moscow State Institute of International
Relations where he majored in the History of International Relations. He worked as a TASS editor in Moscow,
a researcher-translator in Vienna, and a journalist in Bonn and West Berlin.

From 1956 to 1976, he was editor-in-chief at the Publishing House of International Relations of the State Committee
of the USSR Council of Ministers and senior scholarly editor at Progress Publishing House. Shumsky defended
a Candidate of Science degree in History. He was a member of the Russian Union of Journalists and Union
of Writers. He collected Zverev’s works and wrote numerous articles and memoirs about the artist.

for more details
A historian, political scientist and writer, Shumsky graduated in 1949 from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations where he majored in the History of International Relations. He worked as a TASS editor in Moscow, a researcher-translator in Vienna, and a journalist in Bonn and West Berlin. From 1956 to 1976, he was editor-in-chief at the Publishing House of International Relations of the State Committee of the USSR Council of Ministers and senior scholarly editor at Progress Publishing House. Shumsky defended a Candidate of Science degree in History. He was a member of the Russian Union of Journalists and Union of Writers. He collected Zverev’s works and wrote numerous articles and memoirs about the artist.

The artist in his life…

“I was born in Moscow on November 3, 1931. I made my first drawing, as far as I recall, at the age of five. I took drawing lessons at a pioneer camp at the age of nine before the war. Those drawing lessons resemble a dream or ‘morning mist’.

“When the war began,” Zverev continued, “I stopped drawing. I was living in Moscow. The city was bombed. We later evacuated to the village of Berezovka in the Krasivsky District of the Tambov Province. That was my father’s native region. I lived there together with my father and mother. My mother’s name was Pelageya Nikiforovna, and my father was called Timofey Ivanovich. My mother was a blue-collar worker (a laundrywoman), while my father was a disabled Civil War veteran of the first category. We spent two years in the village. I had no opportunity to draw. I began to smoke back then. My mother called smokers “pipe users” (trubokury). Yet I couldn’t really get used to this stuff. My lungs were apparently bad: I often felt short of breath and began to cough. As to my dad, he smoked primitive home-made cigarettes. My mom deftly made them for him, as one of his hands was paralyzed.

“I studied at the village school, finished two classes and repeated the third twice. I was a poor pupil – in part, because my classmates made fun of me. I was a queer bird there. I don’t know why. I didn’t want to go to school for this reason. It was my father who taught me about life and all the rest. He told me that you have to work hard to make a living. I observed a lot the nature around us. I saw drifts deposited by snow storms and winds, I saw swallows on electric wires and poles, I saw spring floods and beavers, and I saw forests and the Vorona River where the Cossack chieftain Antonov had been. I recall the crawfish that we brought to Moscow alive in sacks and that, when boiled, became red like Easter eggs cooked together with onion skins. I saw a lot of similarities and differences between meadows and village outskirts, between fields and forests, between dry and rainy periods, etc. The soil is very rich in the Tambov region. During ‘the people’s war, the holy war’ (World War II), we didn’t experience such a shortage of food as in many other parts of the country. We didn’t starve.

В деревне что‑то нравилось, а что‑то нет. Много было приятного, но бывало и наоборот. Запомнил гул полей, когда речка насторожена перед разливом. Во время разлива рыбачили. С одним рыбаком подружился. Он меня не отталкивал. Но из меня рыбака не вышло, видно, не дано, хотя и хотелось. Я «состряпал» себе удочку, но хорошим уловом похвастаться не мог. Надо всё‑таки уметь. Я расстался с этим занятием, но в душе продолжаю любить рыбалку.

“In the village, some things were nice, while others weren’t. A lot of things were pleasant, yet sometimes the opposite was the case. I recall the hubbub of the fields and the tense river before the spring flood. We fished during the flood. I became friends with one fisherman. He didn’t drive me away. Yet I never became a fisherman (it just wasn’t meant to be), although I had really wanted to. I made a fishing rod for myself yet didn’t catch a lot of fish. You have to know how to do it, after all. I abandoned fishing yet continue to love it deep down inside.
“I recall how I loved to draw tree tops as an adolescent. I did it quite well. I drew them not how they look but ‘from the inside’, as if I was standing in the midst of the tree and saw the tree top from there: from the base to the tips of the branches. Now I couldn’t do it like that. That requires a special energy. I don’t have it anymore. I can’t even climb a tree now.
“And could you,” I asked, “show me at least a little bit what it looked like?”
“I can, yet the result won’t be the same at all. So it’s better not to try. You can’t bring back the past. Such is life. Yet it’s generous: it gives you something else instead – something that you didn’t have in your youth.

“I remember how my mother used to go gather firewood in the forest when it was cold. She took a pale along to pick up any pickerels that had flopped out of the ice hole. I recall having problems with my eyes. I looked a lot at the ceiling, and powdered lime would fall down on me. The treatment took a long time, and I went to the doctor in Tambov…

“In Moscow I resumed my school studies – though once again badly and unevenly. My form master Maria Vasilyevna said that this was the result of laziness and the eternal desire to do nothing. There were only rare unexpected successes, like gusts of wind during calm weather. Thus there were relatively few A’s. I always got A’s in German. (I can confirm as a fluent speaker of German: Zverev recalled very well all the German words and texts that he had studied at school or seen elsewhere. He loved this language and knew some things, such as proverbs, by heart. V.S.) I also got A’s in drafting and drawing and sometimes for my behavior. I got average grades in literature and Russian and poor grades in other subjects.

“On account of this situation, I was unable to finish the seventh grade for a long time. I only finished it at the School of Working Youth and only thanks to my literature teacher that said that I was unlike the rest in this subject – quite original, in other words. I occasionally wrote poetry. Nevertheless, they took pity on me all in all and gave me C’s instead of D’s: I inspired the teachers’ pity on account of my overall incapacity for school. (In all appearances, school was quite difficult for Zverev, which explains why he often said in the course of arguments, ‘Don’t argue with me – after all, I completed seven grades of school.’ V.S.)

“Subsequently,” continued Zverev, “I studied at a vocational arts school. I finished it with good marks at the age of 17-18. I got the highest category on the exam: fresco painter. This involves wall painting on moist plaster. The school was later disbanded when I still had a year left to study. All the students dispersed in different directions. I found work as a painter – first in a pioneer club and then in Sokolniki Park. I had a lot of unusual experiences. Once an exhibit of the arts group took place at the pioneer club where my job was heating the building, to all intents and purposes. I also exhibited some of my works. A Japanese delegation visited the exhibit. Curiously enough, all of them (without discussing it beforehand) expressed admiration for only my works and wanted to buy them. Naturally, the works were not sold – our laws didn’t permit that. The director was terribly frightened that she would be accused of malpractice. The times were difficult. The next day, I was fired – I don’t recall on what grounds. People in the know later told me that I had been fired unlawfully. Yet I don’t hold any grudges. What difference does it make, after all?

“The pavilion where I studied drawing burned down subsequently. A lot of other buildings burned down, too. Yet I was not sorry – not because they had fired me, no. Simply mankind is plagued with too many misfortunes, and it’s no use worrying about unforeseen little incidents…

“At one point, I was called upon to do military service in the navy. Nevertheless, instead of serving for a few years in the coast guard, I stayed there for only seven months. I was dismissed for health reasons.” (In actual fact, Zverev was most likely dismissed, simply because he was totally unable to obey any military orders. In particular, he wasn’t able to perform the command ‘Attention!’ without smirking. V.S.) “I returned home,” continued Zverev, “and found out that my brother had burnt my drawings, which had numbered several hundred by that time.”

“When I turned twenty, I was struck by the beauty of one lady – not from Amsterdam. I was sad… I put on airs to look better than I really was. Nevertheless, fate, in which I have clearly never believed, did not perform the miracle that the modern schizophrenic can only dream about.

“I was diagnosed with schizophrenia by the doctors. At the time, I didn’t understand what it was – I had never heard this word before. One day, I paid a visit to Vasily Sitnikov and asked him what schizophrenia was all about. Vasily became irate and waved a metal object at me. I ran into the corner. It turned out that Vasily himself was a schizophrenic, and he thought that I was making fun of him. When he understood that I was asking seriously, he told me about schizophrenia.

“I was unlucky in love, too. I knew the famous collector Costakis. And I even wanted to marry his daughter. Yet Costakis said, ‘Tolya, you’re exceptional, you’re a genius, you’ve got lots of pluses, yet you’ve got even more minuses, especially when it comes to family life. So, Tolya, don’t count on us.’

“And so I said goodbye to love, which probably brings everybody into a blind alley, after which you’re no longer yourself. In short, I didn’t find personal happiness, although I have never really sought it.

“… I continued to draw a lot yet not very seriously on account of the superficial seriousness that surrounded me and all of us. You had to live and survive. However, my spies uncovered my intentions. (Zverev had a persecution mania of sorts and, as it turned out, not without reason. V.S.) They gave me a blanket party, beating me up badly. This took place more than once. I began to think that it was too dangerous to be a painter in the Soviet Union. I thought about marrying and going to live in the Tambov Province, where I had stayed during the war… Alas! I never made it to this ‘mixed forest zone’. Apparently, leading a settled life is not for me. People offered to arrange a French visa for me through a fictitious marriage. Yet that wasn’t my cup of tea, either: after all, I’m Russian.” (Zverev did not say everything here: he didn’t go abroad first and foremost on account of a woman about whom he’ll say more below. V.S.)

Zverev disliked the Soviet system. Once, in the course of a long conversation, we began to talk about the Soviet regime. Zverev became so irate that he began to shout with fiery eyes, “There is no Soviet regime! Give me a piece of paper, and I’ll write down what I think! Give it here!” I gave him a piece of paper. Apparently for the first time in his life, Zverev formulated his credo: “The Soviet regime does not exist and has never existed. It was invented by shady individuals who were opportunists and criminals. Anyone who thinks the Soviet regime exists is profoundly mistaken… I therefore declare time and again: anyone who speaks about the so-called ‘Soviet regime’ is profoundly mistaken.” And Zverev added furthermore, “The Soviet regime is a hoax. To see what it’s all about, just go to a drunk tank. There they’ll rob you, put you in a filthy bed, beat you painfully and maim you. And it’ll all be done by women that are as strong as horses.”

“All the same,” Zverev continued, “I continued to draw and paint. Yet I should say here that all the rest is so well known to everyone and so banal that that’s the limit! (This was one of Zverev’s favorite expressions. A.S.) My drawings and paintings tell everything about me.”

Zverev broke off his autobiographical story and decided to read some of his poems, of which he’s got a lot. If they were brought together (and one of Zverev’s admirers intends to do so), one could publish several volumes of Zverev’s poems. The poems show that Zverev was a passionate fan of the Spartak football club. He particularly revered the post-war English forward Stanley Matthews and the Russian footballer Fyodor Cherenkov.

He continued to read his poetry: “I love your blue eyes. Wherever I look, I see you. Oh, all flowers are in beauty, in the lofty heights, in the mountains… There where the Hindu Rabindranath Tagore is totally unthinkable. And it’s not granite that protects him among the mountains and grief: he’s only protected by the headstream from the mountain that argues with the trout. Oh, grief to the mountain! Oh, the mountains’ grief! And from the mountains the source surges from fatigue to happiness.”

He finished his story with the following quatrain: “And so, becoming a poet, I send you greetings from all my heart that I wanted to give a meatball to eat somewhere in the back country!” And he added, “Amen. Goodbye!” And he signed it, “AZ 1981”.

It was the year when he turned 50.

Some Recollections about Him…

A slouchy man is ambling down the streets of Moscow, kicking with his scuffed boots whatever he finds under his feet such as a stone or icicle. He keeps shuffling his feet without seeing or looking at anyone. He is going where he asked people to allow him to stay or where no one is expecting him. He is homeless like a vagrant. Poorly dressed, he seems to be wearing someone else’s clothing. If he has a shirt, sweater or sweatshirt on, it is always inside-out. He likes it that way. His hair is disheveled, and his beard grows in tufts. He does not have any combs and does not use others’ combs on account of his acute fastidiousness.

Everything about him is unusual: the way he walks, the way he holds his head (drawn back like a bird’s) and the way he looks at his surroundings in detachment. This is Anatoly Zverev.

I met Zverev through the artist A. Stepanov in the latter’s workshop on Begovaya Street. Zverev was sitting behind the table, resting on his elbows and looking timidly about him. He seemed to be smiling guiltily. Stepanov showed me a few of Zverev’s works hanging on the walls. I fell in love with his art immediately – at first sight. I immediately asked A. Stepanov to sell me the paintings, which Zverev had given him as a gift. Stepanov willingly agreed, asking a price that was quite reasonable at the time. In general, it should be said that people paid a lot less for Zverev’s works during his lifetime than what they really cost. Artists that were a lot less talented than Zverev sold their works at prices that were much higher (sometimes dozens of times higher). This is explained by the fact that Zverev could paint a picture before your very eyes and beg (literally, beg) you to give him a small bottle of vodka in return. Where else could you see something like that? This did not improve Zverev’s financial position, however. I once told him, “Tolya, your works are a lot more expensive than what people pay for them. As to me, I cannot pay more than my financial possibilities allow. So decide for yourself.” “OK, OK,” said Zverev, “we’ll settle our accounts later. I cede it to you. Pay as much as you can.” One could make money on this, of course, and some people did just that, buying at a low price and selling at a high price. Still, others assisted Zverev and, if they could not buy his works at high prices themselves, helped him to sell his works at approximately their real price. One of them was Zverev’s friend Vladimir Nemukhin, who was a well-known artist himself. It should be said that this person, who always sincerely admired Zverev, did a lot to make him famous as one of the most talented contemporary artists in Russia. Had it not been for such people as Nemukhin, Zverev would have had a much harder time.

When Zverev painted his pictures and portraits, many people did not like them initially. Later, after they had seen them a few times, they became very fond of them. As all true art, Zverev’s works attract people. They are not appreciated only by people with an innate defect: they have no sense of beauty (such people do exist). Zverev entices people not through his hard work, suffering or quantitative factors but through flashes and bursts of vision and inspiration. Zverev’s talent was impulsive. He always wanted to paint and never grew tired of it. He painted quickly and did not follow the rules, making three, four or even five pictures at a single sitting. He never worked for more than 30-40 minutes on a single work. Yet this does not mean that all his best works took so “much” time. On the contrary, some of his best works (including portraits, landscapes and especially drawings) took him 10-15 minutes or even less to make.

Before painting a portrait, Zverev usually said, “Let me immortalize you, kid.” Although it sounded like a joke, it was true in a way.

Zverev’s unique personality made him an artist of unbridled emotion, which he expressed very laconically, however. Wild emotion and a sense of measure are traits that characterize Zverev more than any other artist. I believe that Zverev’s laconism is unique. Zverev was the ultimate master of the method of seeming incompleteness, so much so that “profane” observers (including some well-known artists and art specialists) often criticized them quite harshly. Nevertheless, this seeming incompleteness harbors one of Zverev’s key secrets of beauty. This aspect of Zverev’s work was greatly appreciated by Picasso, who said that a nation that has such artists as Zverev does not need to seek artistic trendsetters abroad. Falk, too, said about him, “Each brushstroke of his is priceless. Artists of such scale are born once in a hundred years.”

People love and esteem Zverev for his absolute sincerity, even in the smallest details. Zverev’s natural state is total frankness, no matter what is taking place around him – revelry or war. Just like Yesenin in poetry, he was consummately artistic. Some artists are derivative – pretentious and intellectual. Zverev is primordial like the sun, the sea, rain or even a hurricane. It is impossible to be indifferent to him: people either love or hate him.

Some people call Zverev a “brilliant lumpen”. Personally, I would not call him a lumpen. Yes, he resembled a lumpen in his lifestyle but not in his soul. He was a unique artist that worked from his childhood until his final days. Collectors have estimated that Zverev made over 30,000 artworks. Quite a lot for a lumpen, no? Zverev’s painterly style has been called “inspired improvisation”. Although this may well be true, I would also call it “magic realism”.

Once a parvenu artist visited Costakis, who had “introduced” Zverev to people – at least, to the West, where serious studies subsequently began to appear, according a lot of attention to Zverev. One of them was the book Unofficial Art from the Soviet Union by Igor Golomshtok and Alexander Glezer, published in London already in 1977. The parvenu artist, seeing Zverev’s works in Costakis’ possession, said, “What kind of garbage is that? I could make a dozen of those in thirty minutes. It’s not even half-finished.” “My friend,” said Costakis, “I’ll take you at your word. Here are the best English paints, brushes and paper. Please show me. Yet let’s make a bet: if you succeed, you can take any of the icons in my collection; if you don’t, you’ll publically admit your defeat.”
“OK, it’s a deal,” said the artist with delight (he was also a collector of icons) and began to work “à la Zverev”.
He made at least seven attempts, yet none of them was good.
“I’m out of shape today,” muttered the debunker.
“My friend,” said Costakis, “you’ll always be out of shape. You’ve lost the bet… You were unable to recognize a wonderful artist who shall become famous one day. You should be ashamed of yourself!”

Zverev used to say about such artists, “They’re all liars and perish in their own lies without realizing it.”

Zverev was favorably inclined towards artists that were truly talented and whose personalities resembled his in one way or other. One of them was the aforementioned Vasily Sitnikov. Zverev particularly valued his personal qualities.

Zverev was extremely prone to jealousy. We have already mentioned a woman that played a major and important role in his life. This woman was Kseniya Aseyeva, the widow of the famous poet N. Aseyev. She is no longer alive. She was more than 30 years older than Zverev. Nevertheless, Zverev loved her, was attached to her, and refused to emigrate (despite invitations extended to him, as we saw above) first and foremost on account of her.

“Tolya, I can’t love you, but I can be together with you,” Aseyeva told Zverev.

Most of all, Zverev liked being alone with her. In such cases he sang, waved his hands to music that was being broadcast on the radio, danced and rejoiced. Aseyeva was very cultured and extremely well-mannered and had a sense for all that is truly new and talented (this explains her attachment to Zverev). She had personally been acquainted with Yesenin, Mayakovsky, Velimir Khlebnikov and many other famous Russian cultural figures. She received them at her home and was a good piano player, performing Rachmaninoff, Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky…

Zverev liked pure souls that are not covetous and self-interested but sincere, open-hearted and reliable. Aseyeva was one of them. One summer, a lady visited her at her country house to ask about the work of the poet Aseyev. They spoke for a long time, and then Aseyeva played the piano. When the visitor left, Zverev descended from the second floor and, in a fit of jealousy, gave Aseyeva a slap in the face. He shouted, “Why did you play twice? You’re wasting my time!”

Zverev never did anyone any harm, except perhaps himself and his own health, never wronged anyone, never deprived anyone of anything, and never took anything away. In essence, he only gave – and gave something that cannot be measured with money. He was no one’s debtor, while hundreds and even thousands of people were indebted (and very considerably) to him, insofar as he enriched them in both the literal and the figurative sense of the term. He gave something that is so valuable and so vast that no material storehouse can hold it. Zverev gave not things but himself – entirely and unreservedly. He gave to many people, especially those that possess his paintings, in great amounts and with generosity and largess that few of them could match. Over my long life, I have not met anyone more generous than Anatoly Zverev. He was always ready to give his last piece of bread, his last gulp of wine and his last shirt to anyone who needed it. Once I told Zverev that he was wearing an interesting shirt. He immediately began to take it off without saying a word. He could give anything to anyone in the same way: immediately and without having any regrets or reservations. In this regard, he was a man of the gospel in the full sense of the term.

Zverev once painted a Still Life with a Lobster as a gift for Nemukhin. It is shown at most of his exhibitions. The painting is extremely good and is greatly appreciated by visitors. It is no surprise that it gets the highest reviews in visitors’ books where people call it “brilliant”. Some time later, Nemukhin was offered a large amount of money for the work. When he met Zverev soon afterwards, Nemukhin seemed troubled and didn’t know what to say.
“Why are you so gloomy?” asked Zverev. Nemukhin honestly told him what the matter was and said that he would split the money with him.
“So what’s the problem?” said Zverev.
“The money would come in handy,” said Nemukhin, “yet I don’t want to sell the painting at all. It’s a masterpiece.”
“Then tell them to get lost,” said Zverev, although he didn’t have a penny in his pocket. And he laughed in his simple childlike way.

The following happened occasionally. Costakis would organize a session among diplomats for Zverev. He helped Zverev to make money in this way. Usually, they were interested in three things: oils, watercolors and drawings. Zverev earned two thousand rubles – a pretty large sum at the time. He then got drunk with his buddies. He was taken away to the drunk tank, where he was beaten up and stripped of all his money. The next day, they “generously” gave him some change for a bus ticket and, a few days later, sent him a bill for 25 rubles for the night spent in the drunk tank. When Zverev was dismissed from there, he did not say a word about the money. This story infuriated me. Zverev said to me, “Kid, don’t be angry. That’s the way it is and will always be.” He didn’t have any regrets at all about what had happened. And it became clear that, no matter how much money Zverev earns, he would never have a penny the next morning after the drinking bout and the drunk tank. Money did not mean anything to him.

Zverev was basically a religious person. Although he sinned like all of us, his sins were free from wickedness, because his soul was infinitely kind to people and their actions. For example, he never humiliated any artist. At the same time, I have heard so many artists speak badly or even obscenely about other artists, including Zverev! One sometimes gets the impression that this cultural community is simply fraught with malevolence. Only Zverev was different. He often showed great tolerance to “fallen” people, to cite the expression of Pushkin, who called on everyone to treat such people with mercy. After all, “fallen people” are often not entirely to blame. Still, the Perestroika state is doing its best to increase their numbers today.

Fifteen years ago or so, I asked Zverev what he would say if his paintings got into the Tretyakov Gallery. He replied, “Only Tretyakov himself could do that. Yet he’s no longer alive. Thus I can’t agree that my works be accepted to the gallery by people that have nothing to do with Tretyakov. Those people whose works were exhibited at the Tretyakov Gallery after the death of its founder are not artists: indeed, most of them are enemies and traitors of art. I wouldn’t agree that my works be exhibited in the New Tretyakov Gallery, either, as I would betray my own self.” He apparently meant here that he would join the ranks of the Socialist Realists. He said, “Socialist painting perished, because it was subordinated to politics.”

Once he was being followed by a policeman. While Zverev was running away, he saw children playing football on a field. He ran up to the goalkeeper, saying “Let me stand in the goal a bit.” The boy stepped aside, taken aback, while Zverev struck up a goalkeeper’s pose. The policeman ran past without noticing him. Zverev patted the “real” goalkeeper on the head and went in a different direction.

Zverev’s naïve and spontaneous personality was always charming. When there was something pleasant and unusual for him in store, he could not hide his delight. One summer, we invited him to come with us to our dacha. Zverev was very glad: his eyes began to sparkle, and he began to talk incessantly, leaped about and became very obedient. My wife Galina proposed that he put on a cleaner shirt and comb his hair. Zverev immediately stopped writing (he was writing poetry with abandon at the moment), silently approached my wife and stood obediently before her. He raised his hands, let her take off his shirt and kept turning to make it easier for her to put the new shirt on. Then he tried to take all the bags and, with his charming naïve smile, quickly went to the elevator, looking about with a certain apprehension as if he feared that we might change our minds. I was envious of Zverev that, although he was essentially abandoned by fate, he managed to preserve his childlike charm. I envied and loved him all the more for that.

We had a dog named Diki, a dark brown female spaniel. I believe she loved Zverev more than any of us. She was beside herself with joy every time he came. She was the first to sense his approach and whimpered excitedly, trying to tell us that he was behind the door. “Open the door quicker!” she seemed to say. Zverev often took Diki for a walk, which she liked a lot. They were true friends. He was particularly good at drawing animals.

And such a person was beaten cruelly and on repeated occasions. It usually happened as follows. Zverev often had money from selling his works – in any case, it was enough to buy vodka. He never drank alone and always looked for companions. They often included artists. They were less talented than Zverev yet could not come to terms with this. When they got drunk, they told him, “As an artist, you’re a nobody. However, you get more money than us. Life’s unfair!” After this, passions often began to flare, and fistfights broke out, especially when Zverev answered back. They beat him mercilessly. In these cases Zverev instinctively defended himself by hiding his right arm between his legs. His left arm had been mutilated long before, and Zverev could not bend it at the elbow. “Losing your right hand would mean losing your bread,” Zverev used to say. The berserk artists added insult to injury by stripping Zverev of all his money and using it to buy more liquor. Although Zverev went through this repeatedly, he did nothing to avoid it. “What can you do?” he would say. “That’s life.”

I was once speaking with Zverev, and, telling him a story, I involuntarily made as if to hit him. Suddenly Zverev instinctively drew back and, covering his face with his hands, squeezed into a corner. The renowned artist looked like a battered and defenseless child before me. My heart ached for him, and tears began to well up in my eyes. He was constantly driven from everywhere as people took him to be a loafer or tramp on account of his poor clothes and disheveled appearance. He was sometimes not let into the subway. As a result, Zverev usually went by taxi, for which he always paid a lot more than the fare so that the taxi driver would take him. On one occasion, the seller in a wine store tore a receipt for 25 rubles out of Zverev’s hands and threw him out into the street like a drunk. Zverev hurt himself.
“Did you take the receipt?” someone asked.
“Oh no, that’s impossible… They’d maim me.”
Someone else picked up the receipt.

I recall another incident. He and I wanted to buy some wine, yet the stores were closed for lunch. We did not want to go to another district, so we went to a restaurant in the neighborhood. Seeing Zverev’s ragged clothes, the restaurant personnel thought that he was a drunk beggar. Zverev took out a 100 ruble bill, ordered a bottle of French Napoleon brandy, bowed and left without taking the change.

Several times, I saw Zverev ill. Once he came to our place with a lot of trouble. Nobody was at home. Zverev lay down on a bench in the courtyard and waited several hours for us. I found him lying on the bench when I went out for a walk with my dog Diki. She sensed Zverev and ran up to him, quickly waving her cut-off tail with joy. I was struck by Zverev’s pallor and the perspiration on his forehead. He was virtually unable to speak and replied to questions with barely perceptible nods of the head.
“Are you feeling bad?”
He nodded.
“Let’s go home.”
He nodded.

Zverev never complained and never tried to show that he was feeling bad. He did not believe in doctors, feared them, and did not trust them a priori. When we got home, I asked him where it hurt. He whispered, “Everything hurts: arms, legs, my chest. I’m nauseous…” And he laughed, rocked to and fro, and laughed.

We have already spoken about Zverev as an original and profound thinker. It should be said that he wrote and spoke a lot about the art of painting. Some of these texts have been preserved (they are all apparently in my possession). Here are some of his views:

“Art is the totality of light and dark that interact with color. It is the composition of the color range. These mundane things result in what is considered to be a divine miracle. Painting grew out of the colors of nature surrounding man, especially the rainbow…”

“We leave into eternity, into the waves, waters and foam. In this way, the ship of our life always disappears in an unknown direction – excepting, of course, the direction of painting that man has invented to try to compensate for his helplessness…”

“Artists should avoid speaking about art, for, as Leonardo da Vinci has said, painting speaks for itself. Yet unfortunately we are all prone to demagogy to one degree or another, and this demagogy subsequently turns into theory…”

“Mankind is always bustling as long as it can… Yet sometimes one of us manages to freeze our attention that is usually bustling so restlessly and insatiably. And then we find ourselves under the spell of painting. It is beautiful like a fairy-tale princess thanks to dreams in which the poor man often gets a hundred times more than the rich man… Subsequently, all of this is perceived by the individual, yet it is insignificant in comparison to the dreams, as if it lay in the darkness of insanity and the inevitability of destiny.”

“The brush must be as obedient in the hand of the artist as the horse in the hands of a good rider.” (Recall Zverev’s love for horses from childhood on.)

“True art must be free, although this is very difficult, because life is rigid…”

In my opinion, Zverev loved freedom more than anyone else in the world. He valued freedom more than anything else and never betrayed it by debasing or losing even a drop of freedom. This explains his lifestyle, in which freedom reigned and comfort was totally absent. The amenities and comforts of life were not even last in Zverev’s life: they were totally absent.

As far as I understand, many people in our country have discovered or are discovering the artist A. Zverev today. This is what cultural enrichment is all about. Zverev entered the history of culture (and therefore history in general) through the front door and became a world-famous artist. Even if his name does not yet stand in our reference books, which often list artists not on the basis of their talent but on the basis of other (lower) qualities such as titles, positions, connections or even downright bribery, it has long figured in major international encyclopedias. Zverev’s exhibits have been held in leading galleries in France, West Germany, USA, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria, England, and Italy. He has had dozens of exhibits in the West – several times more than in the Soviet Union. How difficult it is for talented Russians to make a name for themselves in their home country today! There have been so many cases when outstanding or even brilliant Russian people have become famous in the West before making a name for themselves in Russia. Upon visiting Zverev’s exhibit in Paris in 1965, W. Weidlé, a major art historian who was born in Russia yet spent most of his life in France, wrote in the visitors’ book, “No, Russian painting is not dead, thank God.”

A. Zverev lived for 55 years. He died under mysterious circumstances in 1986 in Moscow, which he profoundly loved and which remains unthinkable without him.
DMITRI PLAVINSKY (1937-2012) (1937-2012)
Artist and leading representative of the unofficial art movement, Plavinsky was close to the Lianozovo
circle of artists. From the late 1950s on, he took part in all the major non-conformist exhibits.

From 1991 to 2004, he lived and worked successfully in New York, where his artworks were acquired
by major museums, and then returned to Moscow. As one of Anatoly Zverev's closest friends,
Dmitri Plavinsky always showed a lot of concern for him as a person and an artist.

for more details
Artist and leading representative of the unofficial art movement, Plavinsky was close to the Lianozovo circle of artists. From the late 1950s on, he took part in all the major non-conformist exhibits. From 1991 to 2004, he lived and worked successfully in New York, where his artworks were acquired by major museums, and then returned to Moscow. As one of Anatoly Zverev's closest friends, Dmitri Plavinsky always showed a lot of concern for him as a person and an artist.

During the winter, I found a house in Salotopka (a place in Tarusa) and returned to Moscow, where I tried to get money out of my mother that she had saved for me and had put in the bank until my thirtieth birthday. After a scene, I managed to get the money, although it was barely enough to cover half the cost of the house in Tarusa.

I dropped by Nina Stevens, who had bought my artworks previously. She stuffed my backpack with imported foodstuffs and a bottle of gin, and we said goodbye to each other.

Zverev, Kharitonov and I took paints, paper and canvases and headed for Tarusa.

I drew up an agreement with the landowner, promising to pay the remaining sum within half a year. At last, I had the key from my own house.

Zverev had to make a large number of works quickly for his personal show in Paris. It was organized by the French conductor Igor Makarevitch of Russian origin.

Anatoly worked at a breakneck pace. Taking a shaving brush, a table knife, gouache and watercolors and humming rhythmically "Do the Russians want war? Ask the devil,” (a paraphrase of Yevtushenko's poem), he attacked a piece of paper with a 500-milliliter can of paint, poured dirty water over the paper, floor, and chairs, tossed the gouache out of the cans into this puddle, mixed all this color nightmare with a rag or even with his shoes, slapped the shaving brush into it, drew two or three lines with the knife, and a fragrant bouquet of lilacs or the portrait of an old woman that had just passed before the window appeared before your very eyes. The working technique was often even more impressive than the result.

The three of us – Zverev, Kharitonov and I – were different to the point of incompatibility. Zverev considered Kharitonov to be a hopeless schizophrenic that was beyond help, while Kharitonov believed that the king of paranoiacs was hiding behind Zverev's mask of a "dirty drunken idiot”.

Both of them viewed me with extreme distrust. Why did Plavinsky change his style and subject matter so often and so abruptly? Wasn't it because he was trying to conceal a crime? Nevertheless, despite everything, we worked a lot.

The firewood was crackling in the hearth. The food that Stevens and Costakis had given us lasted for a long time. Big cans of NATO dry milk, canned Danish butter, Italian pasta, English tea, American cigarettes, gin and whisky stood on the shelves. We only had to buy Russian bread in the store on Lenin Street.

Spring. What a joy to forget about the cold and the snow storms and drifts! The imported foodstuffs were coming to an end. One had to plant a garden to survive. The earth was fertile, and the land plot was big. It was easy to make a garden that would meet our needs.

We bought potatoes from the neighbors. We ate part of them. Zverev always peeled them himself. He did it masterfully: he began from the top and reached the bottom by removing a single spiral peel of uniform thickness, regardless of the potato's shape. The resulting peel resembled one of Escher's spatial designs.
While he peeled potatoes, I took a shovel and prepared the ground for planting. Then I came to take a pail of potatoes.
"What are going to do with it?"
"Plant it."
"Whole potatoes? You fool, why waste such a good product?"
"Old man, I'll cut them in half for economy's sake."
"Don't you understand? The eyes are the most important part. The stem grows out of them. Just look how many eyes there are in the peel. Plant only the peel, and use the rest for food."
"Get lost! Take part of the land, and do whatever you want on it! I'll plant potatoes in the usual way."
Our neighbors were misers whose windows were always covered with lace curtains. They looked down on us with hatred as Moscow good-for-nothings that either play football all day long in the street or pass time with the most disreputable Tarusa girls or paint circles on the gate and throw a rusty rasp at them from morning to night. Such a house couldn't last long!

Yet what they now saw finished them off completely.

Carrying a huge pot of potato peel, Zverev proudly went out into the field. He insisted that you don't have to till the field, saying that the earth would accept the peels in any case.

Standing in place, he threw the "eyes" around with the generous movements of a sower. Then, in a wild dance, he began to move over the field like a virtuoso tap dancer. Tata-tat-ta-ta-tra-ta-ta-ta-tat-ta-ta. Stomping on each peel with his heels, he danced over the field with his hands on his hips, and clods of moist spring earth flew with a whistling sound from under his feet.

Letting my shovel go, I held my sides with laughter. The frozen faces of our "friendly" neighbors glowered from behind the lace curtains.

Zverev had always been impossibly absurd. Once he approached a drowsy museum employee at the Tretyakov Gallery of Russian Art and politely asked her in a quiet voice, "My dear, could you tell me where the Rembrandt room is?"
"Room 37," she immediately replied.
"What do you think," he asked in the Pushkin Museum of Western Art, "what number is the Repin room?"
"Thank you very much."

When Zverev went to play checkers in Sokolniki Park, he always locked up his wife Lusya and their two children with a barn padlock. Before leaving, he gave her paints and a stack of paper, asking her to finish the paintings by evening.

Lusya was going through her boiling kettle period at the time. A kettle with a crooked handle was drawn in the center of the sheet. To depict boiling, Lusya dipped five fingers of one hand in different paints and slapped the kettle with them. She made an endless series of such paintings. When Zverev came home in the evening, he put his famous signature "AЗ" on all the kettles. This pile of kettles was offered to Igor Markevitch for the Paris exhibit.

"Old man, you're digging your own grave. It's awful." I told him.
Zverev replied with long tirades: "husband and wife are a single devil", "flesh of my flesh and bone of my bones", and so on. When Zverev later received photos of the Paris exhibit, he was very upset. Lusya's kettles hung in the very center.
– "But you spoke about the 'flesh of my flesh and the bone of my bones' and the 'single devil'!"
"From the philosophical standpoint, all of this is true. Yet don't the French understand anything about painting?"
I met Igor Markevitch for the first time at Costakis' place.
He was a gaunt nervous man with a key sense for all that was new.
We had a long talk.
"Your Stravinsky is inferior to Schoenberg in solving the key problems of music. The future lies with Schoenberg, not Stravinsky."
"Stravinsky was 'ours' until the opera King Oedipus. His subsequent work belongs to the entire world," I replied.
Costakis showed Makarevitch Zverev's series of illustrations to Apuleius' The Golden Ass. Alexander Rumnev had given Anatoly this book and had literally ordered him to make illustrations for it.
They created a furor among foreigners. "Erotic!" they would shout in delight.
After looking at the entire series, Makarevitch became ecstatic.
"Mr. Costakis, I'd like to buy a drawing from The Golden Ass."
"They're particularly dear to me. Yet I can't say no to you," Costakis replied. "It'll only cost a lot."
Makarevitch evidently came up with the idea of the Paris exhibit at that time.
After "planting" the potatoes, we went back home. Kharitonov came down from the attic. He had been painting the Tarusa cemetery seen from above with a white angel in a fantastic wreath walking between the painted iron crosses.
We finished off the last bottle of whisky with pleasure and regret.
"Let's go for a walk. The weather is great. What's the point of smoking in a stuffy room?"
"Where shall we go?"
"Anywhere at all."
We dropped by Akimych. There his wife Valentina, Borukh, Edik and their friend Volodya Stetsenko, editor of the magazine Around the World, were having a heated debate in a smoky and stuffy room. Valentina stayed at home, while the others decided to go for a walk with us along the banks of the Oka River.
A silvery-lilac spring cloud surrounded us, the hills and the trees with the melodious harmony of the tempera of Borisov-Musatov.
Shimmering like aluminum foil, the Oka meandered in the distance before disappearing behind clumps of willows. Our hearts were peaceful and joyous. It seemed that this state would be eternal.

I didn't imagine at the time that, almost 25 years later, I would spend hours designing the cross for Zverev's grave.

Like a kitten with a ball of thread, Zverev was performing funny stunts while playing football with a tin can. The others walked behind him, engaged in a conversation.

The "disreputable girls" appeared ahead of us. Pretending not to notice them, Zverev cautiously bent over a crooked dry branch. He seemed totally absorbed by it. He carefully reached out to touch the branch, then suddenly withdrew his hand, jumped back, and shouted, "Ouch!", blowing on his finger. "A snake!" The girls screamed and ran in all directions.
Edik laughed.
A crescent moon began to shine in the greenish sky.
Forgetting about football and the "snake", Zverev began to talk about poetry.
"Do you know why Pushkin was a mediocre poet?"
"No, why?"
"Because he never understood that poetry should be unexpected."
"What do you mean?"
"Take, for example, the lines 'Frosty and sunny, what a beautiful day!' Yet, when it's frosty and sunny, it's obviously a beautiful day. He should have said, 'Frosty and sunny, two Japanese are fighting.' That's real poetry!"
I knew that Lermontov was his idol and so I teased him,
"Take Lermontov's The Sail: 'under it… over it… and it…' It's awful."
"Ok, ok," said Zverev discontentedly. "Don't touch Lermontov. Costakis once told me, 'You know, Anatoly, you don't paint with paints but with your own blood.' That's why we've got donors, while they've got Bonnards."

Zverev had lost his father at a young age, and George Costakis became a second father to him. Costakis, in turn, treated Anatoly like a son. Nevertheless, deep relations tend to be jealous and tyrannical. Costakis couldn't bear rivalry. Although he glorified Zverev in every way, he kept him behind the scenes, obstructing his contacts with the outer world. Yet you can't hide a pig in the poke, as the saying goes. Zverev's unknown whereabouts only piqued the curiosity of his admirers, and they eventually managed to bring Zverev out of his Sokolniki apartment into the open.
Costakis realized that his absolute monopoly on Zverev had come to an end. He felt betrayed.

In 1964, he had a confidential talk with Zverev and invited him to disappear as quickly as possible.

"Anatoly, you've already done all you could in art. It would be meaningless and shameless for you to continue living. I engendered you, and I'll kill you," Costakis said hortatorily. "And, take care, my friend, you're pissing against the wind," Costakis concluded with irritation, referring to the fact that Zverev was selling his works to other people.

And just like passionate love that suddenly freezes inwardly and subsequently melts once again in the rays of the rising sun, Costakis revived through the passionate collection of Soviet art of the 1920s, which eventually made him world famous.

From that moment on, he gradually lost interest in the contemporary Russian avant-garde.

Nevertheless, nothing could break or even cloud the touching and heartfelt relations between Zverev and Costakis. This friendship lasted all their lives.
"Let's visit Matveyev's boy that is about to wake up."
We approached the place. Some bastards broke his nose.
The boy's body, enveloped by the warm humidity of spring twilight, was about to move and stretch out; he would soon open his eyes and see the matte world that Borisov-Musatov had made for him.
The crescent moon was shining brighter and more intensely in the green sky. Streaks of mist were floating over the Oka, softly repeating its curving path.
"Old man, we're approaching the sanatorium. I've just recalled that we don't have a penny to buy bread for tomorrow," said Zverev. "I'll go and play checkers for ten minutes and win 13 kopecks for a loaf of bread."
He was a passionate checkers player.
"I would amend the Soviet Constitution to ban chess," he once said.
"Why?" I asked perplexedly.
"Because it's extremely hazardous to your health. If you fall asleep while playing chess, you can fall on the pieces and poke your eye out. If you fall asleep while playing checkers, you'll only get another point in your eye."
Walking in single file down the narrow path skimming the edge of a deep ravine, we entered the sanatorium.

Here tables with painted checkerboards were sunk into the ground, and checkers the size of a tram wheel were lying on them.

Everyone here knew Zverev and was waiting for him. A crowd of fans immediately gathered around him, and the game began. People betted one kopeck each. "If you bet two, you can get in trouble with the police."

In ten minutes, Zverev earned enough money for a loaf of bread, and we decided to return home without waiting for Borukh, who went away somewhere.

Letting Edik, Kharitonov and Volodya pass ahead, Zverev and I fell behind and stopped at the edge of the ravine.

Suddenly, someone pushed me from behind. Almost losing my balance, I turned around and saw two cheeky local guys walking past us. "Listen! Couldn't you be a bit more careful?" I shouted.
We smoothed our ruffled feathers and walked down the path to their rocky bank of the Oka. The voices of our friends could be heard from afar.

The guys were waiting for us.
"You said something? Why don't you repeat it?"
And one of them seized me by the hand. It was quite strange for them to behave in such a way in view of our considerable superiority in numbers.
I tried to free my hand. At that moment, Zverev, standing behind us, traced a circle in the air with his outstretched arm towards the ground and then up to my opponent's ear, as if caressing him. As if in slow motion, I saw his ear gradually separating from his head, falling down and landing on his shoulder. Suffused with blood, it resembled the scarlet epaulet of a general.
The guy let my hand go and, like the pendulum of a metronome, began to sway hither and fro.
"What did he cut you with?" I asked the "metronome", forgetting my rancor.
Barely moving his lips, he replied, "I don't know." His friend, who was standing next to him all this time, loudly whistled.
"Run!" shouted Zverev and, slowly accelerating, our entire company went up the hills. We could hear people running and shouting in the distance. Looking back, we saw ten or fifteen people with bats in their hands quickly descending the hill.

We began to run a lot faster. We saw Borukh walking arm-in-arm with a girl with braids. They stopped in surprise and politely let us pass.

The hills became steeper. Blood was hotly pounding in our temples. Our eyes were goggling, and perspiration was flowing down our faces, making our eyelids sting.

I begged my legs, "Keep running!" Full of fear and terror, they kept running for dear life.

If one had recorded our heavy, rasping and panting breath with a tape recorder, it would have resembled the ecstatic love ritual of the Tumba-Yumba Tribe.

Unfortunately, we could hardly think about love at the time.

The hills were getting steeper. In the twilight, they resembled the shimmering relief of El Greco's View of Toledo.

The dull tramp of the herd of rhinoceroses was getting closer and closer.

"Legs, keep running, and you'll save me and yourselves…"

This was a lot more exciting than sprinters speeding down the Seattle runway to the roar of a hundred thousand spectators! True international speed records are set in solitude during muggy spring evenings where the only spectator is a thin crescent moon.

A telegraph pole was sticking out of the bare hilltop. I fully assessed the hypnotic power of Kharitonov's magic for the first time at the time: he ran up to the pole and blended with it. The rhinoceroses ran past.

Our funeral race passed by Matveyev's black granite sculpture of a drowned man that was shimmering in the flickering light of the Milky Way.

Crossing the waters of the Oka, Charon's bark was relentlessly moving towards us from the opposite bank in the solemn silence.

Damn everything now!" Like the spokes of a racing bicycle, our legs were flickering so fast that they disappeared altogether.

Our bodies seemed to soar and fly without touching the ground. Zverev was panting behind my back. Volodya and Edik Shteynberg were running in front. The rhinoceroses seemed to be right on our heels.

Totally exhausted and covered with bloody sweat, the cream of the Russian avant-garde of the 1960s finally reached the plateau where Tarusa begins.

The first building on our path was the giant dark sarcophagus of the school. We made a sharp turn into the courtyard. Volodya and Edik ran into the depth of the courtyard into the porch of one of the far exits, while Zverev and I took refuge in the porch of the near exit.

Clinging to each other and breathing hard, we hid behind the wall to the right of the door. I saw the ultramarine rectangle of the night sky before me. The double-sided crescent moon hung like a sharp menacing scimitar above us.

Suddenly, the rectangle was filled by a black fire-breathing mob.

We should have refrained from breathing, yet this was impossible. The mob suddenly parted, and rocks the size of pumpkins began to fly into the porch. What happened next can hardly be explained. Taking advantage of the total darkness on the porch, I crept back to the door of the school. My body collapsed into a single point. Suddenly, I emitted a terrible beastly roar and, like a panther, jumped legs first high into the air into the menacing mob. Without grazing anyone, I landed in the courtyard, and my legs began to carry me in the direction of the town. I looked back but didn't see Zverev. How was that possible? I had frayed a corridor. Why didn't he take advantage of it? Did he stay on the porch? This is precisely what happened.

Zverev subsequently told me, "They burst in and began to turn me around, making me face them. I resisted as much as I could. A few people grabbed me by the left hand and jerked it so hard that they dislocated my shoulder. Then they began to beat me with their bats. I hid my right hand behind my back as it was my working hand. Subsequently, an X-ray at the Sklifosofsky Hospital in Moscow showed that my left hand had been broken in three places and that my shoulder had been dislocated. One of the guys spread his handkerchief out in front of me and carefully got onto his knees, taking care not to soil his pants. Assuming a comfortable position, he grasped my nose between his teeth and tried to bite it off. I began to scream on account of the unbearable pain."

Hearing the terrible noise, the neighbor arrived and began to shout hysterically that she would call the police if we don't stop immediately. Yet it was already too late. The guys put themselves back in order and, wearily tossing their bats into the grass, went out into Lenin Street to take a walk to calm down and look at the local beauties.

Covered with blood and barely conscious, Zverev crawled out of the porch onto the grass and into the air. Edik Shteynberg and Volodya Stetsenko dragged him to the hospital.

The doctor Chekhov had visited many country hospitals, some of which were dismal, indeed. Nevertheless, if he had seen Tarusa Hospital, he would have staggered and leaned against the log wall, his beard would have begun to shake, and his pince-nez would have fallen down with a sad noise and shattered against the dirty wooden floor. All bloody, Zverev was dragged in by his friends late in the evening.

All the hospital's personnel had already gone home except for the doctor on duty, who was also performing the functions of the janitor. At that moment, she was busy washing the floor in the corridor.
"Put him on the floor. There's a dry place over there."
Edik and Volodya objected that that was impossible, as Zverev had open wounds. She replied nonchalantly that she would first finish washing the floor and then take a look at him.

Zverev was moaning. They carefully put him on his back. Then they went out to smoke a cigarette. When they returned, they saw an awful sight: the janitor was driving dirty water with a mop onto Zverev and his bloody hands, head and face. The artists, cursing, lifted Anatoly from the floor, found an empty cot among the dense maze of hospital beds, and carefully put him on it.

In the early morning, Zverev was able to make out his neighbor despite the pain. His head was all bloody, and one ear was missing. The recent enemies had been brought together by fate, and it was better for them not to recognize each other.

The roofs of Tarusa could increasingly be made out through the vibrating gauze of the morning air, columns of smoke emerged from the chimneys, and cows mooed and goats bleated in the chilly air. Every branch and every leaf clearly stood out against the sky, which was gradually growing lighter. And finally the giant disk of the sun lit up our world, full of pain and endless suffering.

When the head doctor arrived, Zverev told him that, if he wasn't transferred to Moscow, he would make the entire French Embassy descend on the hospital. The doctor was clearly frightened. He made the personnel dress Zverev's wounds, wash his nose and let him go.

Kharitonov and I had played cards all night long to make the time pass quicker and were planning to go to the hospital in the morning to visit Zverev. Suddenly, someone pounded loudly on the gate with his foot. When we came out, we saw Zverev all covered with blood. His left arm was bandaged and attached to his neck with a dirty rag. Three deep bites, like the marks on the scale of a thermometer, were visible on his nose. "Let's go to Moscow at once – to the Sklifosofsky Hospital," he told me.

Zverev had such an appalling appearance that no car would pick us up. We finally found a dump truck that took us to the Serpukhov railroad station.

In the end, we made it with great difficulty to the Sklifosofsky Hospital. Zverev was taken on a stretcher to the X-ray room. I was told that I could go home and come and visit Zverev the following day.

The next day, I paid Zverev a visit in his hospital room. There all the patients, except for Zverev, were attached to braces: a wrecked-up race car driver, a person who had fallen from the attic onto the staircase below, and a police officer.

The latter deserves a few words in his own right. On the eleventh floor of a high-rise building on Vosstaniya Square, an alcoholic got raving drunk and began to terrorize his neighbors. They called the police, which was stationed just next door. It was a hot July day, and the alcoholic's windows were wide open. When the policeman told him to come along to the police station, the alcoholic threw him out of the window. Borne aloft by the hot air currents that spread his uniform out like a sail, the police officer slowly descended in circles in the torrid atmosphere, approaching the ground like a vulture. However, his gliding flight was cut short by Nikagosyan's huge sculpture adorning the ledge of the wine store. Striking the stone wheat sheaf in the hands of the goddess of agriculture, the policeman's body went out of control and began to tumble in the air. He was saved from disaster by a crowd of people that were patiently waiting for the wine store to open. Like snow from the sky, the police officer fell into the very midst of the crowd, killing two drunkards at one go. As a result, he became Zverev's neighbor at the hospital.

In plaster casts and braces, Zverev's neighbors posed no danger to him. He was the only who could freely move about the room.
"Listen, you idiots, are you too stupid to realize that your full-blooded life has come to an end and your white-blooded life has begun? The state will take care of you and give you twenty one rubles a month as benefits. This is enough to buy a liter of vodka a month, not counting food."
The patients attached to the braces began to shout that, as soon as they were released from the hospital, they would not only bite his nose off but also sever his legs and that they could see perfectly well that he belonged to a gang.
"All the bearded, disheveled, insolent and cross-eyed people that visit you are clearly members of a single band. When we are released, we'll unmask it, and the policeman will identify the laws you're violating and put you in jail."
The door of the hospital room opened, and a smiling and stately Costakis entered in a crisp white shirt and horn-rimmed glasses.
Everyone fell silent.
"Treat yourselves, friends," said Costakis and put a crate of fresh Israeli strawberries in the center of the room, seemingly forgetting that it was out of the "friends'" reach. After speaking with Zverev and his doctor, Costakis said goodbye and closed the door. The patients began to shout even more loudly.
"You're all members of a mafia – it's perfectly clear – and the guy in horn-rimmed glasses is your godfather." Strange though it may seem, they were not greatly mistaken.

I soon went to live with my mother at our dacha in Tuchkovo. The summer passed quickly. I virtually forgot about the Tarusa tragedy. However, when August came, I realized that I had failed to pay the second installment for the house. I didn't have a penny in my pocket, however.

On a cold and rainy morning, I went to Tarusa to do something with the house. I found a buyer and used the money to pay off the former owner. Borukh helped me load my belongings into a covered truck that was heading for Moscow. We bought a crate of Bulgarian wine for the road, drank a farewell glass, and got on our way.

Tarusa slowly disappeared behind the windows in the smoky haze of autumn rain until it finally vanished forever.
Biographer of Anatoly Zverev. Holds a PhD in geography from Moscow State University.
Author of Anatoly Zverev: Recollections of Contemporaries (in Russian) and other books,
as well as a number of articles and publications in Russian and foreign media.
Recipient of the Slovesnost (Literature) Prize.

for more details
Biographer of Anatoly Zverev. Holds a PhD in geography from Moscow State University. Author of Anatoly Zverev: Recollections of Contemporaries (in Russian) and other books, as well as a number of articles and publications in Russian and foreign media. Recipient of the Slovesnost (Literature) Prize.

The artist Lev Ryzhov introduced me to Zverev in 1976. He called me up one day and said that he would come over with his friend in an hour or two. When I opened the door, I saw them standing there. The stranger introduced himself as "Christopher Columbus". Christopher was holding a bag stuffed with packages. A big fish head was sticking out of one of them. He was dressed in two shirts at once, both of which were inside out. As I was already familiar with this strange fashion among artists, I asked him, "Say, are you by any chance Vasily Sitnikov's disciple?" He replied, "Artists have very sensitive skin, kid, and seams greatly irritate it. That's why I wear the shirts inside-out." We sat down at table. While the fish was frying, I served soup. Zverev looked at his plate suspiciously, then slowly stood up and suddenly poured his plate out into the sink. Perplexed, I served him a second plate, but the same thing happened. I noticed that he was looking at me to observe my reaction. I decided that I would play this game, too, and served him another plate and then another… He poured everything out into the sink, however. Finally, I couldn't take it any longer. "Listen," I said, "the pot is almost empty. Maybe you'll eat a plate of soup, no?" Zverev magnanimously agreed at last.

Then we played checkers or anti-checkers, to be precise. There weren’t enough pieces, and Zverev replaced the lacking ones by caps from beer bottles that he had brought along. I won the game, making him fly into a rage. I was so taken aback that I nearly began to cry. He then asked for paper, brushes, and paints and painted my portrait in a few minutes. He poured a whole basin of water out on the paper, immediately squeezed out paint from tubes and mixed it in with brushes, made a few sharp lines with a kitchen knife, and the portrait was ready. It was beautiful.

Zverev painted with anything he found at hand. I recall how he took a piece of chopped beet from a plate at the apartment of one artist and, to the astonishment of everyone present, used it to draw a wonderful sketch of someone with a single line. Looking at it, Zverev ironically snorted, "Not a bad likeness!" Then mayhem broke out. Many people, even those that had never held a brush in their hands, were overcome by the desire to draw. The host did his best to give paper to all who wanted. In a few minutes, the kitchen where the people were sitting turned into a studio.

Everything that Zverev did (whether he painted, improvised poetry, or played the piano, which he had never studied) inspired people around him to imitate him. When Zverev was in his familiar environment, he was always the center of attention. He could not be alone, and his striving to be with people was due not only to his aversion for solitude but also to his remarkable inner generosity and artistry that he felt a need to incarnate and spread around him.

Thanks to Zverev, I got to know Oksana Aseyeva, widow of the poet Nikolai Aseyev. I liked her at once, especially her tender, patient and almost motherly attitude towards Zverev. In her home, Anatoly could do whatever he liked, knowing perfectly well that he would be forgiven. For example, carrying a full pot of hot cider from the kitchen, he suddenly made believe that it burnt his hands. He dropped the pot and the cider spilled out onto the carpet. Zverev pretended to be remorseful, while Oksana was angry for no more than a minute.

I recall how a Moscow collector that knew Zverev well once said about him that "he takes everything out on people that love him".

Zverev loved improvising poems and dedicated many of them to Oksana. Here's one of them:

A fallen leaf (in the golden rainy weather).
"I'm indignant and my soul pines away."
"What do you want?" asked the oak leaf.
And I answered, "I'm thinking… about Her!"

The best is: … wind and – the "sweltering heat".
What is with me… in the blue color?…
It is autumn leaves… that, interrupting each other,…
Sing the spring song of Yesenin…
About Aseyeva – Oksana –
That lies as the cold grass…
Yet not as poison –
Around the Zverev tree.

Oksana always felt a bit offended when Zverev called her "old woman".
"Understand me well," she once said. "I realize, of course, that such a form of address is common among people of your generation, yet I'm not a young woman, indeed."
I told Anatoly about what Oksana had said. The next day, Aseyeva told me with her pearly youthful laughter, "Anatole has just called and asked me, 'Old man, can you lend me three rubles for a beer?'"
Zverev enjoyed telling her the most far-fetched stories about his friends and himself, and Oksana, naïve and credulous as she was, believed him. Once she called me up.
"Honey," I heard her voice in the handset. "How could it happen? How do you feel?"
I didn't understand anything and asked her,
"What do you mean?"
"By gosh! Anatoly came over yesterday and told me, 'Just listen. I was going down Gorki Street and saw Natasha. She had decided to drink some soda, yet there were no glasses in the machine, as usual. She inserted three kopecks and stuck her head right into the machine, yet she couldn't get it back out, as she's got a big head. A lot of people gathered around… The police arrived…"

Zverev was unpredictable in his actions. I once brought my friends, a solid married couple, to Aseyeva's place to show them Anatoly's masterpieces. Zverev was there at the time. Aseyeva was leaving to visit her sister, the artist Maria Sinyakova. She strictly bade us not to give Anatoly any money, even if he begged for it. As soon as the door closed behind her, Zverev cunningly squinted his eyes and began to appeal for mercy: "Kids, give me a kopeck at least…" The visitors began to get nervous, as they only had an hour of time available. We quietly agreed to cede to Zverev's requests yet give him so little that it would not suffice to buy what he wanted. We gave him a small sum, and Tolya immediately calmed down. He nonchalantly put his hand in his coat pocket and, taking out a bundle of ten-ruble notes, began to count them with relish: one, two, three, four… Then, turning to the husband, he ordered, "You, donkey head, go right away and buy some cognac. Three bottles! Woof!"

Everything had taken place so unexpectedly, and Zverev's eyes were so comically blustery (like a child's) that the "donkey head" was not offended at all. He only sadly threw his hands up in dismay, took the money and left the apartment as if hypnotized. The cognac was soon on the table. Casting mischievous glances at us, Tolya opened all three bottles immediately and poured them out on the plants standing on the window-sill. He poured the few remaining drops out on his head while hunching in his characteristic manner and giggling strangely. I looked at my friends: they were speechless…

Once, Tolya and I visited his apartment in Sviblovo. He didn't like to stay there on account of the frequent police raids, which made him call Sviblovo "Giblobo" (place of doom). His mother Pelageya Nikiforovna was still living in the small one-room apartment. She opened the door, and I liked her at once, especially her lively and piercing eyes. The room was tidy though not well furnished. It contained only the essentials: a sofa (separated off by a cloth curtain), a table, a few chairs, a bed, and a wardrobe. Tolya asked for clean clothing, and Pelageya Nikifirovna let him choose between a few shirts. One got the impression that she was always prepared for his rare and unexpected visits.

Although Zverev worked little in Sviblovo, he showed me a whole stack of his early works that he took out of a large folder. These were wonderful drawings that mostly contained portraits and depictions of animals. I noticed a vase covered with old dry paint on the window-sill. It contained several worn brushes, and I asked Tolya to give me one of them. He cut off the end of one brush with a knife and carefully wrote "AZ-76" with a ball-point pen. Then he took out of a drawer a palette knife that had clearly been made abroad and handed it to me, saying, "Take it. Siqueiros gave it to me at the festival." I tried to refuse, saying that it was such a keepsake, yet Tolya repeated, "Take it – they'll steal it otherwise."

I first heard about Tolya's children from Pelageya Nikiforovna. He had not seen his daughter Verochka and his son Misha for many years after divorcing his wife. Many of Zverev's friends had the impression that, living as freely as a bird, he had forgotten his children. However, I recall how his close friend Dmitri Plavinsky once said, "It'd be good to get Zverev acquainted with his children once again. We must only think about how to bring this meeting about and how to prepare Zverev for it." Soon afterward I met Tolya at the home of friends and, forgetting Plavinsky's admonitions, suddenly blurted out, "Tolya, wouldn't you like to see your children again?" Although Zverev had been in good spirits up until then, he abruptly turned his head and looked out the window. A few seconds later, he was joking once again, yet one could still see traces of tears that had suddenly welled up in his eyes.

Zverev liked to paint animals and often visited the zoo. One day, I had the luck of accompanying him. He began to make sketches in his little drawing book as soon as we entered. Tolya drew almost all the animals he saw and virtually without stopping. I especially recall how a lion posed (yes, posed) to him. Weary from the heat and confinement, the lion was lying on the floor of the cramped cage and looking sullenly at the surrounding visitors. Tolya went up right to the cage and, periodically casting an intense look at the lion, began to sketch rapidly on the paper almost without looking at it. As if hypnotized, the lion suddenly stood up and, approaching the bars, began to stare at Zverev. He continued standing there for several minutes, almost without moving, until the drawing was finished. One could not help noticing the reaction of visitors, both children and adults. No one looked at the lion anymore. With bated breath, everyone followed Zverev's actions. The drawing was excellent. Looking at it, one recalls the lines of the Russian poet Blok:

This is how lions sullenly look
At people from behind bars.

There was an exhibit dedicated to the portrait at the Tretyakov Gallery in I forget what year. Despite the bitter cold, a huge number of people queued up outside to get in. I knew that Zverev was acquainted with many Tretyakov employees and asked him to take me through the staff entrance. When we got inside, Tolya started by going to the staff cafeteria, where, as he learned, Czech beer was being sold. Buying 10 bottles, Zverev put them with a generous gesture of the hand on a table where two ladies were engaged in a spirited conversation about art. As I recall, they looked at us with silent reproach. Tolya had clearly done it on purpose, all the more as he found these ladies suspicious, as it later turned out, and he didn't like suspicious people.

After spending some time in the cafeteria, Zverev put the remaining bottles into a bag and calmly headed for the exhibition rooms. The museum attendant standing next to the entrance (a refined elderly woman) looked at us and politely said that it was impossible to enter the exhibition with such a bag. "Then I won't go in at all," retorted Zverev. To my surprise, the attendant did her best to convince him to go in and see the paintings. She had known Tolya, of course. A few minutes later, Zverev proposed that we immediately leave the exhibit, promising to sketch everything that was displayed there in a couple of hours at the place of one of his friends. Naturally, I didn't want to leave so soon and, to avoid being a patient witness to Zverev's pranks, proposed that we go around the exhibit separately, at least for some time. I can still see Tolya in my mind's eye. Finding himself alone and not suspecting that someone was watching him, he stood still for a long time, inclining slightly toward one painting. I don't know why it attracted him and whether he liked it or not, yet he seemed to pierce the canvas with his X-ray gaze. It was difficult to tear oneself away from this sight. As one knows, anyone can look, but not everyone can see. Zverev could.

At a meeting of the City Committee of Graphic Artists, someone once proposed nominating Zverev for the title of "People's Artist of the USSR". The proposal evoked laughter among the audience: it was indeed difficult to imagine the independent and uncontrollable rebel having such a "honorary title". One of the artists joked in this regard, "Why, it's true that Zverev is a people's artist. I was recently hospitalized, and what do you think? My neighbor was a working-class alcoholic from the Moscow region who owned several works by Zverev!"

Indeed, one can see Zverev's paintings in very different homes, and their stories are highly diverse. Although he was perfectly well aware of the price of his paintings, Zverev generously gave them away to virtual strangers in whose homes he spent the night or sold them at a trifling cost. Already during his lifetime, forgeries of his work circulated in Moscow. After his death, his paintings were sold at high prices at auction. His works were exchanged, resold, requested, and stolen. Some of his masterpieces perished in fires. Their owners didn't always put them in good frames but sometimes used them as covers for trashcans (this took place in actual fact) or simply threw them out. I recall how a house on Ryleyev Street was being vacated of its tenants and turned into an office building. Zverev had often stopped in this house in the apartment of the artist Viktor Mikhailov. Everyone had already moved out except for Mikhailov, who barricaded himself in his apartment to avoid being evicted. One day, a group of people, who were tired of waiting, finally broke into the apartment. All further resistance was meaningless. The artist's simple belongings were carried out into the courtyard, where they were put in a special container, while lighter things (e.g., Zverev's pictures) were simply thrown out of the window with hoots and jeers. Our protests were only met with laughter. "And you call this garbage art?" they said.

The only thing that perturbed the invaders was the presence of the writer Venedikt Yerofeyev at Mikhailov' place during the raid. Holding the device with which he spoke after his operation, Yerofeyev attentively observed the events with a detached air. The unfamiliar object in Yerofeyev's hands worried the raiders a bit. I recall them ordering him to put his machine away and to stop recording.

Once all of us went from Vostryakovo, where Zverev was spending a few days at the house of friends, to Peredelkino to attend a concert of Novella Matveyeva. Tolya came along so as not to remain alone in the country house. As one could have expected, he didn't stay at the concert for long. After two or three minutes, he stood up, loudly banging his seat, and headed for the exit, uttering a few strong remarks. The audience began to shush indignantly. I followed him into the parlor. The visitors to the Peredelkino Art Center that were dignifiedly walking past us looked at Zverev with curiosity and hostility and, as it turned out, for good reason. I hadn't noticed that Zverev had left his shoes in the hall, perhaps because they were rubbing his feet. He was walking in his socks on the parquet floor of this famous center with the gait of a free man. Of course, he had not forgotten his shoes but intentionally left them in a fit of irritation that had suddenly come over him and for love of provocation, if nothing else. We sat down on armchairs in an out-the-way corner and waited for the others. Finally, the concert came to an end. The spectators left the building and, separating into groups, headed for the train station. It was already pitch dark and very cold. Fine prickly snow was falling. We were all hungry and had only dry cookies to eat. Tolya had to spend the night in Vostryakovo. On the way, he asked me to accompany him first to Moscow to ask Aseyeva for some money. I was hurrying to return home and categorically refused. Zverev grew increasingly irritated with each passing minute and was about to explode. Suddenly, an elderly man separated from one of the groups and approached us. His face looked familiar.

For some time, he walked with us without speaking and then suddenly proposed,
"What if I accompany him to Moscow?"
I didn't understand anything.
"But it's very late already," I told him. "And one has to accompany him back, too."
However, the stranger was ready to do that, too. We engaged in a conversation and pulled ahead of the others. I couldn't contain my curiosity any longer and asked him,
"Excuse me, but why are you showing such concern for this person?"

He replied,
"He reminds of Van Gogh in a way."
"You don't know him?"
"No, I don't."
"He's the Moscow artist Anatoly Zverev. Perhaps you've heard about him?"
The stranger stopped for a second. He seemed to be astonished.
"Really? That Zverev? I've heard about him for a long time and dreamed of meeting him one day."
Now it was my turn to be surprised. After all, Tolya had reminded many people of Van Gogh – both in his life and in his work.

Later, I recalled who that man was. He was a physicist by the name of Yuri Kulakov, a professor at Novosibirsk State University and a passionate art lover. Once, many years before this chance meeting, he gave a lecture for young people at a Moscow apartment, telling them about the art of Salvador Dalí and showing slides of the latter's work. This was new to many of us at the time. Later, after Tolya's death, I recalled this scene and wrote a poem about it.

In Memory of Anatoly Zverev

Yes, Van Gogh had lived among us.
Yet time must pass after a person's death
For recognition to come.
However, this time it appeared
Already during his life, God sees.
Yes, Van Gogh had lived among us.

He could paint the whole world.
It was a feast wherever he went.
He cast people into laughter and into tears.
He was a victim and a torturer.
A torturer for those who had mincemeat instead of a soul.
He debunked insincerity with his brush.

He was a beggar and a rich man.
Both weak and strong.
He endured persecution and mistrust
And pardoned Salieri with a smile.
He often slept before the door
Of his friends and admirers.
He could be seen from afar.
His gait was so jaunty.
Clothing? What difference does it make?
It was the king that walked down the street.
Or Socrates. But, no, he was a lot wiser.

He was the freest one of all.
Renouncing everything,
He gave everything he had.
He drank and hungered and suffered from the cold,
Yet he did everything that was necessary on time.
Yes, Van Gogh had lived among us.
continued his father's activities as arts collector and patron. Apazidis holds a PhD in engineering and has written
numerous scientific articles and books. He is also author of several essays in the Russian press,
including essays about the artist Anatoly Zverev. He and his brother Nikolos are
actively contributing to the creation of the Zverev Museum in Moscow.

for more details
Continued his father's activities as arts collector and patron. Apazidis holds a PhD in engineering and has written numerous scientific articles and books. He is also author of several essays in the Russian press, including essays about the artist Anatoly Zverev. He and his brother Nikolos are actively contributing to the creation of the Zverev Museum in Moscow.

Wild Flowers

"A plane was flying in the sky, yet its flight didn't last long" were the first words that Tolya Zverev said when I opened the door of our apartment on Kuusinen Street one early morning. He was holding a folded newspaper and a stunning bouquet of wild flowers with rain drops on them. "Tolya, what do you mean?" "Don't you know? The cosmonauts have crashed. It's written here in the newspaper." It was June 30, 1971. Surprising us with this news, Tolya handed the bouquet to my mother, saying, "It's for you, Dora Konstatinovna. I spent the night in the field today. In the morning, I made this bouquet and returned to the city by suburban train. Let me paint it for you now." And he did so. The painting is still hanging in my apartment, which is located in a different part of the world now, yet the flowers are still Russian. Wild flowers.

Tolya and Verochka

That day, Tolya entered our apartment very quietly. He was holding a girl aged six or so by the hand. She was also very quiet. Wearing a dress and a scarf on her head, she was a real “gentlewoman-peasant”. Her name was Verochka. She was Tolya’s daughter. Holding hands, they quietly walked to the kitchen and sat down on different sides of the table. The girl saw a piece of paper on the table, asked Tolya with a nod of the head for a pencil, which he always carried with him in the pocket of his jacket, and began to draw. They stayed for a few hours. That day, Tolya refused his favorite Tuborg Beer and drank only tea, occasionally looking at what Verochka was drawing yet did not interfere in any way. Father and daughter left us just as quietly as they had come, leaving behind memories that are already fifty years old.

Zverev's Russianness

Zverev was Russian through and through in everything he did. He was Russian in his landscapes and in his understanding of abstraction and, most important of all, in his all-forgivingness. After all, when he depicted us and understood our most intimate and often unpleasant traits that we do our best to hide, he forgave all of it with his "Smile!" that he said at the end of the portrait session. He saw right through you. In the early 1960s, an old friend of ours – a big Swedish businessman – and his colleagues visited us at our Moscow apartment. Suddenly, Tolya rang the doorbell. This businessman had already heard a lot about Tolya from us and became very excited, asking whether Zverev could paint his portrait on the spot. There were paints and paper remaining from Tolya's previous visits, and the portrait was ready in twenty minutes. It should be said that it looked vague and threatening in a way. The next day, we learned that the businessman had been hospitalized with a stroke. We immediately went to Botkinskaya Hospital and what did we see? The person's face resembled Tolya's portrait painted the day before. I experience a strange feeling even when I write about it fifty years later. When we told Tolya about it, he became pensive and didn't say anything. We should add that the patient recovered thanks in large part to the skill and attention of Russian doctors.

With regard to Tolya's Russianness, one of Tolya's illustrations to Apuleius shows the ass holding a bottle of Russian vodka (in an Ancient Roman work!), perhaps Stolichnaya (he apparently went to great expense for the occasion), and amicably offering it to his sweetheart. The Golden Ass immediately became Russian! What a genius you are, Mr. Zverev, chairman of the terrestrial globe!

Saying Farewell to Tolya

In the middle of the windy and snowy month of February 1973, Tolya spent an entire day at our home and asked us to accompany him to his apartment in Sviblovo. It should be said that Anita and I were leaving for Sweden in a few days, as Anita's working contract in the USSR was coming to an end. Nevertheless, I was afraid to tell Tolya about it, as I feared that we might not see each other very soon. Tolya apparently sensed something yet didn't ask any questions, and the atmosphere was somewhat sad and tense. The conversations, too, were superficial. Anita and I gladly agreed to accompany Tolya home. He was sitting in the car next to me and didn't say a word the entire trip. We approached Sviblovo (or "Giblovo", as Tolya called it). The road was covered with snow; it was snowing heavily and had grown quite dark. Our Saab got stuck in a snow drift, and we had to get it out somehow. The situation was a bit strange: a Saab-96 with diplomatic license plates (д-73-250) in a snow drift in Sviblovo. What was it doing there several light years away from diplomatic residences? Passers-by looked warily at us (don't forget what year it was). I put Anita behind the wheel and began to push the car. We managed to get out of the snow drift. Then Tolya opened his door, got out of the car, and, without turning around, took a few steps forward and dissolved in the Sviblovo darkness. I never saw him again."
Gallery owner, art curator and one of the founders of the Zverev Museum. Taught acting and directing at the State
Institute of Cinematography in the workshops of M. Romm, B. Babochkin, G. Daneliya, A. Zguridi, and M. Khutsiyev.
Founded the Kino Gallery (together with E. Yureneva) in the early 1990s and later the Polina Lobachevskaya Gallery.
Much of her gallery activities were devoted to popularizing the heritage of Anatoly Zverev. Author and curator
of numerous small and large-scale exhibits of Zverev's work, including shows at the Tretyakov
Gallery and the New Manege (Zverev in Flames and On the Threshold of a New Museum).
Author of the AZ Museum Publishing Project.

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Recollections at dawn…
Half-asleep, I hear the telephone ringing. I get up quickly. It's only 5 a.m. Lord, who can it be? What happened? Picking up the telephone, I hear a familiar voice saying,
"Hi there!"
"Tolya, do you know what time it is?"
"How can I? I haven't got a watch."
"Where are you, Tolya?"
"I don't know myself, kid. Somewhere… Could I come over and warm up?"
"O, Lord… Since you've waken me up, why don't you come over."

He arrives accompanied by the taxi driver, who keeps looking suspiciously at Tolya and at me until he gets the money. He then calms down and leaves with a surprised air. Anatoly goes to the kitchen as if nothing has happened, sits down on his favorite spot on the couch and chats about this and that as if continuing a recent conversation. Then he would say, "it'd be nice to have a drink and something to eat" or, if not, tea would also be alright. "And, generally speaking, this dressing gown suits you well, old woman. Let me immortalize you." Everything is simple and laid back, as if it isn't five o'clock in the morning. He keeps stringing together words, phrases, rhymes and images and drawing horses and heads with color pencils, watercolors and felt-tip pens – anything that he has on him or that is available at the apartment. We drink tea or even alcohol, because, as Zverev says, "you can't do totally without it ".
"But why, Tolya, can't you do without it? After all, you're harming yourself and your health," I begin to sing the same song over again.
"You're so full of yourself, old woman. You've got an apartment and warm clothes. As to me, I'll get wet feet in my lousy shoes outside, and that'll be the end of me! So it's precisely my health that I'm caring about! It's essential for my health!"
By this time, the horses are galloping already, the sad Don Quixote is making his way to the windmills, and my dog Patrick has been immortalized with a flower next to his shaggy ear, for some reason…
"Tolya, why does a rosehip flower stick out from behind Patrick's ear?"
In response, Tolya gave me a look that I cannot forget or explain to this day.
About six months later, Patrick died, and I buried him in Pakhra at the end of winter. I didn't come back there for a long time and returned to Pakhra only in summer. I saw that a rosehip bush was growing on Patrick's tomb.
A friend whom I told this story said nonchalantly, "Your Patrick gave you a sign."
But who gave the sign to Tolya?

Seneca affirmed that art portrays deviation from the norm. This great artist's entire life was lived artistically and was full of signs, images and even metaphors. Not just his paintings and poems but also his everyday life and relations with the surrounding world were artistic. Tolya was a kind of sorts that served as a litmus test for people. In their profound essence, his behavior and reactions to his surroundings put everything in its place and separated the true values of human life from false values.

Tolya and I met in 1956. Alexander Rumnev, with whom I was working at the Institute of Cinematography and who was a man of immense culture and unparalleled artistry, once told me,
"I want the wonderful artist Anatoly Zverev to paint your portrait."
He said it with an insistence that wasn't typical of him. Although I wasn't keen at all about posing for an artist I didn't know, I sensed that Rumnev wouldn't yield.

Rumnev invited me over to his home on Metrostroyevskaya Street. His apartment and its artistic design rounded off his image. His small room was chock full of different things: old miniatures, wonderful tableware, paintings… Orient, Occident and Russia all came together in one room. Suddenly, I noticed a bright spot that drew one's attention among this abundance of unique and wonderful artworks. It was a portrait of a man in a sombrero!
"Whose portrait is this, Mr. Rumnev?"
"It's the self-portrait of Zverev, whom I keep telling you about!"
The impression was very strong and almost shocking. You couldn't hide anywhere in the room from the slightly closed yet piercing eyes that looked at you from the portrait. His painterly style struck you with its originality and power.
"Yes, yes! Mr. Rumnev, I naturally want him to paint my portrait! Please acquaint us!"
One early morning, somebody rang the doorbell protractedly, repeatedly and very loudly.
I opened the door. A strange person dressed in a slipshod yet dandyish style walked in. He was quite different from the person on Rumnev's portrait. He had a kind face and soft manners and was totally laidback, as if we had known each other for a hundred years. He was accompanied by a chubby-faced girl called Nadya.
"She's an artist!" proudly said Zverev. "She's my wife. So, shall we start, shan't we?" At that moment, I realized that I was wearing a bathrobe, apologized and said that I would go and get dressed.
"If it's for posing, it's not worth the trouble. It's better like this," he said, squinting his eyes in his special manner, making him resemble the portrait at Rumnev's place. "Have you got, Ms. Lobachevskaya, half a liter, that is, a palette?" and he began stringing together words and phrases.

At the same time, he kept scrutinizing me. He turned a copper tray into a palette and kitchen knives into palette knives… I kept rushing about. Nadya opened the tubes of paint. As to Zverev, he remained serene and calm and kept talking, talking and talking. A strange arrangement of phrases and jokes… And suddenly a pointed and precise remark! And, once again, words that were stringed like bright beads on strings that only he could see…

And suddenly he lifted his hand! A pause. He aimed and then made a powerful stroke. He then drew several short energetic lines with the knife. He squinted his right eye once again and, in total silence, made a few more strokes with the knife that seemed to press the paint into the canvas. Finally, he picked up a brush. He frenetically screwed it into the tray/palette, mixing the paints… This was followed once again by words, phrases, jokes and a fluttering of the brush.

Later, when I got used to seeing these sessions (sometimes from the side when Tolya was painting one of my friends), I began to understand what a huge expenditure of energy and what profound concentration of inner forces stood behind this apparent ease.

I never saw the "suffering artist", elegant poses, or the desire to make an impression on his subject, regardless of whether he was a diplomat, a well-known musician or a school pupil.

… And so, one after the other, five portraits appeared in the space of two or three hours. All of them were different, unexpected and beautiful. My bathrobe was transformed into very different kinds of clothes.

However, Alexander Rumnev arrived towards the end of the session and rejected all five portraits!

Anatoly didn't bat an eye. "I'll paint some more tomorrow." He listened to Rumnev's opinion with a meek look and didn't say a word. Yet the portraits were excellent!

Thus, from our very first meeting, I saw that Anatoly had an inner dignity and a lack of ambitiousness that are rare in our time. He had a keen faculty of observation and was just as much a master of verbal portraiture as of the painted portrait.

His different affinities and antipathies to an enormous number of people around him notwithstanding, Zverev was always condescending to people’s weaknesses, seeming to pardon people in advance for all their passions and ambitions that were unfamiliar and alien to him. Apartments, dachas, cars, studios, furniture, social success and careers – all of these things were unimportant to Zverev and completely absent from his circle of interests.

He lived for art, for painting. He turned for assistance and support to his teacher Leonardo and his friends Van Gogh and Savrasov and not to the Soviet Union of Artists. He was overjoyed when his paintings were displayed in beautiful homes and took pride in it.

Recalling this remarkable person that experienced all the joys and sorrows of earthly existence, you try to forget about his human weaknesses. The power of his personality and his artistic genius overshadow them. You only want to remember the good things in his life, some of which I witnessed personally.

In my opinion, the story of his relations with Oksana Aseyeva is a story of true love that lit up both Tolya's and Oksana's lives. Thanks to her life experience and lofty culture, she was able to fully appreciate Tolya's personal merits and his unique talent, despite the occasional grossness of external appearances.

Zverev's love for an old woman seemed strange or even comical to many. Nevertheless, Tolya loved and felt an affinity not only for a specific woman but also for an entire period of Russian culture (the so-called Silver Age). This love was like a bridge that reached back to the time when Art was still alive. In his conversations with Aseyeva, Tolya, in my opinion, also engaged in a dialogue with Khlebnikov, Pasternak, and the artistic environment of her youth, which was closer and more understandable to him than the reality surrounding him. It is no coincidence that he wrote a lot of poems at the time, as if he were competing with Velimir Khlebnikov, Chairman of the Terrestrial Globe.

Nature had a soothing effect on Tolya. He never spoke about his love for nature and animals. He was a phenomenon of nature himself: he felt very much at home in the countryside, attracting the love of all living beings.

One year, Tolya spent the whole summer on a dacha, hiding from the watchful eye of the police during the Moscow Summer Olympics. Another inhabitant of the house was a poodle called Filya – a very good-natured creature that did not give its owners a lot of trouble. Filya woke up together with his owners at 11 a.m. and lived the comfortable life of a well-behaved dog. However, the meeting with Anatoly greatly changed his lifestyle.

Now Filya began to get up at 4 a.m. at the break of dawn and run to the door through which Anatoly usually appeared. Filya squealed and jumped impatiently and was the very incarnation of expectation.
When Anatoly came out, Filya's joy knew no bounds. Then their daily ritual began.
"How are you doing, old man?"
Filya answered by wagging his tail in a most devoted manner.
"So, shall we go about our business, old woman?"
"Anatoly, why do you call Filya 'old man' on some occasions and 'old woman' on others?" asked Filya's sleepy owner.
"Because he's a male dog and so an 'old man'. At the same time, he's a dog (sobaka, a feminine noun in Russian) and so an 'old woman'."
Tolya slowly walked around the yard, washed up, and did something like morning exercises. Filya followed on his heels.
Then Tolya began to prepare his workplace (a ping-pong table) for "morning drawing". Filya followed every movement of his.

Zverev squeezed the paints out onto the palette and cleaned and washed brushes while engaging in a detailed discussion with Filya about what he should draw: the nearby bush with a branch broken during the night by the wind or a more remote birch tree next to the leaning fence or Filya himself… The dog listened attentively so as not to miss a word.
The contours of the birch tree soon became visible on the primed cardboard.
After finishing the painting, Tolya asked,
"What do you say, old man?"
Filya wagged his tail and fidgeted his feet.
"Go!" ordered Tolya.
Filya dashed to the opposite end of the meadow, took a ball in his mouth, threw it up a couple of times, passed it to Tolya, and froze between the trees. He was the goalkeeper. Anatoly kicked the ball. And a very passionate football game began. Both played with total commitment and showed feats of dexterity and cunning. They played on an equal footing and with the same degree of childlike abandon.
"We've taken a rest now, and so let's return to work!" said Tolya, and Filya obeyed immediately.
Tolya once again had a brush in his hand, and Filya was once again pretending that he didn't hear the insistent calls of his owner.
His owners even became jealous of Filya's attachment to Tolya: he never spent time with them like that and never did such stunts as in his games with Tolya.
"It's because he thinks you're people," explained Tolya. "As to me, he thinks I'm a dog."

Tolya had a constant desire to play and kept asking the people around him to play checkers or charades with him. Yet we often weren't in a mood to play or to spend time with him: there were so many other things to do…

Nevertheless, Tolya, despite his playful mood, seemed to get a lot more done than anyone else. By the time that the dacha inhabitants woke up and got dressed for breakfast, Tolya had already finished painting several pictures and writing a few poems. And he did it every day during that "Olympic" summer.

I went to gather mushrooms a few times with Anatoly. He took these trips very seriously. He began to prepare on the eve. He kept reminding me that one has to cut mushrooms with a knife to avoid damaging the spawn and put them in a basket with layers of fern in between… He wasn't trying to teach me but was dreaming about next day's trip and playing it through in his mind.

He entered the forest solemnly and silently, as if he had come for a big and important feast. He carefully looked about and then quickly walked in some direction, as if he knew where the mushrooms were. Suddenly, he stopped and looked about attentively – he had the gaze of a military commander. I had never seen him look that way in any other circumstances. He had the gaze of a wood spirit… or Pan… Then a miracle occurred. In a very short period of time, he gathered a whole basket of mushrooms. I had only managed to find enough mushrooms to cover the bottom of my basket.
"They apparently reveal themselves to me but not to you," he told me, trying to comfort me.
The forest was the only place where he felt himself to be in charge. He knew all the trees, shrubs and flowers and could recognize birds by their voices and the noises they made.

Time and again, I was struck by his organic and quiet familiarity with nature and its laws. He never flaunted his knowledge or imposed it upon other people.

Generally speaking, all forms of self-assertion that are so common in our fallen world were alien to this remarkable person with his pure and passionate soul.

The next major ritual was cleaning and cooking the mushrooms. Tolya liked to do it by himself without any assistance and, I should say, did it masterfully. He cooked with great assiduity, considering it to be an important activity that paved the way to a party.

With my determination to remember only good things, I shall omit here all the recollections that usually come to mind to Tolya's fans and enemies when they hear the words "Tolya" and "party". I recall those parties where Zverev was a brilliant story-teller, an actor, an arts connoisseur, and a very witty and paradoxical thinker, whose uncanny intuition often compensated for his lack of education.

Zverev was always in a state of conflict with society. He didn't understand inane laws and the generally accepted norms of behavior that one is often obliged to respect.

"Just imagine, old woman, I bought a ticket to the Mir Cinema in the morning. I came in and went to the cafeteria, where I bought some beer. I was standing there and drinking it. I was told that the movie was about to begin. As to me, I wanted to drink beer. I had bought a ticket after all! Why couldn’t I drink some beer quietly there? But they called the police…"

He truly didn't understand…

In the late 1950s, Zverev became world famous, and his renown grew with each passing year. His paintings were exhibited in galleries in the world's leading cities.

As fate would have it, Zverev himself travelled very little. He seldom went anywhere outside Moscow except Tarusa or a dacha on the outskirts of the city. When he received an invitation from Leningrad artists to visit them, it was a real event for him for which he prepared himself inwardly for a long time, inventing the scenario of the upcoming great voyage.
"Just imagine, kid, I'll get into the train car! The train will start to move. I'll immediately go to the restaurant and order some beer. I'll sit down and look out the window… Listen, where will I leave my coat at that time? They won't let me into the restaurant in my coat, after all."
"You'll leave it in the train compartment, Tolya."
"And what if people steal it? How will I manage without a coat in the winter?"
"Who'll take your crummy coat?"
"Kid, people are unpredictable… I've got to think this over… I'll be sitting in the restaurant, drinking beer and looking out the window…"
"Tolya, they close the restaurant at night."
"Then I'll stand in the corridor and look out the window."
"But it'll be dark outside. You won't see anything."
"Don't worry, kid. I'll see everything I need to!"
Now I wake up at dawn by myself. Before my eyes, I see Patrick's portrait with a rosehip flower, horses grazing on the meadow, and my own portrait… All is quiet in the house. I don't feel sleepy. Wouldn't it be nice if Tolya called up now?
Lawyer and wife of the outstanding Russian cellist, teacher and public figure
Valentin Berlinsky. The latter called his wife his main assistant and
associate (V. Berlinsky coined the well-known phrase, "The wife
of a quartet member is like the wife of a political exile".)

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Lawyer and wife of the outstanding Russian cellist, teacher and public figure Valentin Berlinsky. The latter called his wife his main assistant and associate (V. Berlinsky coined the well-known phrase, "The wife of a quartet member is like the wife of a political exile".)

One autumn in the mid-seventies, Tolya got a large amount of money for painting someone's portrait. He left the money at my place so that the "realists" wouldn't take it. He called me up almost every day and said, "I need fifty rubles" or "I need a hundred rubles". He either came over to our place or I handed the money over to him in the street.

One day, he asked me to meet him at the Central Telegraph and requested that I take a bigger amount along. Zverev was wearing a fur hat, impossible shoes and multiple layers of clothing. Today, one would think that he was homeless. In those days, one could have called him a boor or even put him in a psychiatric hospital. Yet this time he was in the company of me – a gentlewoman of sorts – and a small old woman in an ambassador fur hat. She was primly dressed and clearly belonged to the intelligentsia. Tolya was abashed and excited at meeting Oksana Aseyeva. The goal of our meeting and our trip to the nearby Post Exchange was to buy clothing for Anatoly. "We'll buy a kepi and a jumper," mused Aseyeva.

In the Post Exchange, saleswomen and customers looked with amazement at our picturesque company. Aseyeva chose the clothing and had Tolya try it on. He did everything he was told, submitting to her will and trusting her taste. "No, Anatole, that doesn't suit you," she commanded. "As to this, it looks good on you – and fits you, too."

We bought some very nice sweaters and shirts, a coat, and a cap. With numerous bags in our hands, we left the store and immediately caught a taxi. "To Giblovo!" commanded Tolya. He decided to bring his new pretty outfit to his home that he visited very rarely.

I sat down on the front seat, while Aseyeva and Tolya got in behind. I was talking about something trifling and suddenly turned around. Zverev was holding his hand in Aseyeva's. They were nestling against each other. I had known Tolya for a long time already yet had never seen him so radiant, peaceful and happy. Aseyeva was embarrassed. I felt awkward and began to look forward and talk with the driver. At the same time, I kept thinking that two perfectly happy people were sitting behind me. We reached Giblovo in this ecstatic atmosphere of fragile happiness.

Many years have passed since then. Yet I have never seen people radiating such mutual love and happiness again.

Valentin brought me pretty leather gloves from a tour abroad. They were lying on the mirrored table in the hall. Tolya took a long look at them. "Old woman, you don't need these gloves," he said sternly. "They don't suit you. I know whom they'll suit!" "And who is that?" I asked. "I'll give them to Aseyeva," he requested. Naturally, I couldn't say "no" to Tolya. And he hurried to his Old Woman with the gift. (Written down by Elena Lobachevskaya)
Of course, I had known Anatoly Zverev's work for a long time. Yet it is one thing to see it and another to try to understand and conceptualize it.

It is no coincidence that I chose a couple of lines from Anatoly Zverev's own poem as an epigraph to this article. They express in a concentrated form his attitude towards the theme that I shall try to treat here.

I will decipher the images of this couplet below. It is, without a doubt, real poetry.

First of all, one should say that the self-portrait is never a simple portrait. As soon as the self-portrait emerged as a genre, it became a totally independent and full-fledged phenomenon. It shows how the artist sees and understands his own self.

The self-portrait is always autobiographical. In the history of art, there is one momentous autobiography-confession: Velazquez' Las Meninas. He, the Artist, occupies the central position both in Velazquez' world and on the canvas, while the king is only a shadow, a barely visible reflection in the mirror. This is the gist: the Artist is the transformer of life, while the king is just where the Artist wants him to be. In life, the king is above him, while, in the artistic autobiography of Las Meninas, the monarch is only a shadow on the other side of the mirror. In other words, the self-portrait always carries a very powerful message about the artist himself and about his view of his own role in the world.

The more important an artist, the greater his desire to speak about this. The self-portrait is a way of standing before one's own self and an act of self-awareness and self-analysis. In this genre, the artist has at least two paths at his disposal. The first is "I in the Image". Take Honoré Daumier, for example. He didn't paint any self-portraits in the usual sense of the term. Nevertheless, his images of Don Quixote are all self-portraits. And, his left-wing communist political views notwithstanding, he saw himself in the role of Don Quixote.

The other path, which most artists take, was metaphorically described by Zverev in his pithy phrase, "Do you recall yourself as a baby?" A good example of such an autobiographical account and grandiose self-study is Dürer's self-portraits. He drew his first self-portrait with pencil at an early age: it shows a child pointing to himself with the inscription below "This is I, Albrecht Dürer. I am nine years old." He is still a child yet already an Artist that breaks with the system and the guild mentality. The important thing here is the "I" and its individuality and separateness. If we take all of his self-portraits together, we shall see that no biographer has ever been able to tell as much about Dürer as the artist himself – in all the portraits to his very last self-portrait, which is a phantom work of sorts in which the artist points at his pancreas, the cause of his illness and death.

"Do you recall yourself as a baby?" And suddenly Zverev speaks about a "torero"! The torero refers to precision and targeting. It is about wrestling, about penetrating into the very essence of things and phenomena, and about a state between life and death – always on the dividing line. All of this can be found among the great masters of self-awareness, self-study and self-destruction… And Zverev develops this theme like no one else – studying yourself not out of admiration but in pitiless self-discovery.

Such cruelty with regard to one's own self is not found among the classical masters. This is more a trait of modernity. Here Van Gogh's self-portraits come to mind. They are frequently compared with Zverev's self-portraits, by the way. Nevertheless, I would like to make an important point here. It is true that Van Gogh painted himself a lot, just like Zverev. Yet he made self-portraits only in extreme circumstances – at moments when he was virtually unconscious, on the brink, and about to sink into non-being. In his self-portraits, this border line of pain is extremely apparent. In contrast, despite the dramatic nature of his works, Zverev keeps returning to life and focuses on life. Thus I would not compare the self-portraits of these two artists in the philosophical perspective.

An artist that is much closer to Zverev both in content and in form and with whom Zverev converses through the distance of time is Rembrandt. First of all, Rembrandt painted so many self-portraits that no one can count them.

Secondly, he, too, used a multitude of solutions both in the image and "in the mirror", i.e., in the immediate "givenness". No matter whether Rembrandt depicts himself with Saskia on his knees or shows himself in the mirror (more precisely, on the other side of the mirror), he always makes a powerful statement about his own place in the world of people and things. Rembrandt and Zverev have something else in common: no matter what technique is used in a self-portrait and no matter what perspective is taken, the artist's personality is never depicted in a "final" or "finished" manner (in contrast to Dürer, say). In contrast, it only shows the "I" at a particular point in time. Each time, it represents a recollection of oneself ("Do you recall yourself?") – a recollection of the past and of the future.

Both Rembrandt and Zverev were mysterious individuals. I do not mean that they had some sort of knowledge that they hid from others. No, their very lives were mysterious: they themselves did not know who they were and from where they came but simply lived out their talents from birth. Rembrandt, a miller's son, was like an ugly duckling that had been placed in his family and his surroundings. He never had a "nursery room" that pseudo-aristocrats take such pride in.

Nevertheless, both Rembrandt and Zverev could allow themselves to be absolutely free and different. One had to be so mysteriously sophisticated and mysteriously aristocratic to fall in love with such a woman as Oksana Aseyeva. Who knows who is marked by the Lord? Both artists had a sharpness of vision and a penetration that are inconceivable to ordinary mortals and, most importantly, the expressive means to bring them across.

Moreover, Zverev had something about him that contradicted his outer appearance and behavior. This is particularly evident in his self-portraits. Unexpectedness. The situation of suddenness. Such unexpectedness is based upon freedom and independence.

Not upon the freedom that people try to attain through manifestos and demonstrations. He had received freedom as a genius. He knew and saw metaphysically that man is not identical at all – that he has many guises and countenances. Zverev's work bears the mark of continuous self-analysis and of self-depiction in all guises – depiction not only of himself but also of all mankind as reflected in him. At the age of 25, he depicted himself as an old man, as a dandy, and then as a wretch…

He depicted shadows cast on a piece of paper. His most expressive works were drawn with India ink, which was particularly well suited for bringing across Zverev's transient vision or what may be called his "participial nature". "Squinting", "smoking a cigarette", or "turning to the left" are fitting descriptions of many of his self-portraits. Such "extended" action creates a fantastic dynamism and uniqueness of impression.

Using Anatoly Zverev's self-portraits alone, one can make a vast anthological study of the problems of style and artistic holism.

Metaphysics is a mysterious thing: we do not know where dreams originate. Yet that is precisely where Zverev originated himself. Here one returns once again to the power of personality that has nothing to do with a person's origins and surroundings. I met Zverev in groups of very intelligent, strong and ambitious people. However, when Tolya Zverev arrived, everything grew pale in comparison with him. He had an additional energy that expressed itself in his eyes, in their special shine and in the X-rays that they emitted.

Zverev's self-portraits do not depict masks: he showed himself as he was. Yet, in everyday life, he always wore a mask: he was a man of carnival. He loved to "engender" carnival. He was a genius with a magic crystal inside. As one knows, a magic crystal is a polyhedron whose sides are all different. Zverev's drawings have a magic crystal that turns a new side to the viewer each time. Together with Zverev's self-portraits, you find yourself in a new and different space every time you see them.
Yet let us return to our epigraph. In the couplet, Zverev suddenly speaks about a "marinated tomato". A snack that one eats with vodka! The "tomato" does not appear by accident: it is a symbol of irony that is used to tone down pathos. We should note that Zverev resembles Vysotsky here.

Although Vysotsky rarely sung explicitly about himself, every song of his shows him in a certain "image" and from a certain inner and artistic experience. And, similarly to Vysotsky, Zverev donned the mask of an outcast, although he was a very different person in actual fact.

The main task of a self-portrait is to demonstrate the multifaceted nature of the individual. Kuprin wrote a brilliant short story about the headmistress of a private school for girls. She inspired fear in everyone with her extremely puritan character. Yet, from time to time, she took a leave of absence, went out in the street and turned into a sexually dissolute monster. As Kuprin says, five or more people live in each person. Zverev was an absolute master of ironic self-analysis in his self-portraits. As a man of the 17th century, Rembrandt did not have such an ironic relation to himself. In contrast, Zverev had very deep self-irony.

There are artists with which I would not like to compare Zverev directly yet that I should mention all the same. Two great artists of the 20th century depicted themselves constantly. I am referring to Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso. The comparison with the former is particularly ill suited, in my opinion, for understanding the nature of Zverev's self-portrait. Dalí lacks subtle irony and self-irony: all his work is marked by the desire to shock. It engages in a special kind of deceit, if one may put in this way. This is at the origin of "Dalí Theater". Zverev has no theater: his self-portraits always show him as he really is – whether romantic and tender or crude and persecuted or frightened and frightening or wearing a country cap or a dandy's hat. Unlike Dalí, Anatoly Zverev does not care about technique in his self-depiction (and self-invention). He is much more interested in painterly language and in the expressiveness of this language. Technique is nothing more than an attendant circumstance for him.

In this regard, Picasso is a lot closer to Zverev in the profundity of his self-expression. He is also tireless in self-destruction, self-irony and self-admiration. Picasso's self-portraits show the whole range of human emotions that are directed at one's own self from within. His brilliant series The Artist and His Model examines the remarkably close interconnection between the artist and the model. Moreover, Picasso tries on different mythological guises: faun, wild bull, etc. Zverev does not use constant mythological metaphors as Picasso does (e.g., "I'm a bull"). After all, he was born and grew up in a different (non-Mediterranean) culture. Nevertheless, he developed certain myths of his own: madman, drunkard, outcast, old man, youth, or thoughtful intellectual. His mythology was multifaceted and could be called a spiritual topography of sorts.

Anatoly Zverev is always essayistic, as everyone knows. Yet he is also spontaneous and arrogantly contemptuous of technique. As no other artist, he connects the depicted subject with the language of depiction (the force of the brushstroke or the hand) rather than with its media (canvas, paint, etc.). He caught this "infection" from the futurists, of course. After all, Zverev is always very sly. He seems to give us a wink so as to say, "We can make anything we want out of anything – sawdust, wallpaper, cigarettes… We make the media serve our needs." Picasso did not have such verve. It is crafty and refined panache.

For this reason, no two self-portraits of Zverev show him in the same state or from the same standpoint or use the same technique. By the way, one could write a vast and extremely interesting study of Anatoly Zverev's technique and materials. After all, his self-portraits were performances of sorts driven by the immense power of vital carnival passion. As every great artist, Zverev embodied the carnival of life. Without it, an artist's work remains uninteresting. We see it all too often, unfortunately.

To understand the essence and meaning of Anatoly Zverev's self-portraits, I believe that it is very important to compare them with his portraits of his friends and associates – in other words, with the gallery of his "inner circle". In this regard, one will have to speak about such categories as the "I" and the "non-I". In the work of classic artists, the "I" and the "non-I" tend to be almost the same. As to Zverev, he takes a Heideggerian approach to his model. There is a separate and endlessly changing "I" and there is a "non-I". The possibilities of artistic vision that were available to people in the 19th century greatly changed in the 20th. This took the form, among others, of a very radical and negative attitude towards oneself and one's "I". The "I" becomes the "non-I" (for Mayakovsky, the "I" is no longer himself but the "Citizen of the Soviet Union"). This difference relates to masks and the carnival. "I speak in the name of the people!" But who empowered you to speak in the people's name? The effacement of personality is a trait of modern times.

Zverev's attitude towards himself is also very modern. He sees himself in terms of a "stream of consciousness": he recounts himself. Everything changes, however, when a "non-I" arises before him. Here the artist becomes an observer. He sees himself in the other. He presents the "other" from his own standpoint: I'd like you to meet…

Whereas Zverev's "I" is a stream of time and the observance of oneself in this stream, he can adopt two diametrically opposing stances when he encounters a "non-I". One of them is particularly visible in his portraits of children. He seems to cleave through time and see the final result. A girl is no longer a girl but bears the marks of an entire life. She has already been a wife and a soldier's mother. She had to pinch every penny, live in a communal apartment and litigate with her neighbors. Yet the work is entitled Portrait of a Girl! Thus, on the one hand, time is blown up. On the other (and this is his second stance), time is effaced. Especially when Zverev made portraits of Oksana Aseyeva as a high school student. It cannot be helped: it is the metaphysics of perception. They (the children and Aseyeva) were precisely as he saw them. Here the categories "like – don't like" are no longer applicable. Here you simply have to perceive Zverev's artistic cleavage of time.

He depicts his circle, the people surrounding him, as if passing a verdict. Every portrait is a verdict. These people shall now always be as they were frozen by Zverev in the stream of time. A certain reputation was made for each of them. For example, Dmitri Krasnopevtsev is marked by pallor, limpidity, secretiveness, refinement and introversion. All of this stands out in the portrait. In contrast, Krasnopevtsev portrayed himself as a romantic. Zverev's portrait of him is broader and more interesting. Palmin's portrait conveys astonishment – his astonishment and his worship of artists and the openness of his gaze to art. It is a mark of his personality and the essence of this "non-I". The word "mark" is very important here. Or take George Costakis' portrait. This was a stout, well-groomed, well-dressed and well-perfumed man with pleasant aristocratic manners. A man of experience. Yet Zverev depicted him as a young Greek. He saw through his outer shell. All of Anatoly Zverev's portraits try to get to the essence. For Zverev, this is possible when the person himself is capable of inner transformation. In this sense, Zverev's portraits of artists are not at all stereotyped children (matryoshka dolls that are already born as old people).

I would like to conclude by speaking about the hieroglyphic nature of Anatoly Zverev's self-portraits. Here I return to the notion of the portrait as a mark of the soul or as a mark of the image. The principle of the economy and minimalism of means for finding a vivid expressive formula is particularly important here. He involves our imagination: in all his work, he invites us to engage in a conversation with him. Zverev's self-portraits may be called dialogical: you have to respond to him and continue his line of thought. His best self-portraits harbor this challenge. You have to reply to it: to think about him and about yourself.
- Many consider Zverev to be a genius, and you agree with this view.
What makes Zverev such a genius?

Father Georgy Kochetkov: He's a person about whom it's been said, "If there's a person like Zverev in the country, it means the country is still alive". With regard to the Soviet period, the question of whether the country was alive in some way or totally dead has always been very controversial. Nevertheless, since there were such people like Zverev in painting, Schnittke in music and Averintsev in religion and literature, we see that the country was alive.

For me, this is something very important, because a genius is a very special thing. A genius is not just a person who's independent and can lead culture and people in new directions. This word always refers to a degree of creativity in which all the individual talent is put at the service of a single talent that is bigger and higher than the artist who possesses it and who may not even fully understand or appreciate this talent. And it very often happens that what people admired during the lifetime of a painter or some other genius later turns out not to be the most important thing in his work and his heritage, while what they admired less suddenly begins to stand out. It suffices to recall the fairly tardy recognition of Johann Sebastian Bach. And not just him.

Even Rembrandt was far from being universally appreciated, not to speak of Jan Vermeer of Delft or Antonio Vivaldi in music. All of them are artists and composers, yet one can also cite the names of poets, architects, scientists, scholars, and writers that were either unknown during their lifetimes or admired for a totally different reason than today. Such great talent, which is an image of the great treasure or the great pearl of the Kingdom of Heaven, appears very rarely, indeed. It's like a diamond or a ginseng root that has special and even unique properties. Why doesn't ginseng grow like thistle, say? Or why are there so few diamonds and so many ordinary rocks such as granite? That's why I admire Zverev, because he evidently has this unique gift. Although the people around him adored him, virtually no one knew him. He himself had an idea of his true worth and tried to think about life, fate, himself, the past, the present, and the future. He tried to assess certain major events and, at the same time, to keep his feet on the ground and not to lose his head. He's truly interesting in this regard. He cannot be called an amateur artist. Some people called him that, and it is true that he never got a higher or all-around arts education. Nevertheless, he is hardly an amateur artist, although some aspects of some of his works point to his lack of artistic education. Still, many people have a good arts education but nevertheless lack genius or even simple talent.

I got the impression that he's very confident about his talent and, for this reason, handles his material so surely.

Father Georgy: Prophets and geniuses always know about their own gift, although the question of what they do with it remains open: they can either waste this gift or develop and perfect it in order to bear fruit. You can't be a prophet without knowing that you're a prophet! You can't be a great artist or writer or musician without knowing about your talent, regardless of your character, culture, age, sex, etc. Why are such people always accused of being arrogant? Why do they believe that it's better to be a "simple saint" who, for the sake of conforming to the general stereotype of saintliness, strips himself of all his distinctive traits that moreover often do not fit into the commonly accepted norms of behavior, relations, opinions, etc.? Simply because all of this shocks people: afraid of the open expanses of life, they prefer a quiet swamp or backwaters. It is hardly surprising that people have even managed to turn the church into still waters over the centuries.

This may explain the drama or even tragedy of prophecy. The prophet knows about his gift yet sees that the world isn't ready to accept it.

Father Georgy: Such people – geniuses, prophets and great creators – do not pay a lot of attention to the world. They are ready to carry out their mission in any conditions (and this is simply astonishing!): in wealth or poverty and even if they have some innate or acquired problems… Recall the famous phrase about Dostoyevsky that he was genius not as a result of but despite his epileptic mental disorder: that says a lot. The same thing is true of Zverev. He was a great artist despite his alcoholism and not thanks to it.

And the same is true of others: Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were great artists despite their homosexuality or other factors and not as a result of them, as some people tend to say today…

…In order to justify certain vices.

Father Georgy: Yes, many people assert today that, if you want to be a genius, you should be a homosexual, an alcoholic, a drug addict, or anyone else that destroys everything around him.

People in artistic circles are often enticed by this. They believe that such deviations are totally normal and even necessary if you want to become a great artist, actor or writer. I have spoken about this numerous times with people from artistic circles, and so I know quite a bit about it.

Can one say that Zverev made a revelation in some area or, in other words, that he was a pioneer?

Father Georgy: Of course. If this wasn't the case, we wouldn't call him a genius. Genius necessarily includes this quality of being a pioneer and discovering something new that the world has not known up until now. This includes creating something new, if you like: a new perspective on things, new sounds and new harmonies – something that has not existed in nature before. This is what creativity is all about.

Can one identify what Zverev's revelation was all about?

Father Georgy: I believe that his revelation lay in his special existential view of man. He took a new look at man at a time when the human countenance did not interest anyone and was even dangerous. Having a human countenance was dangerous to anyone living in the Soviet Union. I recall how an old KGB officer, who began to work in the secret services in the 1930s (he was a young man at the time), once told me, "You know, Georgy, we arrested people like you in the street simply on the basis of their appearance". They had an eye for people with a countenance of their own, no matter what this countenance was like…

That's terrible.

Father Georgy: But that's how our country lived! It was in these inhuman conditions that Zverev could find man and his human foundation that, as Christian anthropology teaches us, never disappears, of course. In this way, Zverev created, lifted and restored the fallen human image. This is simultaneously a human and a divine act and therefore bears the mark of genius. Thus, when such an artist exists, you can say that the country and the people are still alive. The same thing is true of music, literature and the humanities – philology, philosophy and theology.

This is extremely difficult and virtually impossible in our time. Why is Zverev so important? Some creative people remained in the Soviet Union from before the Revolution or from the first years after the Revolution. Nevertheless, they quickly disappeared: they were expulsed or killed or they totally succumbed or simply died young. There was virtually no one left by the 1970s. Take Akhmatova, for example. Although she was Zverev's contemporary of sorts, she totally belonged to the old world: she had never been Soviet, never! In contrast, Zverev was from the Soviet working class. He came wholly out of it, yet he transcended it. That's a big difference! Akhmatova was able to preserve herself despite everything. She was a great human being, but she wasn't a genius. As to Zverev, he was a genius.

Does someone in Russian art continue Zverev's work today? Did his revelation find a reception?

Father Georgy: In my opinion, it is becoming known only now. Of course, there were always people who appreciated his work. It's impossible to know it and not to appreciate it. Not only George Costakis knew about him: there were others, too. Yet, even when they said the most glowing words about him (take Falk, for example), they still underestimated him and did not understand him very well. Zverev's time is only coming now.

It's no coincidence that exhibits of his work are constantly being organized now. Yet they are all unofficial exhibits. Dom Nashchokina is a private gallery. The New Manege offers the items it exhibits for sale. And, even if two works by Zverev are exhibited at the New Tretyakov Gallery (only two – what a disgrace!), they are displayed in such a fashion that you can easily walk past without noticing them. And this is no surprise, given that Plavinsky's works are displayed next to them. Plavinsky is a wonderful artist, and I've got nothing against him, yet he is no genius, far from it. Nevertheless, his works are more conspicuous. I was looking for Zverev's works and that's why I found them there in the passageway, basically. If you simply walk through the rooms, you can easily miss them. The lack of sensitivity of official and state organizations to genius is amazing!

After all, there are, thank God, quite a few truly talented artists in Russia that can compete with internationally renowned artists. Nevertheless, it should be said (given that we're talking about genius today) that most internationally renowned artists are not geniuses. For example, Rublev was a genius, while other wonderful and astonishing icon-painters of his day were not geniuses. There is always an invisible boundary that they can reach yet cannot cross or transgress on their own: they can't discover something totally new, and they don't have the necessary spirit, freedom, courage, daring, momentum and perhaps even humility that is so essential to a genius. The latter always has both daring and humility. Daring is often confused with audacity and arrogance, while humility is taken to be a result of vice, depression or other things that can also be characteristic of geniuses at certain moments of their lives. In actual fact, a genius' humility lies in the fact that he is ready to do anything to realize his gift. He is truly ready to abandon everything for it: his father, mother, wife, children, property, health, life and his very self… And he does it! If a person relies on his family, relatives, work, profits, public recognition, understanding and even on his friends (truly relies on them rather than just using them in a way), he cannot possibly succeed – one has to keep this in mind.
Do all geniuses go through this?
Father Georgy: Yes, all of them. Our world does not accept God's gifts, considering them to be something alien, and the same thing is true of geniuses. They are heavenly heralds that do not fit into our world. The same thing happened to Pushkin, who was killed at the age of 37…
In other words, a genius is always solitary?
Father Georgy: … or he is killed. Or he undergoes total kenosis, such as Rembrandt, say, who outlived his only son, not to speak of his first wife along with all his wealth and success and died virtually forgotten… If Pushkin had survived, I believe that he would have experienced the same destiny – he would have been forgotten. People already began to forget him before his death – he was no longer in the limelight. We rarely think about it.
It's probably very difficult to live next to a genius…
Father Georgy: Not just difficult but impossible! Not just because of the inconvenience of their personality traits but also because a genius always inspires envy, misunderstanding and rejection. After all, Christ, too, was rejected in the end, because Judean society was arrogant and complacent, even though it had been subjugated and was striving for freedom and was ready to follow its own path and perform its narrow ethnic (or "nationalistic", as we would call it today) feat. Thus they had no need for heavenly heralds or the Son of God. They didn't need a Messiah in actual fact, even though they thought and spoke a lot about Him. That's very important, too.
This explains why Zverev had such a prominent Christian side to him. He clearly wasn't a churchgoer. He may have been a believer somewhere deep down inside. Nevertheless, for us religious people, he is a lot more interesting than many religious artists – than even the best ones like Nesterov. The latter is a wonderful artist, yet he's a lot less interesting than Zverev.
Thus time passes, and people suddenly realize that such a person had lived among them. How does this happen?
Father Georgy: You can't hide a lamp beneath a bed: the light will shine through all the same. The light will only blind people when it is still too close, and they won't see anything. After time passes, people begin to look back from a distance and make something out.

It's no coincidence that the people that were considered great geniuses in their day are often somewhat boring to us today. We don't read Hegel anymore, although he was considered to be the apex of philosophical thought. It's a bit boring to look at Rubens (not to speak of Van Dyck), although he's a wonderful artist. The first great Russian artist with a glimmer of genius was Alexander Ivanov. There had not been any artists like him in Russia before, with the exception of medieval Russian icon-painters. There had been painters that were greatly talented like Rokotov or simply talented like Borovikovsky and Levitsky yet no geniuses. Ivanov was the first to show hints of genius (yet only partially – in his Biblical sketches). This is visible only in some of his paintings: the rest were a sort of lathe that sharpened his skill, his vision and his eye. Genius can be seen only in some of his studies such as his remarkable Italian landscapes, his "naked boys" and, of course, a number of large paintings. Nevertheless, his contemporaries detested him, and the fact that the emperor bought one of his paintings was a real miracle, somewhat like Nicholas II's canonization of Seraphim of Sarov, which was due to a series of coincidences. Yet it's all divine providence, no doubt.

This is very important, because Russian art has not been understood and duly appreciated. I recently thought about it: did we have any geniuses? I'm not referring to Rublev, Dionisius and Theophanes the Greek but to later artists of the 18th century. I suddenly realized that these people are connected by a remarkable chain of inner and outer ties: Alexander Ivanov, immediately followed by Vrubel and Serov. After them, Petrov-Vodkin had a glimmer of genius, though not always or in everything – he had acquired a new vision and had potential genius yet whether he was able to realize it or not remains an open question. Perhaps one can also cite Korin with his well-known studies to Farewell to Rus (still, one should keep in mind that Korin's commissioned works, such as his portrait of Marshal Zhukov, were simply the work of a talented artist). All of these artists were directly influenced by Ivanov. Recall Korin's horizontal long landscapes, which greatly resemble the works of Ivanov. And then, after Korin and Petrov-Vodkin, we have Zverev. And that's all: there's no one else.

Our geniuses are not Malevich, Kandinsky or Chagall. They were very talented, and they played a major role in terms of civilization. Yet this is more a matter of civilization than culture. Although their influence is immense and they have been recognized by the entire world (just as people are beginning to recognize other Russian artists of the time), they are not geniuses. The remarkable line of great Russian artists is a chain that, as I have already said, began with Ivanov by total coincidence, or so it may seem. His Italian contemporaries with whom he worked were greatly inferior to him. In other words, he did not make his paintings under their influence or under the influence of other contemporaries that could have visited Italy at the time (Frenchmen, Germans, etc.).

For us, the question of what can become such a "seed" is very important. On the one hand, every genius is a phenomenon, i.e., he is truly a "person from the heavens". On the other, he always stands on some kind of ground – someone inseminates him not only "from above" but also "from below", i.e., from the ground. And this ground does not dry out in such cases. Why do we know our culture so badly? Because we don't live in this tradition at all. Ask our contemporaries about these artists. Can they say a lot about them even if they know their names? Or, if they say something, it will be utter nonsense most likely.

One can also trace such chains in the domain of thought, literature and artistic culture. We rightly consider the first genius in literature to be Pushkin, who started a chain by directly influencing Lermontov, Gogol, Dostoyevsky, etc. It's impossible to minimize Pushkin's role in Russian literature.

If we speak about thinkers (once again, considering only the period after the 17th century), then, starting from the end, we would cite S. Averintsev, who was preceded by N. Berdyaev and S. Bulgakov. It's difficult to say who came before them. Solovyov? No, he falls short. Dostoyevsky? Yes, but he's more a writer. We see that, in the modern period, we started our "chain of genius" last of all in this area. And first of all in literature, which is very typical for Russia and very important for us. First Pushkin and then A. Ivanov, not to speak of Berdyaev and Bulgakov, who came a lot later.

On the one hand, these are just a few names. On the other, they are our contribution to all of mankind. They could not have arisen anywhere else.

Generally speaking, there are relatively few geniuses in history. This can be seen, for example, in the Italian Renaissance or, say, in French painting. A huge number of artists (one can only marvel at the great number of people participating in this process, which was a good thing, indeed), yet few geniuses. A lot of talented artists, as one notes with surprise. Who do we appreciate among the Italians today? Fra Beato Angelico da Fiesole and then Botticelli; Giotto before them and then the "great triad" of Raphael, Leonardo and Michelangelo. Then Titian. And that's all. Perhaps Tintoretto, too. Afterwards you've got to go to Spain to find geniuses (together with El Greco or Doménikos Theotokópoulos, who went to Spain from Italy). It's simply astonishing. One could add the chain of great mystics of the 16th and 17th centuries, etc. And we get such a small group.
It's as if the relay baton had passed from one culture to another…
Father Georgy: Yes, this process exists, too, without a doubt.
I'm afraid that there are no geniuses in our culture today – not a single one. This is very sad. Averintsev was already very worried about this. He once asked me, "What will I say, what can I tell myself: in whose age do I live?" A person characterizes his age and calls his period by the name of a genius. One can say: Pushkin's age, the age of Alexander Ivanov, and the Zverev age. I was glad to hear Averintsev's words, because I immediately said to myself (I didn't dare say it out loud) that I was living in the age of Averintsev, as I understood perfectly well.
When I saw a reproduction of Zverev's work for the first time (I didn't know anything about this artist and had never seen him before), I said at once that he was a genius. When I heard literally a few minutes of Schnittke's music for the first ime, I immediately said, "Who is this? Who is this genius that I don't know?" "It's Schnittke", I was told. "Is he an old master?" And then it turned out that he was virtually our contemporary. The first person whom I asked about Schnittke, said "Yes, I know him!"
Why do you think people usually don't respond to the prophetic voice of the artist, musician or thinker? Is it possible to overcome the "system" that sits within us and doesn't allow us to hear?
Father Georgy: We can at best be inclined to search for novelty and genius. "Lo, I create it all new," says the Lord. And we have to be inclined, at the very least, for this. Although we are unfortunately not geniuses ourselves, we immediately react to the appearance of a genius. In particular, that's how I see our fraternity. We are far from being geniuses ourselves, yet geniuses can either be born or appear in our environment. And something similar happens when people that are simply talented or very talented come to us. They seem to shine with a new light. I saw this very clearly in the case of Averintsev, a person that truly had the evident qualities of genius. I see every time how people change when they come here and get onto living soil. Our conference* has demonstrated it very well now. Why don't people, even nonbelievers, want to leave? They feel that it's a zone of attraction and a certain path. They don't see it in society or anywhere else in the church or in culture, but they see it here and for them it's irrefutable evidence. Thus, even if we were simply soil or, as Father Vitaly Borovoy would say, manure, it's still worth it. After all, something can grow out of this soil.
Nevertheless, most people, including many of us, are often unable to do so. Can and should we learn to do it? To recognize a genius, do you need a special vision?
Father Georgy: Perhaps it's the appearance of a genius that gives people this special vision. This vision becomes focused when a person looks at these pictures, listens to these sounds, perceives these thoughts, and reads these books. Thus the opposite is the case. Not vision first and then meeting a genius, but first meeting a genius and then hearing, etc. It's just like meeting Christ: first the revelation of Christ and then the opening of our eyes and ears. Why are there so few Christians? Simply because people don't want this revelation – they want something totally different from life. For them to see and hear, it's necessary that "their eyes open and their ears open" – that their hearts open.

Interview by Anna Lepekhina
October 22, 2007

• • Father Georgy is referring to the international conference Christian Conciliarity and Public Solidarity that was organized in August 2007 by the Transfiguration Association of Small Orthodox Fraternities

Anatoly Zverev's artistic manner and lifestyle are so interconnected that it is difficult to analyze one of them without the other. Nevertheless, in this short essay, we will have to choose only one possible perspective or approach, because it is impossible to embrace the complex phenomenon that was Zverev within such a limited space.

Moreover, we should probably leave it to people that knew Zverev (or, more precisely, to the people that belonged to his inner circle, who are relatively few) to speak about him. Only they have the right to portray in recollections this brilliant portrait painter that destroyed the traditional understanding of painterly genres.

Of course, admirers of Zverev's work would be quite interested in the publication of collected recollections about the artist. This would, in particular, provide an alternative to the "textbook" smoothness that has already began to appear in interpretations of the artist and his life.

After all, all those that had been acquainted with Zverev to some degree or another know that his image during his lifetime, despite all the external problems, biographical contradictions and even provoking aspects, was entirely his own choice.

Zverev's life, with all its errors and dissonances, is inseparable from the unbridled nature of his artistic style. If his fate had been different, he would have been a totally different artist.

His path was to a considerable extent a challenge to everyday "common sense". He was one of the first to opt for the life of an "outcast" from official culture and turned this marginality into a bold demonstration before successful and recognized colleagues.

Nevertheless, Zverev's personality is a subject for his future biographers. Thus, as a preface to our tentative attempt to interpret his heritage from a "detached" art-historic standpoint, let us take a look at the artist's own recollections (written in 1985) of the main events of his life.

"I was born in the year 1931 on November 3. My father was a disabled veteran of the Russian Civil War, and my mother was a blue-collar worker. I had mixed success in school and got very different grades: A’s in some subjects and F’s in others. I subsequently managed to finish seven years of school and get an incomplete secondary education, of which I was particularly proud myself – even more perhaps than before others.

"My childhood was mostly quite wild and mussy … I apparently had very few desires at all. As to the art of drawing, I can only say that I didn’t dream of becoming an artist. Yet I often wanted and “dreamt” that my (second) cousin would draw me a horse.

"Nevertheless, I was apparently a good draftsman and subsequently began to draw with increasing frequency. "When I was in a pioneer camp, I can say without blushing (although only in hindsight) that I made a 'masterpiece' of art entitled Tea Rose or Hibiscus to the amazement of the art teacher. And, when I was five (before the aforementioned event), I drew Street Traffic from memory at a polling place where, before the war, children were given paper and color pencils for drawing.

"As to my subsequent drawing career, World War II broke out, and people were evacuated in different directions. My father, mother, two sisters and I went to the Tambov Region. Naturally, I didn’t draw and could hardly have drawn if I had wanted to…

"When we returned to Moscow after the end of the war, people still lived on food cards, rations, and in deprivation. Here, my drawing resumed somewhat by chance: for example, a drawing from the newspaper Soviet Sport depicting a Tense Moment before the Goal of the Moscow Spartak Club. In my little drawing book appeared drawings with quill pen and India ink that I made after a long break in 1945-46. They were followed by drawing, painting, clay modeling, engraving on linoleum, and wood burning in the summer villages of two parks: Sokolniki and Izmailovo. Then in two pioneer clubs…

"I subsequently resumed my studies (also by accident) and completed a vocational arts school (two years of study). I also briefly attended some studios 'for adults' and could have even stayed at an arts school on Sretenka Street (the school was dedicated to the 'Year 2005', if I recall correctly). However, I didn’t stay there for long. I was dismissed already during my first year on account of my 'external appearance', and so my poor financial status did not allow me to remain at the school.

"Then I worked as an artist in Sokolniki Park (after graduating from the vocational arts school, I mostly had to work as a street painter). "I was unlucky in everything I did, yet drawing and painting remained my constant companions.

The most interesting painters are naturally those that do not fatigue viewers with 'unnecessary' contrivances: Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Rubens, my teacher Leonardo da Vinci, Velazquez, Goya, Van Dyck, Raphael, Savrasov, Vrubel, Rublev, Vasilyev, Ge, Kiprensky, Ivanov, Malevich, Kandinsky, Botticelli, Daubigny, Serov, Bryullov, Gauguin, Constable, and many others whose names I don’t know or can’t recall…

"As to my fellow artists (the so-called 'avant-gardists'), all of them are the best, because they have a future, a present or, at least, a past. I wish all artists 'bon voyage' and a favorable wind in their art!"

Thus the relations between past and future and between classicism and avant-gardism were evidently interpreted and lived out by the artist himself. Let us focus on his innovations in art and try to identify his place in the history of Soviet art of the sixties and seventies.

Today, in hindsight, Zverev appears to be one of the last and (perhaps for this reason) most vivid incarnations of the very "spirit of painting" in Russian artistic life – a rare explosion of pure painterly artistry. Moreover, he served as a bridge between the artistic strivings of the early 20th century and our time, reuniting the traditions of the Russian avant-garde with the latest discoveries of Western art. At the same time, he resembled a current in which the frenetic energy of painting seethed and asserted its right to an intrinsic value of its own.

This current was boisterous and uncontrollable, gushing over barriers (including the barriers of movements) and boldly fraying its own path. Zverev's appearance was marked by the explosion of impetuous personal temperament. Generally speaking, his entire life passed under the mark of inspired freedom both in his use of the language of art and in his overall relation to the outer world.

Zverev's talent developed rapidly and uncontrollably. His art brought together different styles and artistic worldviews. This striking alloy led to the infinitely changeable yet always recognizable "Zverev style".

Zverev developed through the deformation of his own poetic habits, changing unpredictably, playing on his contradictions, and trusting only the spontaneous inspiration of his artistic will. This probably explains why Zverev automatically created a force field of inspiration around himself, and the resonance of his experience is still tangible.

His very lifestyle had already made him part of the history of the Russian avant-garde in the late fifties and early sixties. Zverev went from being simply a talented artist to becoming the symbol of free unofficial art.

Independent, restless, and "walking by himself", Zverev was appreciated by many (not sentimentally but as a living cultural phenomenon) yet understood only by a select few that were able to see his uniqueness, which had existed in their midst yet had not been tinged with museum piety yet.

Despite all his life problems and his total lack of grandiloquence, there was something titanic about Zverev. His struggle with color and his desire for color engendered centrifugal energy that was tangible even in his small-scale genres such as the portrait, the landscape and his depictions of animals.

Zverev was a conqueror and pioneer and, at the same time, the last representative of the "Moscow-Paris" plastic tradition, whose history goes back to the early 20th century.

Largely continuing the refined coloristic taste of "Muscovite Parisians", he combined his individual contribution to this brilliant disappearing heritage with the anarchy of a rebel that "created" destruction and always strove to do everything differently, in his own way, and on his own.

Inheriting the refined vibration of color and light from the culture of the early 20th century, he radically purged it of all hints of aestheticism and filled it with lyricism and expressiveness, giving lyricism a new hold on life. Although traces of earlier culture did not disappear from his art entirely, every reference to tradition and every inherited technique are insistently incorporated into a new quality. As an "inheritor", Zverev totally dismantled traditional painterly structures, overcoming the temptation of post-Falk "colorism" and moving a lot further forward. He employed a very broad range of techniques from fauvism to parallels of abstract expressionism.

Although he did not refrain from contacts with the old masters and the movements of contemporary art, Zverev represented an unprecedented type of Russian artist that was able to turn literally everything that he saw into painting. Speaking of his manner of painting, one should note the great attention that Zverev accorded to the specific nature of his subject matter. Naturally, the specific original material was totally transformed yet For more detailsnevertheless always retained its inner essence. The landscape remained a landscape, and the portrait a portrait. Although he never stripped the model of its personality in his portraits, he made it engage in a dialogue with the artist and subordinated it to his desires.

From the mass of semi-accidental raw observations that were captured by his gaze, Zverev energetically extracted the essence – that "something" that made him paint the subject in the first place. This may well explain the activeness of his subjects, whether people, plants or animals. In contrast to other artists, he did not reside in the "underground". His spirituality was of a totally different kind.

Zverev was always ready to take the risk of fleeing from the habitual. Everything that acquired the stability of statics did not match his temperament.

A debunker of commonly accepted norms and canons, an extreme individualist and a "madman", Zverev fully assimilated the heritage of the early 20th-century avant-garde.

Responding in a precise though seemingly "chance" manner to contemporary movements in art, Zverev concluded the story of Russian modernist classicism in his own personal way and, in the process, opened up new artistic paths.

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