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Igor Samsonov: Painter and Passionate Visionary

Igor Samsonov: Painter and Passionate Visionary

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Igor Samsonov: Painter and Passionate Visionary

244 pages
1 heure
Apr 26, 2016


Igor Samsonov: Painter and Passionate Visionary showcases the work of Igor Samsonov, one of the most accomplished of a new wave of Russian artists. Referring to his art as total art, Samsonov aims to produce artistic creations rather than mere paintings. Total art consists of more than just the exquisite figures and vibrant colors the reader will see on the canvases displayed in this book. Each frame encompasses a painting, a story, and sometimes even imaginary music all at once.

This book not only presents the reader with beautiful paintings, which speak for themselves, but it also tells the stories behind them and explores the symbolism within. This journal of Igor Samsonov's artistic achievements to date was written in collaboration with the artist himself, who believes that each story and painting continues to mature in the same way that a person ages.

In the end it is up to each reader to enjoy his own story and painting, whether together or separately.
Apr 26, 2016

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Igor Samsonov - David Salomon



Courageous Ride, 2011, 41×55in (105×140cm)

Maria with Cockatoo, 2007, 35×39in (90×100cm)

Igor Samsonov

Igor Samsonov was born on January 7, 1963, in the city of Voronezh, Russia, during the height of the Communist rule of the Soviet Union. He started drawing at the young age of ten; a few short years later he began painting with watercolors and eventually with acrylic paints. In his teens he began using large canvases, mostly 100 × 70 cm (40 × 28 in). His parents encouraged his painting and enrolled him in an art school. While he was at art school, he became more interested in ice hockey and devoted much time to practicing and playing the game, leading him to leave the specialized school after only a year. At age fifteen, Samsonov fell in love with mathematics and began to spend his free time solving abstract math problems.

Culture and sports were a national priority in the USSR, and artists were therefore greatly appreciated—though mostly only those artists who were already deceased. Making a living as an artist was next to impossible. Upon reaching adulthood, Samsonov naturally chose to pursue mathematics as a profession and to keep painting as a hobby. To the delight of his father, he enrolled in the mathematics program at Voronezh State University and continued to paint whenever he had time. After five years, he graduated with the equivalent of a master’s degree in the US and accepted a job with the Institute of Research. Samsonov was attracted to math’s abstract side; much to his disappointment, when he started work he discovered that the job consisted entirely of applied math. He found himself monotonously applying routine formulas in repetitive engineering projects without any imagination.

As time passed, the pressure for change built from within. Samsonov eventually came to realize that he could not waste his artistic soul working a nine-to-five office job that he disliked. One day he came across a book about Vincent van Gogh, who (like he himself would do) did not start a professional painting career until he was twenty-nine years of age. He then went to see some of van Gogh’s paintings in person at the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad (as the city was called at the time), and it was as if he were hit by lightning. His emotions went into overdrive, and the artist in him took over. He tendered his resignation at the Institute of Research, where he had worked for one year, and moved to Leningrad to apply to the Ilya Repin Leningrad Institute for Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture. Getting accepted, however, was not easy. As was the rule in Russia, Samsonov had to wait some time after graduation and contribute to society through his first field of studies before he was allowed to go to a new school.

Once accepted, Samsonov spent the next six years at Repin being tutored by well-known Russian painters. The emphasis was on the technical side, and the students learned composition, colors, movement, atmosphere, and processes. They pored over different styles, such as classical, neoclassical, realist, classical realist, and impressionist, just to name a few. They learned how to paint portraits, still lifes, and landscapes; they were taught how to paint faces, trees, clouds, and various objects. Most of the teachers at Repin emphasized technique, not personal art, and the school is indeed considered by many to be the premier art institute in that area of focus. In fact, Samsonov himself was shocked to discover just how much he needed to improve his technical side. But as great as his teachers were, a significant lesson was missing—how to combine different technical aspects of art onto a single canvas without being derivative.

Everything changed during his last year at the academy, when Samsonov had the good fortune to be tutored by Professor Oleg Eremeev, a recognized painter in Russia at the time. This teacher brought into the classroom something that all the other teachers had missed. Samsonov already excelled at the technical side of painting and was ready to move on to the next level. Professor Eremeev introduced Samsonov to the world of total art, where it is not just the pretty figure, the background, the composition, or the color that counts, but the whole product and the artist’s emotional signature. This teacher insisted that while the painting should start with the right size canvas for the scene, the correct interaction of the figures with the attributes around them, the impression given by the colors, the reflections of light, and the relationships between movement and color, the art should be more than just paint and canvas. It had to have a meaning, a personal message, an identity that would tell its viewers, This is a Samsonov. He decided that if he were to be an artist, his art should be total and personal. To become that total artist, he would dedicate his entire life to his art.

David and Bat Sheva, 2013, 49×59in (125×150cm)

Samsonov graduated from Repin in 1997. His final painting at the academy, which is the equivalent of a master’s thesis (diploma in Russia), was of Pontius Pilatus (known as Pontius Pilate in English) and Jesus in a classical Italian style. It may not have been a very colorful painting, but it had a message, if only by default. In the biblical story, Jesus did not answer Pilatus’s simple question, What is the truth? That Jesus did not answer complicates the entire scene, as it leaves the door open to the thought that he did not know the answer. And did Jesus just not answer the narrow question of whether or not he proclaimed himself King of the Jews? Or was he not answering the universal question, What is the truth? Painting this particular Bible scene was not an original idea of Samsonov’s, as it is a subject painted many times over the years by classical masters and Samsonov’s heroes such as Caravaggio, Ciseri, Tintoretto, Munkácsy, and Bosch. Samsonov’s version is clearly influenced by Nikolai Ge’s take on the subject. Like his idol, van Gogh, Samsonov started his career with unimpressive colors but a special message.

While he was sheltered within the halls and classrooms of the Repin Academy, the entire world around him had been shaking and transforming. The Soviet Union was history, and a new capitalist Russia had emerged. The city in which he lived was once again named Saint Petersburg, and the emerging sense of freedom brought to the surface many new artists. A wave of Russian artists suddenly found themselves creating art within an atmosphere that was, in some ways, reminiscent of the Parisian movement of the latter third of the nineteenth century.

For Samsonov, the first few years after graduation were easy in some ways but very difficult in others. He was finally doing what he wanted to do, and he was doing it professionally. He painted portraits, still lifes, and landscapes on medium-sized canvases and was able to sell them quite easily at moderate prices. These were painted quickly—taking only two or three days to finish—and the demand for them was always there. In fact, he would often sell them before he had even had a chance to photograph them. He had proved to himself (and his father) that he could make a living as a painter.

Samson and Delilah, 2011, 54×61in (137×155cm)

Creation, 2013, 49×47in (125×120cm)

However, this was not the kind of painting career that he had envisioned for himself—very much like his experience with mathematics. It was good practice, and it connected him to the canvas and to the art market. It led to a better understanding of color, and he learned the discipline of working long hours in the studio. Yet this was more merchandising than total art, and he did not feel fulfilled as an artist. He felt that anything he could paint had already been painted by

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