In 1920s and early 1930s Uzbekistan saw the emergence of a unique cohort of artists whose names are now associated with the notion of Central Asian vanguard. The art of that time represents one of the remarkable pages in the history of the national painting of Uzbekistan. Many pieces created by the artists of that period are known by publications in albums, monographs and articles written by art historians. Yet the largest number of unique pieces created during that period is kept in museum collections in Uzbekistan, and more detailed study thereof is one of the current objectives of the present-day art history.
The purpose of this article is to give an idea about 1920-1930 paintings kept in the stock of the State Art Museum of Uzbekistan, which remained understudied, unnoticed by academic literature and basically un-exhibited in any museum expositions. These can be divided into two groups: paintings wrought in the tradition of Russian/European culture proper; and paintings in which artists try to synthesize the traditions of European and Oriental art. Canvases of the former group are stored mainly in the Nukus State Art Museum named after I. V. Savitskiy and are fairly well known to the public. Most works from the latter group are in stock of the State Art Museum of Uzbekistan and seldom exhibited.
These include many paintings and graphic art by A. Volkov, one of the founders of the national art school of Uzbekistan, who argued that aesthetic meaning in oriental carpets is infinite and desired to blend the language of modern art with the stylistics of oriental ornament. In the 1920-1930 the artist created canvases such as “Self-portrait”, “Mountain landscape”, “Factory Workers” (this piece requires restoration as do many other of his paintings), “A Blue Day”, “Construction of a Brick Factory”, and “Casting at Agricultural Machinery Plant”. These works have never been exhibited and certainly deserve an academic research as they reveal completely unknown aspects in the painter’s art.
The Savitskiy Museum in Nukus keeps a significant portion of paintings created by M. Kurzin, and the State Art Museum of Uzbekistan also has got his works. However, the museum does not exhibit paintings that would properly represent Kurzin’s art. The museum stock also has his works such as “The Chef’s Portrait”, “The Portrait of Uspenskiy”, “The Team of Firemen”, “Red Tea-House”, “The Group Portrait of Workers”, etc. Every image created by Kurzin stands out by its vivid character and individuality. The artist skillfully communicates the inner world and psychology of his models.
The State Art Museum of Uzbekistan keeps the only painting by Vladimir Ufimtsev “The Priests of Arts” performed in a light, humorous key. It may be classified as belonging to the first group. The same museum stock also keeps the works by Ural Tansykbaev – both small studies and large paintings. Items created during the period in question testify to the creative potential of their author, which was vividly manifested in the years to follow. Tansykbaev’s canvases reflect the artist’s style chosen at the early stages in his artistic career. Refined inborn sense of colour and form enabled Tansykbaev to quickly master the principles of vanguard. It should be noted that the artist’s large-scale works kept in the State Art Museum are little known to the public and have never been published.
These are “Casting” and “Factory Workers” that reveal new aspects in Tansykbaev’s early art. We know that in 1930s the artist mainly focused on studies, therefore the large-form pieces dating to the same period we discovered bring some adjustments to the way his art can be characterized. In these works one can find that the artist was mastering new painting principles and experimenting with painting space in bright colours key. Restoration and subsequent exposition of these paintings would enable one to revaluate Tansykbaev’s contribution to the development of the national art school of Uzbekistan in early 20th century.
Works by O. Tatevosyan performed in Samarqand in 1920s-1930s require a separate academic research. His art has not yet been properly studied by art historians. In the pieces wrought by the artist during that time one can see a great diversity of techniques and style solutions – impressionistic, decorative, etc. The examples can be “The Harvesting of Mulberries”, “The Banishing of Genie” and “Samarqand Landscapes” series. More in-depth study of Tatevosyan’s works would help reveal the importance of Samarqand painting school in a different historical and art format.
In the fine arts of Uzbekistan the interest towards the art of early last century is caused by the uniqueness of plastic solutions found by the artists of that time who made a great contribution to the treasury of not only national, but also global art of the 20th century.