Artist Spotlight - Yuri Petrovich Kugach


Yuri P. Kugach

Yuri Petrovich Kugach- (1917- present)

Yuri Petrovich Kugach was born March 21, 1917 in the Old Russian city of Suzdal, located in the Vladimir region. In 1931 his studies in art began at the "1905" Moscow Art School. In 1934 the school established a painting department which afforded Yuri the opportunity to study under the great master Nikolai Petrovich Krymov. In 1936 Yuri moved on to study at the Moscow Art Institute (known today as the Surikov). Once in attendance at the Institute, Kugach skipped directly to the second year and studied under the highly revered I.E. Grabar and S.V. Gerasimov. While studying painting at the Surikov, Yuri fell in love with one of his fellow classmates Olga Grigoryevna Svetlichnaya. In 1937 the two exquisite artists were married. The couple was blessed in 1939 with a son Mikhail, who would later carry on the artistic tradition of his parents. In 1942 Yuri graduated from the Institute and from 1948 to 1951 he taught at the Surikov. In 1943 Yuri Kugach and 11 other academically accomplished artists (including his wife Olga Svetichnaya) were evacuated to Samarkand, Uzbekistan for the duration of the war. It looked like Moscow might fall to the Germans so the Soviet government decided to evacuate their most promising artists who they saw as cultural assets.

After 1950, Yuri and Olga moved to the countryside of the Tver region. The couple lived in close proximity to the Academicheskaya Dacha (House of Artists of Russia). Numerous famous artists, including Repin and Levitan, were notorious for visiting and painting this beautiful countryside. Scenes of village and family life became the predominant subject of both Yuri and Olga's work. They were driven by the principle that "[art] is only strong when it is national" and a nation is made up of its people. What better way to create works of national eminence than to depict the nation's people. The decision to take up residence in the country was also to allow his wife to paint beautiful works unfettered by the commercial world.
Yuri loved his wife dearly and valued her painting as high, if not higher than, his own. Their son Mikhail remembers his father saying that he would play the career enhancing political games. He would become famous and earn the family income so that his wife could spend her life just painting great paintings. After the war, Yuri was honored with a teaching and tutoring position at the Academicheskaya Dacha School for artists. Yuri is the founder and a member of the Moscow River School, a school steeped in the academic tradition. Great emphasis lies on capturing a sense of atmosphere as well as the accurate depiction of space.

The art of Kugach is deeply rooted in the traditions of Russian realistic painting. Simple in subject matter, the paintings are highly meaningful. The painter has been able to discern in village life the integral fusion of the traditional Russian mode of living with that of our time, imparting social significance to each episode of private existence. He often paints old people whom he views as bearers of wisdom, or women, families and children - the source and roots of human life.

Kugach was awarded People's Artist of the USSR, and was a full member of the USSR Academy of Arts. He was a Winner of the USSR State Prize and Winner of the Repin State Prize of RSFSR.

His works can now be found in the Tretyakov Gallery, the State Museum of Art of the Uzbek SSR, the art museums in Gorky, Sumy, Rostov, Irkutsk, Kharkov, and Lvov. They are also in the Art Museum of the Turkmen SSR, the Kazakh SSR and Tyumen region Picture Galleries and those in Astrakhan and Odessa, the Republican United Museum of the Tadzhik SSR, the Taganrog Museum of Local Lore, the Museum of Russian Art Kiev, the Altai Museum of Local lore.

One of the primary messages he impressed upon his students was "Do not repeat our mistakes". Yuri Kugach is recognized in Russia as one of the top 50 greatest artists of the 20th century.

Awards: (partial list)
• Russia's artist-statesman, 1963
• Gold medal of the USSR Academy of Arts in 1966
• People's Artist of the USSR
• the USSR State Prize
• the Repin State Prize

Exhibitions: (partial list)
Every major All-Union exhibit since 1943
Has exhibited internationally in places such as India, China, Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, France, Singapore, Finland, Switzerland, Great Britain, and Japan

Collections: Yuri Kugach has over 100 paintings in Russia's Museums, including:
His work is on permanent display at the New Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow
Tretyakov Gallery (Museum)
State Museum of Art of the Uzbek SSR,
Museums in Gorky, Rostov, Irkutsk, Kharkov, Kiev, & Lvov
Nizhni-Novgorod Art Museum
-In the Family (First Steps), 1969, Oil on Canvas, 55 x 63 in.
Regional Art Gallery, Tver
-Saturday Evening, 1964, Oil on Canvas, 130 x 200 cm.
Russia Artists' Union
-Wedding, 2000, Oil on Canvas, 185 x 320 cm.
Russian Museum, St. Petersburg
-Hostess, 1970, Oil on Canvas, 140 x 110 cm.
Sumi Art Museum
-Before the Holiday, 1962, Oil on Canvas, 49 x 75 in.
State Art Museum of the Altai Region, Barnaul
-Moscow Street in XVII Century, 1950's, Oil on Canvas, 130 x 170 cm.
State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
-Before Dancing, 1961, Oil on Canvas, 160 x 290 cm.
Tver Picture Gallery
-On Saturday, 1964, Oil on Canvas, 51 x 79 in.
RSFSR Ministry of Culture, Moscow
-Mistress of the House, 1970, Oil on Canvas, 140 x 110 cm.

Artist's Thoughts:
"Do not repeat our mistakes."
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