Evgeny Viktorovich Vuchetich. Soviet sculpture.
In the center of Berlin, in Treptow Park, where the fraternal cemetery of soldiers of the Soviet Army, who died in battles against fascism, is located, a huge bronze monument of the Soviet soldier-liberator towers. In his right hand is a sword, dissecting a fascist swastika lying at his feet, on his left hand he carefully holds a rescued child. This statue has received worldwide recognition. It personifies the image of the Soviet Army, which defeated Hitler’s fascism. The author of this remarkable monument is Evgeny Viktorovich Vuchetich.
Vuchetich’s career began in the second half of the 1930s, but his talent became especially versatile in the post-war period.
Vuchetich was born on December 28, 1908 in Yekaterinoslav (Dnepropetrovsk). The future sculptor spent his early childhood in the Caucasus, not far from the city of Grozny, where his father, a mining engineer, worked in the oil fields.
Interest in sculpture from Vuchetich manifested from childhood. With great enthusiasm, he sculpted figurines of various animals from the breadcrumb and plasticine. Parents, having discovered his son’s passion, encouraged him in every way.
Soon after the Great October Socialist Revolution, Vuchetich and his family moved to Rostov-on-Don.
An indelible impression on a twelve-year-old boy was made by events connected with the capture of Rostov in 1920 by the troops of the First Cavalry Army. Lively, sociable and inquisitive, Yevgeny heard stories about the war, about the valiant commanders K.Ye. Voroshilov and S.M. Budyonny. The romance of the civil war, which deeply captured him, was reflected in the first youthful works of a novice sculptor.
Being engaged in high school, Vuchetich gave all his free time to modeling. Friends, seeing the boy’s abilities, told the mother that there was an art school in the city, where Vuchetich was admitted in 1926. It must be said that the Rostov art school preserved and developed the traditions of Russian realistic art. The sculptor recalls with great warmth and gratitude the school leader A. S. Chinenov, a former ascetic, and the painting teacher A. I. Mukhin. These little-known artists, but excellent teachers were able to instill in Vuchetich a love of realistic art, and they brought up will and perseverance in him. At school, Vuchetich works with great enthusiasm. Not content with classes in the steppes of the school, he receives additional instructions by visiting Chinenov and Mukhin at home. Already during this period the range of themes and subjects of the sculptor is determined. He is mainly attracted by events from the times of the civil war, with which he meets the stories of demobilized Red Army men from the First Cavalry Army, who remained to live in Rostov. He is interested in the image of battles, swiftly galloping horsemen. In the early student work already has a strong temperament of the sculptor, the desire to convey the romance and life expression of the events depicted.
In 1930, Vuchetich graduated from the Rostov art school. As a thesis, he performed a life-size sculpture group depicting a sailor on a rearing horse firing at the enemy. Vuchetichu still lacked skill, much of his work was imperfect, naive, but the work captured emotional tension, sincerity of feeling. This is his first independent work was acquired by the North Caucasus Museum of the Revolution.
Feeling the need to continue his professional education, Vuchetich enters the Leningrad Academy of Arts in 1931. He hoped to gain knowledge gained earlier in the art school, skills of realistic craftsmanship to deepen serious and hard study. However, during this period, the Academy of Arts was strongly influenced by formalism. The original school for Vuchetich was the Leningrad art museums and numerous classical monuments of Russian sculpture and architecture, which he eagerly and inquisitively studied, admiring the skill of sculptors and architects of the XVIII-XIX centuries. But in Leningrad Vuchetich did not stay long. Soon he left the Academy and in 1933 returned to Rostov. By this time, enormous changes had taken place in Soviet art, events of exceptional importance.
The decree of the Central Committee of the VKP (b) of April 23, 1932 “On the restructuring of literary and artistic organizations” established new organizational forms of artistic activity in our country and determined the main requirement for Soviet art workers — active participation in socialist construction. During this period, Stalin characterized the creative method of Soviet literature and art as a method of socialist realism. Stalin called the writers the engineers of human souls, emphasizing the enormous role of literature and art in the communist education of the working people. The method of socialist realism opened up unprecedented creative growth prospects for Soviet artists.In Rostov-on-Don, Vuchetich immediately found himself at the center of social and creative life. He is elected chairman of the local union of artists, participates in the design of decorative sculptures of buildings under construction in the city. For the new hotel “Rostov”, he, together with a team of sculptors, performs great relief; in the park of the theater named after A. M. Gorky, constructed by the project of famous architects V.A. Shchuko and V.G. Gelfreikh, makes a fountain. These works gave a lot of creative skills to the young sculptor. Here, for the first time, he faced the problem of the synthesis of arts, the connection between sculpture and architecture. Vuchetich was greatly assisted by local architects and especially those who came to Rostov Shuko and Gelfreykh, whose valuable practical instructions helped the sculptor in his subsequent artistic activities.
In 1935, on the advice of Shuko, he moved to Moscow, where in this period there was a grand construction, carried out according to Stalin’s plan for the reconstruction of the capital. Vuchetich comes first to the construction of the hotel “Moscow”, and then the USSR State Library named after V. I. Lenin. The sculptor persistently continues to improve their professional skills.
“All the time after the Academy I learned to make a hand, make a head, make a person,” recalls Vuchetich.
The cooperation of the young sculptor with such major architects as Shuko and Gelfreich was exceptionally beneficial. In his autobiography, Vuchetich made a significant confession: “In general, if you look back to see how your studies went, I would have to say that a lot of knowledge came from architecture. It seems to me that none of the sculptors of my age worked with such a large number of architects, and with architects, as they say, of the highest class. ”
Working after arriving in Moscow in various art organizations, including directing experimental workshops of the Construction Management of the Palace of Soviets, Vuchetich simultaneously begins to speak at exhibitions and participate in competitions for the design of monuments. The sculptor again addresses the themes of civil war.
In 1936, Vuchetich performed a small sculpture depicting K. Ye. Voroshilov on horseback, delivering a speech in front of the units of the First Army of the First Drop. The work was exhibited at the exhibition of Moscow sculptors. The desire to reveal in the image of the heroic features characteristic of the further work of Vuchetich begins to be felt in the works of this period. In this regard, the sculptural figure “Partizanka” is particularly revealing – a peasant girl patriot, with a grenade in her hand, carefully sneaking into the enemy’s lair to deliver an unexpected blow. According to the sculptor, the idea of creating the image of the heroine girl was suggested to him by the famous film “Chapaev”. “Partizanka” was shown at the Paris World Exhibition in 1937.
As a portrait painter, Vuchetich first spoke at an exhibition of Moscow sculptors in 1940. The portrait of the art historian M. V. Babenchikov (1939) attracted the attention of the artistic public. This work showed Vuchetich a sharp and observant portrait painter. True, the sculptor still accentuates the external physical features of the depicted, but along with the transfer of individual facial features, he seeks to reveal the psychology of the person being portrayed. Among his early works, the portrait of the architect Gelfreich and especially the portrait of Academician A. D. Speransky, especially in marble, stand out.
In the prewar years, Vuchetich successfully participated in a number of competitions. Two versions of the tombstone project for the architect V. A. Shchuko, made by the sculptor together with the architects A. P. Velikanov and A. F. Khryakov, were awarded the first and second prizes. The first prize was awarded to his project of a monument to the hero of the civil war G. I. Kotovsky for the city of Chisinau (1940). Projects have not been implemented since the Great Patriotic War.
Describing the first, pre-war period of Vuchetich’s creativity – the period of mastering the skill, persistent searches of his path – it should be noted that in his early works the sculptor did not penetrate deep enough into the psychology of the characters.