In 1901, the Luxembourg Museum in Paris ordered the five most famous artists, among whom was Pasternak, to paint one painting from Russian life. Pasternak wrote the famous pastel “Tolstoy with his family” in the evening light. Grand Duke George Mikhailovich, seeing it at the exhibition “World of Art”, decided to purchase it for the Museum of Alexander III (now the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg).
Pasternak participated in the first exhibitions of the “World of Art” and was a founding member of the Union of Russian Artists, which with its annual exhibitions (1903–1922) became the center of the artistic life of the country.
In 1921, Pasternak left for Berlin due to deteriorating health. Together with him went his wife and daughters. Sons stayed in Moscow. After the hardships of the military and post-revolutionary years, Pasternak experienced a new upsurge of creative power. Despite not very favorable conditions in a small modest guesthouse, he enthusiastically set to work and soon became familiar with the new artistic atmosphere of Berlin of the 1920s. He painted portraits of many scientists, artists and writers of his time: philologist A. von Harnack, physicist A. Einstein, poet R.M. Rilke, writer G. Hauptmann, artists Lovis Korint and Max Lieberman – to name only some of the world famous names. Among the Russians whom he met and whose portraits were painted in Berlin were A. Remizov, Lev Shestov, S. Prokofiev, diplomat J. Surits and his wife, A. Lunacharsky and N. Rosenel. Interesting cityscapes of Berlin and the surrounding area of Munich, still lifes and interiors with soft evening lighting.
In addition to participating in exhibitions of Secession, Pasternak showed his works in the gallery of V. Hartberg, who arranged his two personal exhibitions in 1927 and 1931. The press and the public enthusiastically reacted to the work of the Russian artist and with increasing interest and attention followed his work.
In 1932, a monograph by Pasternak was published in Berlin with a large article by Max Osborne, the artist’s memoirs on Leo Tolstoy and autobiographical notes (Leonid Pasternak. <Ed. Shtibel’s> Warschau. 1932). Thanks to the perfection of the applied color techniques of reproduction, the author’s proofs and the excellent quality of reproduction, this book is of particular value. Most of the copies were not taken out of the printing house, where it was destroyed in May 1933 during the public burning of the books by the Nazis. The exhibition, which was prepared for the 75th anniversary of the artist, which he was about to transport to Moscow, was also banned.
At the end of the 1930s, the Nazi authorities began to send the Russians alphabetically. Pasternak decided not to wait for his letter, and before returning to Moscow to visit his youngest daughter in London. Pictures of him in boxes from the Soviet embassy in Berlin were sent there too, then to follow to Moscow.
The sudden death of his wife in August 1939 was a blow that stifled his strength. A week after it, the Second World War began. Heartbroken, suffering from angina, Leonid Pasternak survived the war at his daughter in Oxford, where he died on May 31, 1945.
A large number of works by L.O. Pasternak are in museums and private collections in Russia (the State Tretyakov Gallery, the State Russian Museum, the Leo Tolstoy State Museum, the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, and numerous provincial museums). His paintings are also in museums of Europe and America (Musee d’Orsay, Tate Gallery, British Museum, Ashmolean Museum, etc.). Of particular importance is the collection of works by the artist with his grandchildren in England. The manuscripts of his notes and extensive correspondence are also kept there. Based on these materials, his daughter Josephine prepared the book by L. Pasternak “Recordings of Different Years” (Moscow: “Soviet Artist”, 1975).
Pasternak’s papers and drawings are also in the manuscript departments of the listed museums of Russia, RGALI, RSL, NLR, IRLI and family collections of his heirs in Moscow. Several of his posthumous exhibitions in Moscow (1969, 1979, 1990, 2001), as well as in England, Germany and the United States were a great success. Exhibitions were accompanied by the publication of catalogs. A full catalog of the works of the artist of the Russian period was published in Oxford.мм