"The story about the medals. There was inferno".
"Rest in the way." Takmyk village of Omsk region.
"Russian prophet." Tara village of
Omsk region. 1975.
"The poet Vyacheslav Ananiev."
Figure G.M.Dobrova. 1993.
VALAAM GUEST (To the
artist Gennady Dobrov)
Leaf fall... The
turned yellow persons. And again — a leaf
fall, a leaf fall...
It happened to you to come back from war, using
foul language to the twilight inattentively
Leaf fall over the
earth of Valaam.
Flies about a
thoughtful garden of the hospital.
Frames are open —
meet a decline.
It happened to you
to survive ruthlessly,
a half of having
Above head! Head
There was an artist
in the doorway!
He removes the
He magic takes a
He draws. Eats a
He is your brother
and the savior of yours.
Ladoga a small wave
Silent, he silently
Your grief later,
And, biting into
the Moscow everyday life,
as into polar ices
the ice breaker,
never he will
forget about you —
Despite the old
conflict at the institute, Gena continued to call and meet E.Kibrik from time
to time. He was always properly pulled to that uncommon artist. Academician
Kibrik was always interested in a material aspect of life of Gennady,
sometimes he put in his hand five rubles, or a piece butter. And with a great
interest always examined his new drawings. And once, suddenly said:
"Gena, if you managed to get to the island of Valaam and to draw there
disabled veterans - that would be a noise and a thunder in public opinion.
These drawings would pass everywhere. I was there, saw everything, but couldn't
draw, it is not my subject, I am an optimist. And I wish you success.
So on the advice of
the former teacher in the summer of 1974 artist Gennady Dobrov appeared on
the island of Valaam. The first serious independent work began.
He was happy as an
artist. He felt a special mission, drawing the half-forgotten heroes which
feat proceeded in need every day to live without a hand, without a foot,
moving on crutches, on carriages, or in general to reconcile to an
immovability. The island nature emphasized with the magnificence and harmony
was in wild contrast with the destinies broken by the war.
On the island of Valaam. 1974
The island of Valaam.
From the letters of artist Gennady Dobrov to
the wife Lyudmila from the island of Valaam (June-July, 1974)
22.06.1974. I am
drawing the second portrait of the disabled veteran. I go to library, I look
for in award and medal books because he - is a typical Russian Ivan – the
lost and he distributed all he had to children on toys. Here is the place
where Russia is unfortunate! In pure form. Angels, instead of people, in
anybody, not a drop of lie in them, an
open soul. I have already locked doors in the room from inside. They come,
ready to tell me their stories. Both you will cry at ease, and you will laugh
with them. And what songs they sing! I have never heard such, the forgotten
ones, and from where have they taken them? They care about me: they have
carried me on a motor boat to the distant island, I examined there the
collapsed wooden church, a well, the house. You have a book about Valaam. Find
there sacred Ioann Predtechi's island. Predtechensky island. I was there.
Charming beauty. Russia, Henry, Russia is here, Russian land. And you felt it
23.06.1974. I am drawing the disabled person of two
wars - Finnish and Patriotic. He was in Karelia during the Finnish war, he
was wounded, he frozed both feet. He was all the time on the front line in
trenches during the Partiotic. Without one eye, the bullet passed through
both eyes, all injured with bullets and splinters. And his wife when he perished
on "the Nevsky Dubrovka", lived with the Finnish officer during the
war, and now she returns to him. He has got drunk and said: "Would you
Henry! Strange things have happend to
me in Valaam. I come back to the same
subjects which excited me in Moscow.
It is more than that, I can't draw anything else. Thus, Valaam doesn’t represent any interest
in itself for me, it’s all the same where I - in Valaam, or somewhere else. I
can't betray myself. I outlined the
circle, and I can't get out from it.
Cripples, mentally ill people, drunkards and occasionally nature
pictures - thats my "white nights". And nothing else I can draw.
Thus, the water color isn't necessary. Here now there is a lot of artists,
the whole practice from one institute, on all the corners they draw, write.
And I walk with the psychochronicles in my head and I see unfortunate
cripples or drunkards...
night I spent not at home, I went with the disabled person by boat, to the
"sacred" island, there we were all night long, examined the church,
Alexander Svirsky's cave and his grave in which he slept every night. I was
sitting for a long time in his cave and thought of him. He lived on the
island for 33 years alone, having vowed silence for the sin...
02.07.1974. ... But
your help is necessary. Here live the Ivans and the Marias. They fought
during the war, were awarded but couldn’t keep them. Who spent them on
drinks, who on "flashes”, some of them were stolen. In short, nobody has
anything. Go, my friend, to military bookstore and ask for the book "The
Awards", "The awards, medals and badges of the USSR of the period
of the Great Patriotic war". If you find them, please, buy and send them
to me. There is a military unit, but they
have no such information, I have already asked...
... There is a very
beautiful cross hangs over my table with ancient letters. And over a bed
there is Madonna with the Christ (photo) hangs in a self-made frame (the
disabled person who died, himself did them). On the shelf - lilies of the
valley, stones, moss, bark of trees. On the table - the Finnish Gospel. In
one word - a cell. And even ceilings with the arches. So I live...
04.07.1974 ... I am
drawing the third portrait, but unexpectedly the light turned off, and the
work stopped for several hours. Last year the light was disconnected there from 12 to 17 daily. And
this year only for the second time. It is darkly to draw at a daylight as
there is rain and fog in the street. Everybody wears rubber boots, sweaters
and weatherprooflackets. Nobody here
bathe or sunbathe. It is very seldom the day is fine, usually it rains
and there are deep fogs. There are such fogs that nothing visible in 3
meters. Our cathedral isn't visible even in the yard.
... It frightens me
that you are so afraid of any sufferings, and so diligently fenced off from
them. Here I carry on a carriage patients to a bath, I wash them hands
and back, I drag them, move them,
carry on a carriage, help them how I can, than I can, and I disdain
nothing. I also eat with them. And all these frightens you… The cynical
company is more lovely to you, with coquettes at work you find a common
language, and with the Russian people, with sufferers who fought for us and
who were spoiled by war - with them you disdain to meet, you are afraid to
disturb the nervous system...
05.07.1974 ... It
rains cats and dogs, the light has been switching off for 5 days. I’m sitting in the darkness. Work has been
broken... Today they buried the disabled person, he died in the bathroom. I
was on the cemetery, they buried him in rain and dirt. Such the end...
Tomorrow, if there is no rain, I will go and carry to the cemetery in Sortavala
the model. I’ll go there on her money as I haven’t my own. But she wants so.
I’ve practically finished her portrait. It will be the third one. I’ve made
three portraits and 30 drawings in within a month, one drawing a day. I don’t
read anything and I don't walk. It is cold here. It rains and damp. The sky
is in clouds...
I’ve started to draw the disabled person, the psychochronicle, on the
Nikolsky island. I’am drawing just in chamber where 5 more psichochronicles
look from their beds at me at work, only they can't get up and tell me
something - so weak and sick they are. After work I went to a forest area by
bicycle. I didn't even think that I ride so badly, several times I fell down
from the bicycle, but the road was crude; mountains and holes and pools... Time
flies as an arrow in July. Days flash one by one. They feed badly here. Meat
is rotten (I don't eat soup). And for the second course - porridge, for
breakfast and dinner - porridge. Everything has become loathsome. But I work here
surprisingly easily and well. It is my island...
20.07.1974. ... I
don't know, whether you have prayed for me or not. But only I’ve begun and
finished drawing of the disabled person on the Nikolsky island within two and
a half days. I consider it as a big success, both on time, and what I’ve
drawn. Today I yawn the whole day and want to sleep. Evidently it is a
discharge after tension in work on that island where everything is so unusual
- sad, ridiculous, and terrible...
Now I will start
working again over my "troublemaker" as I’ve nicknamed him for
restless and eccentrical character. But now I am quiet because one drawing is
made, and this troublemaker will be the second, and I have 20 more days. I
will quite manage to make two more drawings. I’ve received a letter from the
father - works over the Lenin subject and is very happy about that. He found
himself. Eventually, the main thing for each artist is to find himself, his
subject and possible quietly and long work over it with pleasure…
carried the model Sima Komissarova on July 8 to the cemetery in Sortavala, I
carried her carriage on a dirty road for 8 km to the cemetery and 8 km back.
And now Yura Pisarev (from the Nikolsky island) asks me to take him to Kemeri
(16 km from Sortavala) to his sick sister in psychiatric hospital for 2 days.
And I can't refuse though the management can not resolve. The other Yura, who
is paralyzed, asks to bore him to the wood on an ant hill (once I carried him
on my back and he still wants). I carry patients to a bath and from it, as a
servant. Everybody is surprised by me, they say that have seen such a man for
the first time. Artist, intellectual, and at the same time such an idle man.
One drunk disabled person said: "Thanks for attention to people".
Everybody suggests me to drink 10 times a day... but I refuse... After all
this island is a sacred one...
25.07.1974 ... I’ve
finished the 5th portrait, of this "troublemaker". On our last
sessions he arranged "dancing with an axe and whistle under a dialect of
days (evenings) I spent on the Nikolsky island among psikhokhroniks. I
carried my friend Yura Pisarev on a carriage to the street. Neither his
hands, nor feet move. I brought a carriage on the Nikolsky island, and he
moved in a carriage, and then I carried him to church. There we were sitting
and looking at the sunset. The sun doesn't escape in the lake as in June
(there are clouds all the time). And then I carried him back to chamber. And
once I came to him by boat; first we took him out on a carriage, then on
hands over the cool rocky coast lowered him in the boat. And the same way
back. We swam on the lake by boat, and talked… He is the cleverest one
4 portraits were
made in Valaam. One of them, the most tremendous, - "The Unknown
Soldier": broad man's face and accurate envelope from a blanket,
covering what has to be a body. The secret of his life is hidden in deep dark
eyes. He is contused and can't speak. He can't do anything. He can only look.
Nobody knows either his name, or a surname...
Impressions of Valaam
were so strong and bright that many years later Gennady described them in a
sketch in the "Moskovsky Hudozhnik”
The artist created
the War Autographs series for 7 years. He was in about 20 houses - boarding
schools in different regions of the Soviet Union - from the Crimea and
Armenia to Karelia and Sakhalin. 36 big drawings made sharply psychological
gallery of contemporaries, heroes and victims of military hard times.
Dobrov. An artist who had the courage for a hard work – to trouble people’s
memory about enormous war crimes, who dared to let through his heart all the
miseries that befell the war veterans… The first graphic work - a portrait of
the future series "War Autographs" was created in 1974. Dobrov
hurried - the third and fourth decade after the war for many disabled people
became a limit boundary which the covered with wounds organism can’t
Extreme degree of
nakedness of Dobrov’s graphic sheets discourages. Naturalism? No. In each
work there is a keynote generalizing natural impression. The
Portraits-documentary sketches turn into the portrait-symbols. The indignant
protest of the artist against wars – past, present and future wars – may be
ranked together with "Kaprichos" by Francisco Goya, "Guernica"
by Pablo Picasso, "The Blind leading the Blind” by Picter Bruegel, "War
Apotheosis” by Vasily Vereschagin.
(The preface to the
album "War Autographs" in 3 languages, published by Novosti Press Agency in 1988)
At the reception to the
Union of Artists his works were highly appreciated by professionals. Dmitry
Zhilinsky noted the unknown force of influence of his portraits on the viewer.
In 1974 the artist became the member of the graphic section of МОСХа (The Moscow Union of Artists).
But then the
inexplicable began. As a rule, works were accepted to the exhibition, were
printed in the catalog list, but... weren't hung out. The artist wasn't able
to defend his participation at big exhibitions. But when he tried to make the
personal exhibition, he received flat refusal and rigid charges in...
pleasure by uglinesses, in... perverted consciousness of willows, and in ...
It was necessary to
relive morally. It was in 1979.