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Геннадий Добров
Artist Gennady Dobrov
(1937 - 2011)

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Аrtistic biography
1. Preface
2. Childhood
3. The artist in his own words
4. Moscow Secondary Art School (1951-1956)
5. Moscow V.I.Surikov Art Institute (1956-1962)
6. Life lessons (1962-1973)
7. The artist in his wife’s words
8. "Autographs of  War" (1974-1980)
9. The author’s point of view
10. The musings of the artist’s wife
11. Opinions

12. Painting (1980)
13. Perestroika (1986-1990)
14. The 90’s
15. Afghanistan (1989-2001)
16. "The Gallery of  Dead Martyrs" (1997)
17. "The Mentally Ill of Russia " (2002-2004)
18. The last years of  life (2004-2011)
19. Epilogue
20. Afterword
21. Brief artistic biograph

8.  "Autographs of  War" (1974-1980).

"The story about the medals. There was inferno". 
 Bakhchisarai. 1975

"Rest in the way."
Takmyk village of Omsk region. 1975.

 "Russian prophet."
 Tara village of Omsk region. 1975.

"The poet Vyacheslav Ananiev."
Figure G.M.Dobrova. 1993.
(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 —
disabled people meet a decline.
    It happened to you to survive ruthlessly,
a half of having lost.
Above head! Head above!
There was an artist in the doorway!

    He removes the beret wearily.
He magic takes a pencil.
He draws. Eats a little.
He is your brother and the savior of yours.

   Ladoga a small wave splashes.
Silent, he silently gets up.
Your grief later, sobbing, 
he calls
   And, biting into the Moscow everyday life,
as into polar ices the ice breaker,
never he will forget about you — 
about anybody!      
              Vyacheslav Ananyev. 

           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. Forward!"
          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.

Valaam. 1974

From the letters of artist Gennady Dobrov to the wife Lyudmila from the island of Valaam (June-July, 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 here...

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 forgive? "...

29.06.1974.  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...

01.07.1974. ...That 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...
08.07.1974. 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...
17.07.1974. Today 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…
22.07.1974. I 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 drunk men"...
29.07.1974... Some 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 here...

          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.

         "Gennady 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 overcome.
           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 ... callousness.
          It was necessary to relive morally.
          It was in 1979.


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