Oleg Chistyakov


Oleg Chistyakov

Oleg V. Chistyakov was born in Moscow on March 18, 1922. He began studying art as a school boy in 1938 at the children's studio V. Ts. S. P. S., where lessons were conducted by Evgeniia Emel'yanova Rozhkova. By 1940, he had enrolled in the Art Institute in Honor of the Revolution of 1905. He studied under the Professor Lev Il'icha Aranov. During the war years Chistyakov worked in a factory, and in 1943 he enrolled in the Moscow Art Institute (Surikov Institute). As a student, Oleg regarded his work seriously, he did not go directly to the "head of the class" of the future leading artists of the time, and he never aspired to shine. But his Professor, the infamous Sergei Gerasimov, praised Chistyakov for his delicate sense of color, and his classmates valued his modesty and persistence. In 1950 he finished the Institute, and two years later he began to teach at the Textile Institute, which, thanks to A. V. Kuprin and A. A. Federov-Davydov, was brought to the forefront as one of the best centers of learning for aspiring painters, and diligently maintained this reputation. He taught at the Textile Institute for more than 30 years. Many famous textile artists, tapestry artists, and fashion designers studied under Chistyakov, including Liudmila Golub, Al'bina Voronkova, Valentina Platonova, and Vycheslav Zaitsev. Chistyakov became an assistant professor in 1964 and remained in this position until 1982, when he surrendered himself completely to painting. To this day, painting remains the central theme of his life.

Exhibitions partial list

Awards:(partial list)

Granted membership to the Artists' Guild of the USSR, 1955
Recognized as "Veteran of Work", 1982

Additional Information:

(taken from a biography written for a Russian exhibit of his works)

A Chistyakov painting, surprisingly un-garish and unpretentious, doesn't radiate any sort of wish to be out of the ordinary, to surprise. It feels sufficient to be seen in the exhibit, experience it, stand in front of the paintings and contemplate and live the experiences of the artist. These days, one overhears a sufficient number of conversations about the "un-vain" painting, with an attack, either obvious or hidden, on the exhibits of the young artists, with their garish, bright, provocative colors and placard-like conventionality. But certainly one can understand the young artists who, facing today's stiff competition, fight to attract the attention of both the art patrons and those who are organizing the exhibits. At the same time, a similar battle is being fought by those who are coldly looking askance at these young artists. The affected beauty of composition and the strokes of a paintbrush, as well as the alluring names of the paintings which hint at some sort of depth of thought which is accessible only to the enlightened, and the poses with their unblemished purity of the patriarchal past...all these are inseparably linked.

In contrast, the work of Oleg Chistyakov is, for our day, strikingly free of any kind of display of vanity, conformity, or battle for an audience. In his paintings, there are only two aspects: steady conversant: nature and the artist, opening up to one another. Their conversation is not sullied by artificial dissonance, and yet it never echoes an overly sweet idyll, for which many have a weakness nowadays. Chistyakov's art is too sincere, too straight from the heart to fall into this. I would even say that it is open-hearted, if only this beloved word of Aleksandr Pushkin's didn't summon to our minds images of certain refinements "not of this world." But the art of Chistyakov-- it is unquestionably of this world, of our time, from the real earth, from living nature and from genuine, unadorned cities, towns, villages, side-streets and courtyards. It is notable, and even unusual, that neither the beauty nor the lack thereof of these completely ordinary scenes is highlighted in any way. One could almost say that there is "no concept." But there is a concept, a central idea: the poetry of reality, and we are completely unaccustomed to this kind of poetry.

I don't think that every pleasure-inducing rapturous creation is definitely purely decorative. Likewise I don't think that every work of art which is not full of beauty unnecessarily besmirches the landscape. But Chistyakov somehow manages without beauty and without ugliness, although he paints the same subjects as many artists and does not actively seek the un-experienced and unseen. And he goes places where many have gone before: to Suzdal' and Bukhar, to Kargopol' and Tbilisi, to Echmiadzin and Pereslavl'-Zaleskii, painting sufficiently well-known places. If there is something that is unusual in all of this, then it is his total trust of his eye and of his senses.

Oleg Chistyakov is an artist of the Moscow School, bringing to his audience its traditional qualities: an ability to observe that is modest, an attention to the intrinsic beauty of nature, old Russian architecture and an un-garish style, sensitive to shades of color and light. It is true that now it is common to talk about the Moscow School with a slight tear in one's eye and pressure, in a raised tone of voice, and in the paintings that which is said in this raised tone is apparent: hidden allusions are everywhere, a symbolic under text is prevalent, embellishment, and stylization and rhythmic repetition are ubiquitous. I can say that, in short, the love of the effects of style of the young painters is not apparent from either Sergei Gerasimov or Nikolai Krymov. Incidentally, the love of works by Savrasov or Rerikh, Konstantin Korovin or Khodler, Levitan or Bogaevskii, the love of things Muscovite, should not be determined by the artist's declaration of affiliation. But the works of Chistyakov, while they are very much Muscovite, are Muscovite without needing to declare it. Rather, Chistyakov is innately Muscovite, with all his being.

Other aspects of his life are likewise connected to painting. There were journeys to nearby places-- Tarus, Borovsk, Verbilki, and sometimes farther--to Kareliya, Valdai, Staraya Ladoga, the Crimea, the Caucuses, the Middle East...but all of his landscapes are devoid of a sense of "exotica." In Bukhal or in the paintings of alleys of old Tbilisi, Chistyakov looks at the scene with the same serene and attentive angle as is seen in depictions of the barns of Tarus or Pereslavl'-Zalesski. One could think that he lived for decades by Chor-Minor or Ripsime, having grown accustomed to its quirks, its striking silhouettes, just as he would portray the shores of his familiar Yauza or the walls of old Arbat.

The entirety of a painted work is often derived from one idea, in which the imagination contemplates divergent points, but the experienced hand more or less unites them with a conditioned, intuitive ability. The paintings of Chistyakov don't fit into this mold, as the artist sees the entirety of his canvas both as a big picture and as details, in delicate variations of tone, in contrasts and in nuances. There are countless ways to fashion a given painting: the stroke of a paintbrush, a contrast of color, an arrangement of shades. Chistyakov doesn't incline towards any single one of these; rather he observes how the light and shadows are distributed, how the nuances of color are expressed on each surface, which in turn has its own color and texture. This method requires more, a constant effort by the artist, a large self-control and determination, not allowing himself to simplify the task before him. In this way the artistic creation doesn't have a previously-decided compositional scheme, a "framework," a role already laid out, with of course the fabricated verticals and horizontals--trees, bell towers, roofs, but rather the basic concept of the entire canvas appears as an airy environment, saturated with light, breathing, moving, contained by no borders.

Oleg Chistyakov's artistic method, approaches impressionism, but the lessons he learned are not guided just by the experience of the Russian and Soviet landscape, the Russian Artists' Guild, or the Sergei Gerasimov School. More strongly represented is the general presentation of the country and of the land, and the expression of the subject matter becomes correspondingly stronger, of the objective world, of the ties between the objective world and its environment. These concerns about the unity of a painting, about the unity of the elements of a person's surroundings (with contrasts of friable land or snow, a dense rock and translucent greenery), about the unity of airy and light environments (with all the nuances of weather, season, and time of day), about the unity of all the artistic tones, working together (with accents of blue sky, grasses and trees, walls and cupolas)--all these in their entirety occupy the artist's attention. Therefore in a landscape painting there is a feeling of a spiritual, airy environment, of land and houses, trees and water, floating in light and air, but all these are in and of themselves sufficiently traditional and are urged forward with a motivation for success in the realm of exhibitions. Artists are contending with one another for the public's support, for control of the artistic life. The poetry of Chistyakov's landscapes is in his sense of life, of nature, of its changing quality, of breathing, of the constant inner movement and development, forever changing the harmony of color, the delicate shades of light. This lends itself to a diversity of tonality--dense, sultry, and sweet in his Crimean scenes; fresher and more prosaic, with a touch of delicate blueness, in his scenes of the Russian North; a bit dim, always covered in a dusty fog as in the paintings of the Middle East. There are a few paintings that are more traditional, but often not by special design. The canvases of Chistyakov overall resemble more a few large studies on location, which underscores the absence of interest towards an emphasized structure, towards a beautifully and skillfully commanded stroke of the paintbrush, towards the special effects of the painting. There is nothing in his paintings except a dialogue between Truth and Art.

What formed Chistyakov's character? The inner persistence under an external softness? Earnestly having absorbed the lessons of the art institute, having firmly found his footing and driving other, more alluring, possibilities away? The long pedagogical practicum, which removed the artist from the vanity of the world of exhibitions? Surely all this has been suggested, but it's necessary to further suggest that instinct was more important, guiding him along the path of a difficult search for pure, artistic truth. From here there is a strange combination of naivety and wisdom, incomprehensible when you see just one painting, and striking when you see the whole collection of works.

Oleg Chistyakov is a landscape painter. The only thematic painting he ever did was for his thesis, although he produced a sufficiently large number of still lifes. They are beautiful, more artistically and carefully rendered, and they look better among their fellow paintings at an exhibit of multiple artists, but for this very reason you don't find in them the sense of surprising demandingness of itself or that battle with the ocean of painting challenges, which create the uniqueness of his paintings. They are better among other still lives which have more interesting space and air, although artists rarely have interesting scenes. Also rare are the portraits, although of course Chistyakov had experience with them, and some of the women's and children's faces reflect the artist's delicacy of feeling and his tenderness.