Many outstanding painters, sculptors, architects, and art historians have studied at the St. Petersburg Academy of Art, which walls witnessed many personal histories. It’s worth remembering for the rest of your life. The atmosphere of the Academy evokes such recollections. It often happens when I immerse in the recollections of those people who is not alive, walking along the long Academy’s corridors with arched ceilings: at the moment when I start looking at the photos of the Academy’s professors, which are placed on the walls. When I walk to my workplace, listening to the resonating sounds of my steps, I come to realize all significance of these personalities, the people, who leave a mark in the history of our Alma Mater. Many generations of the graduates are grateful to these people for the knowledge they passed on.
Alexander Leonidovich Korolev, my tutor and the professor of drawing, is one of them. When I was a student, he worked in the Andrei Andreevich Mylnikov’s studio as a teacher of drawing. His lessons, as well as the teachings of Andrei Andrei Andreevich, have become for me, invaluable assets, which I use throughout my conscious life as an artist.
I got to know about Alexander Leonidovich in 1979. At that time, we were very young and enthusiastic people, who set ambitious goals, being eager to overcome all difficulties and enter the Repin Art Institute which has always been called the Academy of Arts. Then many young people come to the Academy from everywhere, from all corners of our country which had vast territories those years, including the lands of all the former republics of the Soviet Union. For some of them, it was the first time experience when they have to prepare for dealing with the tough entrance examinations, while others had already had the negative experience of the failure. That’s why we decided to go all lengths to organize the preparation process.
At that time, it was quite a complicated problem, because there weren’t any official preparatory courses. Viacheslav Danilov was the person who propelled the idea of organizing such courses; we totally relied on him. He had been living in Leningrad for a few years, so he had some experience and organizational skills. As a graphic designer, he worked in one of the offices and was provided by his organization with a room where he lived. By using good connections among the administration of his office, he reached an agreement, according to which we could rent a few rooms in the building waiting for the repairing work and whose residents had been provided with the new accommodation. It might be for the Soviet mismanagement or the unjustified extravagance that the city authorities preferred to turn a blind eye to the facts like this. Nevertheless, we were lucky to have a place for our studies. All necessary facilities were functioning: water supply, electricity, engineering and heating system. The latter was precisely the facility we needed the most. If we have heating system functioning, it is the guarantee that the models who posed and to whom we have to pay wouldn’t quit their job. On the contrary, they felt quite comfortable. Later we decided to invite more attendees for the financial reasons.
To find out the potential students for the newly-founded courses, Slava Danilov mentioned above, got permission from V. I. Statsenko, the executive secretary of the Repin Art Institute Acceptance board to be present at his meetings with people who were about to decide whether or not to apply for the entrance exams. Those, young people, showed Vladimir Ivanovich their homework, asking him for advice, hadn’t been the applicants, though. For some people, in his opinion, it would be better to submit their homemade artworks to the acceptance board and wait for the official permission to take the entrance exams. For others, the best option would be not to apply for the Academy exams. There were quite a few people, talented and suitable for this educational institution, but they weren’t trained enough to pass the entrance exams that year, and therefore, those people were invited to attend our courses.
After all, we got through everything: we found the premises and agreed with the models. And finally, we had to find a teacher. Undoubtedly, it was Vladimir Ivanovich Statsenko, who became our mentor; now it is working in our Institute as an associate professor.
Thanks to Vladimir Ivanovich, the newly opened classes drew attention of many potential hopefuls very soon. We had many talks about art, as well as on how the real artist should think about their creativity and everyday life. From him, I got to know about Alexandr Leonidovich Korolev. Vladimir Ivanovich was a sage person: he had never interfered in the work of his student and always tried to make the students find a solution to their problem by themselves. It often happens in real life: if you want to persuade your partner to do something do it in such a way as convincing them that it is their idea, not yours; and not in a preaching or humiliating manner.
In that way, we were taught drawing. Vladimir Ivanovich tried to give us the material in the most convincing way, explaining by his words, supporting his explanations by schemes, which were drawn aside, in the margins of our drawings. He told later that Korolev’s method was the most preferable teaching method for him.
The next acquaintance, yet distant with Alexander Leonidovich Korolev and his method was made when I was the student of the Repin Art Institute, studying at the B.M.Lavrenko’s and G.I.Manasherov’s studios.
Between my current classes, I dropped in the A. A. Mylnikyv’s studio to see how the senior students were working on their tasks. What I liked the most was visiting the midterm exhibitions and learning from the works of senior students. I found out many useful things to take into account and use them later in my drawings and paintings.
Finally, for me as well as for my other classmates, it became the time to choose the studio and the professor to work with for the three years of studying as a senior student. It goes without saying; I submitted my application to Andrei Andreevich Mylnikov’s studio. I couldn’t help but was very excited when I found that I was accepted. I was making plans for the subsequent years of my studying. In such a positive mood, I started my third-year study.
Everything was unusual for me from the beginning. Instead of small rooms, where we had had our classes, I got to a spacious studio. We worked along with the four-year students. We could see their work process and learn from their experience.
There were three models in our studio, whose figures were represented the different types of male body. The eldest model was Uncle Sasha (as we called him), a retired man, very lean, not tall — he might be in his mid-seventies. Using his figure as an example was very convenient for studying the structure of the different parts of the human body. Another model was Alexey Grobov, whose slenderness and well-proportioned body reminded me of the ideal forms of the Ancient Greek and Roman sculptures. And finally, Kostia, the former sailor, the man of average height, stocky, with impressive muscles and well-trained body, who reminded to a certain extent, the heroes of Michelangelo’s masterpieces.
Then I chose Alexey as a model to draw. What I would like to express is the flexibility of his body. I still remember our first class on drawing. It was an ordinary session, but Alexander Leonidovich, as it seemed to me, came out of the blue. It was not a very tall man, who was dressed in a suit which was as neat as a new pin. His well-trimmed hair were grizzled. His face with a radiant smile as well as his eyes looking at us attracted me. Quickly overlooking our group, he swiftly approached us. The work had started, it was his work.
Alexander Leonidovich didn’t pass over any of the students. He had stopped near everyone, starting his meticulous analysis of each student’s work, giving some tips. It took about 10-15 minutes for each student. At that moment, his cheerfulness had gone, and he became very focused. During that short time, he gave the student very detailed instructions describing the way in which each work should be continued. Importantly, he drew the schemes left or right on the same sheet of paper, near the student’s work. Finally, I was able to see that in reality.
Alexander Leonidovich said: «Observing a human body carefully, you need to recognize the position of its different parts when the weight of the standing model rests mainly on their one leg. To depict this position you need to know about body’s vertical and horizontal axes and also about a horizontal plane, standing on which, the model touches by the feet of their bearing and free legs.»
He was of the opinion that the proportions of the human body should be defined more precisely, during the process of drawing. However, he didn’t recommend using measuring tools: the only sense of proportions and the ability to compare the sizes of the different parts of the body, such as legs, hands, torso, etc., — is the method for an artist to follow.
It is necessary to recognize the longitudinal and cross segments of the body when defining the foreshortening, trunk bending, and different perspective. This stage of work requires a significant amount of attention: you need to grasp the position of the body in space, identifying its movement and posture. It is also important to understand how one part of the body followed by another. To depict very sophisticated forms of the human body, you need to draw a preliminary scheme, identifying body’s structure, and then you need to complicate this framework step by step.While drawing a model, it is advisable to keep the same position, looking at the figure from the initial point of view, however, you don’t need to stay in the same place. It is recommended to go round the model and look intently from different angles to understand better their shapes which you are going to depict.
You need to analyse regularly the anatomy of the human body: it helps to deal with such a problem as the copying of the model without understanding its structure and forms and gives the opportunity to realize the body shapes, expressing this in the art forms.
«At the beginning of the task, — said Alexander Leonidovich, — lines as contours or the auxiliary elements for building up forms in the drawing, are crucial as the means for creating the artwork. In his opinion, three-dimensionality should be expressed by using the methods continuous-tone drawing. Only by these methods and paying attention to the model’s proportions, character, and materiality can you depict correctly human body. You should not divide your work on your drawing into different stages separated from each other, such as building up, placing the figure in a particular position, identifying its proportions, modelling by tone, etc. All these stages are closely connected to each other and require your attention.
While Alexander Leonidovich insisted on the holistic approach to the artwork, he paid lots of attention to the integrity of lights and shadows, the changes of which need to be followed. As usual, these contrasts are more distinct near the source of light, and gradually become less evident when they are more distant from it. The contrasts are much lower on the objects which are located further from the eyes of an artist. Therefore, it is necessary to identify the line which exposes the structure of a form.
The drawing could be not very sophisticated, and the changing of its tones could also be very smooth. However, it is recommended to keep to the correct ratio of the tones: from the darkest to the lightest within the range of the tonality that you thought of.
The line should help you to define the boundaries of bones, muscles, and tendons. In this case, the line and tone in the drawing should complement each other, depicting the object of a human body.
When working on the picture of the human body, you need to express the naturalness in its pose or movement, not being led by the model, who tends to change their position, misleading the artist. Korolev always said: «You need to remember that changing the position of a human body doesn’t mean that its proportions also change.»
«In due course. — Continued Alexander Leonidovich, — you acquire the necessary skills to work without a preliminary scheme, which helps you to draw the human body. You will have this scheme in your mind, but taking into account some ground rules: and you needn’t be immersed in the boring process of drawing a figure, which, admittedly, is necessary when you learn how to do this. You will have a more creative attitude, having a desire to analyse human figure, nevertheless.
In addition to the scheduled drawing sessions, I tried to set aside the hours to draw over time with the senior students. Alexander Leonidovich encouraged us to do extra work. As for me, being a third-year student, I often attended the drawing sessions with the five-year students, where more difficult tasks than we used to do were given to the attendees: according to the program, they must make a picture with two male figures.
I would like to admit that it was the group where there were many very talented students, who later became remarkable artists and teachers. Alexander Kirovich Bystrov is one of them. He currently is one of the leading professors in our Institute. I learned much from this group.
Alexander Leonidovich was a very versatile mentor. Apart from practical training, he was engaged in the academic and educational activity. His articles about the methods of drawing were published in the Institute’s scientific editions. He gave lectures. Luckily, I attended one of his lectures. It took place in 1986, in the premises of the Academic Drawing Classes, in the Liteiny Yard. Many people gathered there, being interested in absorbing the information. After a quite a short time, the drawings which were used for this lecture were exhibited in the office of the dean of the Faculty of Painting. All materials, which had gained and elaborated during his pedagogical career and laid the foundations of his theoretical research, were presented at that exhibition. For me, as well for many students, these materials were great value. It was Sergey Machehin, who was a student, from the group which were a year younger, and, in addition to this, a very skilful photographer: he took the photos from the exhibited schemes. Later, I made a special album with these pictures. This album was very helpful for me when I taught my students.
Drawing for Korolev was the area, where he was in his element: he was passionate about drawing. The primary goal of his pedagogical and academic activity, for Alexander Leonidovich, was the protection and increasing the traditions of the Russian classical school of drawing. Then he told us many times that the Russian school of drawing is one of the best.
He told us about his academic missions in different countries and various educational art institutions which he had visited. The material he gathered was used at that time for the preparation for a significant number of scientific conferences.
Alexander Leonidovich was astonished by the fact that in spite of his expectations in such countries as Italy and France, which by right are considered as the cradle of classical art, many realistic traditions in art teaching were lost. He was amused by one funny occurrence: one day, he attended the class in one of the Italian educational institutions. The students were drawing the sitting model, being turned back to this person! It might be more convenient for them. Not trusting their own eyes, the students, when necessary, turned to their model and made the measurements using special metal sticks! Only after that, they drew the lines and hatched the shadows,completely ignoring the live contact with the model they have to draw.There is one more story told us by Alexander Leonidovich, very touching and a little bit romantic. Walking along the Montmartre, Alexander Leonidovich looked very intently at the painting and drawings of the artists who was working there. One of them, a woman asked him if he wished to have his portrait drawn. Having agreed, Alexander Leonidovich made his counter-proposition draw the picture of her. Having been curious about who was this gentleman she didn’t know, she had no choice as to agree to pose for him. Nevertheless, in the end, she couldn’t find the right words to express her gratitude and the admiration of his talent. That day when the delegation of the Russians professors was about to drive off, she came to their coach to say good words to her new acquaintance and to see the artist whose pictures she began to like.
Alexander Leonidovich had always considered that event as the evidence of respect for our artistic traditions and he remembered that day for the rest of his life.
As I said before, he was passionate about art, being ready to talk about the masterpieces of the world art for hours. I remember his excitement when he was talking about what he had seen in Egypt. He was amazed how the Ancient Egyptian sculptors could manage with material and shape the forms: they feel even tiny nuances. It was for the artist’s skills to express the subtlety of the forms, which you are unable to see: you can feel these nuances only by your palm, touching the smooth polished surface.
His ideas and thoughts about art, very often expressed during his classes, in working order, or during our friendly talks after classes, were sincere, clearly stated and with a great deal of philosophical insight.
I still remember his story about visiting the Sistine Chapel in Rome and the famous Michelangelo’s murals. At that time, I idolized this genius of the Renaissance. I have the same feelings now. Alexander Leonidovich tried to get his impressions across. «You can’t believe, — he said. — When I took a close look at the sitting human figures in the fresco, I came to the conclusion that any person, whichever physical capabilities they have would never be able to stay in such a position. But it makes the idea of this artwork more convincing! As it becomes apparent, art is a delusion, but so compelling, and people are ready to be deluded. It goes without saying, Alexander Leonidovich loved the life and appreciated every its moment.
I remember one day when Andrei Andreevich Mylnikov, set two male models with a motorbike to be painted. He arranged these tasks perfectly, as usual. This very motorbike evoked Alexander Leonidovich’s memories. He remembered the first years after the WWII. That time the old captured motorcycle was brought to the Academy as a prop for models. Although this bike was used as a prop, it was in a full working condition.
Sometimes the students of Academy arranged motorbike races along the Academy’s corridors. Starting near the Dean’s office of the faculty of painting, bikers did their first turn near the Anatomy auditorium. Then the biker took off the run and moved straight away to the doors of the Scientific Library, then pulled up.
Not only did Alexander Leonidovich recollect those years because he was young, but he loved that time for the incredible sense of life. Many young people, war veterans came to the Academy. They have an ardent desire to make up for the lost time, to complete which hadn’t been completed because of the war and the short of time, to create that world, where they would live by right better.
Despite all the hardships which were typical for that time, our life at the Institute was fascinating and eventful. What’s more, students learned everything very enthusiastically; they organized many events in which a high number of people were engaged. The great majority of the Student Council members were former veterans of the WWII whose determination and exceptional organizational skills played an important part in the institutional life Alexander Leonidovich told us how students’ parties were organized in the studios. The table was set, and many young people were invited to those parties. Many young men and women came to the Academy: they were the students of the Leningrad State Conservatory, the State Leningrad University as well as from others city’s educational institutions. They have a nice time getting together: dancing, talking about art, playing the piano, in other words, life went on a full swing. I even saw a few photos taken at such events. Olia Oreshnikova, my former classmate and the granddaughter of Victor Mikhailovich Oreshnikiv, the famous Russian and Soviet artist, shew us these turning over the pages of an old family album. Cheerful and smiley faces looked at us from these photos. Andrei Andreevich, Alexander Leonidovich and Viktor Mikhailovich himself were also in these pictures. The last meeting with Alexander Leonidovich took place in 1987, after our final exams. Everything had been over: our exams, sleepless nights, the defence of my diploma work. I had to go to Moldavia, to the State Pedagogical Institute, where I was assigned and have to work. Having to make some arrangements before my departure, I came to the institute to sign my round list in the accounting department. I met Alexander Leonidovich in the corridor, near the office of the head of studies. We had a sweet talk, saying goodbye to each other. In the end, he wished me good luck and asked me to think of him if I would get together with my friends, the artists.
I have never seen him afterward; it was the last time we talked to each other. The news about his premature death came when I was in Kishinev: I knew about that from my friends who called me to tell me about that. Being unable to attend the funeral ceremony, I sent the telegram with my condolences. One of his colleagues, Professor Alexander Konstantinovich Sokolov, read it out loud.
Although some people are firmly convinced that there is no one person who can’t be replaced by another, I am not on the same page with them.It is an irrevocable loss for me. Every person is unique, continuing to live after their death because people have the memory of their deeds. Good deeds are always remembered. These memories live in our hearts and souls. Many of artworks, created by Alexander Leonidovich Korolev exist to this day.
One of which is the mosaic on the wall of the building of the Physical and Mathematical Faculty of the State St.Petersburg University, above the entrance, where by coincidence is studying Artem, my son. Another work of Alexander Leonidovich, the stained-glass window is above the moving staircase in the Gostiny Dvor metro station. The composition of this artwork is devoted to the first Russian Revolution of 1905, eclipsed by very expensive advertising billboards, however. It is our reality, the sign of the growing Russian capitalism. Who knows, the time will go by, and these advertising boards will be the thing of the past. I firmly believe in that.
I have one photo from my student years in my album. My friends, AlexanderLeonidovich, and I were photographed at the community work day, in other words, subbotnik. It was one of the first sunny days that spring. Lekha Ivanov, Valka Bobilkov, and I: we’re staying with Alexander Leonidovich. He is smiling with his broad smile: to students, his guys, the sun, good weather, he is in a positive mood. I still remember him as it is in this photo: a smiley, very kind and outgoing person.