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 Sergei Chekhonin


Born:   1878
Deceased:   February, 23rd 1936

Outstanding stylist, graphic artist, interior decorator, scenic designer.

      

Sergei Vasilyevich Chekhonin was born in Lykoshino Settlement, Tver Province in 1878. Son of a locoman, Sergei started to make his living since the age of fifteen – he served as a clerk, a draftsman, and a cashier at steamship station. His love of art brought him to Petersburg where he studied at the Drawing School (1896-97) and M.K.Tenisheva's (1897-1900) School, and thoroughly studied the art of ceramics. He started his artistic career as a ceramicist, taking part in decorating lots of enormous constructions of the early 20th century (in particular, the Metropol Hotel in Moscow).

The artist’s insatiable inquisitiveness prompted him to master some other decorative crafts – interior design, porcelain painting, enamel, and miniature painting. He mastered all these arts and crafts so profoundly that left his mark in almost each of these fields.

More than that, Chekhonin resorted to graphic art. Initially he contributed as a caricaturist for satirical magazines of the first Russian revolution, and then got engaged in book design with an enormous success. In the 1910s he turned to be one of the few masters, whose works determined high level of Russian book art. A faultless master of fonts and ornaments, Chekhonin, along with D.I. Mitrokhin and G.I. Narbut, belonged to the “younger generation” of Mir Iskusstva art group that elevated book illustrations to new heights. With his effective and refined style he managed to meet demands of the elite part of Russian society of that time and became popular, even fashionable.

 

Paradoxically, Chekhonin turned to be in demand of the new society after the revolution burst out in 1917. His life became even more intensive. He was engaged in public work and served as the art director of the State Porcelain Factory in Petrograd-Leningrad (1918- 23 and 1925-27). However the main things for it still had own creativity. However his creativity remained the main thing for him. He considerably changed his style by bringing in dynamism and agitation. This new style called "the Soviet empire style" (by witty definition of critic A. M.Efros) was used in all Chekhonin’s works: in book and industrial graphic art, emblems and numerous porcelain paintings, which made the most interesting page in the history of this art. Again he found himself fashionable, his works brought about lots of imitations, lots of professional artists became his followers, and hundreds of nonprofessional designers duplicated his findings all around the country in innumerable slogans, headlines, headings of newspapers and magazines, etc. Revolutionary epoch - dramatic, but still able to stir up pathetic feelings - began to be strongly associated with new Chekhonin style. The epoch passed, and Chekhonin left Russia (1928).

He lived in France and Germany, where he was tireless as ever and worked in theatre a lot. He almost left out porcelain painting and book illustrations, but instead perfectly mastered decorative painting of fabrics, even managed to invent an absolutely original way of multi-colour press on fabric.

Sergei Vasilyevich Chekhonin died on February, 23rd, 1936 in Germany at the age of fifty seven, apparently too early to play out his amazing capabilities.

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