By the Stove - Self-Portrait with Wife
By the Stove - Self-Portrait with Wife

Andronov, Nikolai

1929 - 1998

By the Stove - Self-Portrait with Wife

Oil on board

130 x 80cm


Inscribed on reverse



Collection of the artist and by descent


The Museum of Architecture in Moscow (MUAR), ‘Russia Andronova,’ June 2009, dedicated to the 80th anniversary of Andronov, listed as No. 77. 

Andronov portrait

Nikolai Andronov in his Moscow studio circa 1970

By the Stove is an important painting by the leading post-war ‘Severe Style’ Moscow artist, Nikolai Andronov.  The artist has depicted himself and his wife sitting by a stove.  According to the artist's daughter this was the last self-portrait painted by Andronov.  The painting was finished in 1998 and the painter died later that year.  The artist did not give his face any features and his daughter has observed that this is a feature of his late self-portraits.  The artist said he found it harder and harder to paint himself as he knew himself less and less as he grew older.

Andronov was born in Moscow in 1929 and graduated from the Surikov institute in 1954.  Stalin’s death on March 5, 1953 marked the beginning of a new direction for Soviet painting and the emergence of a new style known today as the ‘Severe Style’ or the ‘Severe School’ of which Andronov was a founding member.  Nikita Khrushchev came to power and delivered his so-called ‘Secret Speech,’ in which he denounced Stalin’s cult of personality and the brutality of his reign.  This instigated the period now known as the ‘thaw’ that allowed increased freedoms in many areas of Soviet life including artistic production.

In the early 1950’s and after Stalin’s death and the ‘thaw,’ exhibitions of Western art came to Russia for the first time including shows of international contemporary art, Picasso and Abstract Expressionism.  Nikolai Andronov, along with artists such as Geli Korzhev, Viktor Popkov, Pavel Nikonov, Pyotr Ossovski, Victor Ivanov and Tair Salahov rejected the happy cheerful subject matter of Socialist Realism and drew upon Soviet art of the 1920’s for inspiration and created the ‘Severe Style.’  They abandoned the polished classical style that was fashionable at the time and practised by artists such as Aleksandr Laktianov and presented a subject matter that they felt better reflected the grim austerity of post war Russia.  Monumental paintings by Andronov, Korzhev, Popkov and Salahov used subjects drawn from daily life with simplified form, colour and a dramatic cinematic manner.

 Andronov Raftsman

Raftsman, 1961, Nikolai Andronov, Tretyakov gallery.

Andronov’s paintings are characterized by: - a sense of truthfulness, grittiness and aloofness. The paintings are often on a large scale which led to the ‘Severe Style’s’ alternative name of Monumentalism. Andronov utilized a simple palette of muddied greys, browns and earth tones often making his own colours by necessity when in the villages in the far north of Russia.

The artist travelled around Russia drawing his subject matter from the reality he encountered.  He admired the leading 1930’s artists such as Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, Alexander Deinika and Yuri Pimenov and the Italian Neo-Realist cinema.  The polished perfection of the artists of the early 1950’s was replaced with broad brush strokes and a sketchy rough quality.

Andronov started his art studies at a young age at the Intermediate Art School, later finishing his studies at both the Repin Institute (1948-1952) and the Surikov Institute (1952-1954). He began exhibiting his art in Moscow in 1951, where he became a member of Group of Eight, a political activist group. He specialized in thematic paintings, portraits and landscapes. 

 Andonov’s most well-known works include Builders of Kuibyshev Hydroelectric Power-Station (1957) and A Rigger (1959). The Assembler (1958), and Raftsmen, (1961) became definitive works of the Severe style. Later in his life, Andronov would find inspiration in Ferapontovo on the Little Volga where he worked in a summer studio. The paintings of this period show the dynamic, harsh, tense reality of the Russian north.

 In the 60s and 70s, Andronov worked mainly as a muralist painter designing huge murals and mosaics, such as Man and Printing (1978) for which he was awarded the USSR State Prize in 1979. Moving into the 1980s and 1990s, political motivations gave way to more spiritual impulses, shifting the themes of his paintings more toward religious cultural heritage and spiritual self-examination. Andronov continued painting up until the very last year of his life, the year of this important self-portrait.


Other famous paintings of this school are Pavel Nikonov’s Geologists of 1962 and Viktor Popkov’s Memories, Widows of 1962 and Victor Ivanov’s Funeral of 1971.  


 Nikonov Geologists

Pavel Nikonov, Geologists, 1969, oil on canvas, 182 x 225cm.

The Tretyakov Gallery in Krymski Val now has two rooms dedicated to this period where masterpieces by Popkov, Korzhev, Andronov, Nikonov and Ivanov can be seen. 

 Popkov Memories

Viktor Popkov, Memories, Widows,’ 1962, oil on canvas, 160 x 234cm.

 Ivanov Funeral

Victor Ivanov, Funeral, 1971, oil on canvas, 153 x 218cm

Screen shot 2013-12-28 at 10.15.59 PM

List of exhibited paintings in 2009 Andronov exhibition at Museum of Architecture in Moscow with By the stove, Self-Portrait with Wife listed at No. 77.

Paintings by Andronov are well represented in Russian museums with examples in: - The Tretyakov Gallery, The Russian Museum, The Museums of Fine Art in Omsk and Arkhangelsk, The Abramtsevo Estate, Rostov, Novgorod, Vologda, Kiev, and many museums in Germany and Eastern Europe.




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