The Moscow Kremlin Museums are pleased to announce the exhibition of gem-carving masterpieces by Vasily Konovalenko (1929-1989), a remarkable artist, sculptor, stone-carver and jeweller. The visitors will see his works from The Moscow Kremlin Museums, the “Samotsvety” (Gems) State Museum, the Gohran (Russian State Precious Metals and Gems Repository), the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (Colorado), as well as the pieces from the artist’s family collection in Vienne and New York and different private collections displayed in one place for the first time.
Vasily Konovalenko was the pioneer craftsman honoured with a personal exhibition at one of the leading state museums in the Soviet period. His first exhibition was held in the State Russian Museum in 1973, and aroused public, media, writers and artists’ great interest. Now, more than 40 years later, the Moscow Kremlin Museums pay tribute to the master, who had revived traditions of making sculptures from hard stones, like the famous House of Fabergé and Alexey Denisov-Uralsky. Vasily Konovalenko’s talent is often compared to Carl Fabergé. Their artworks are always original and have a unique Russian sense as well as virtuosity of technique. The artist worked as a stage designer at the Kirov (now Mariinsky) Theatre in St. Petersburg, producing sets for classic operas and ballets together with the renowned Simon Virsaladze. The ballet “Stone Flower” by Sergey Prokofiev inspired him to start working with Russian precious and semi-precious stones. Having discovered the best qualities of gems, Vasily Konovalenko created a series of remarkable characters, both historical and folk. He was eager to understand a mysterious nature of stones, considering that “one could learn art from them”. Gems gave him ideas either of design or themes for his sculptures. With a remarkable love the artisan was creating villagers occupied with their daily routine. Vasily Konovalenko didn’t appeal to theoretical ideas of socialism, rather to simple and expressive everyday life of common people seen by the sculptor in his childhood in a small village.
Vasily Konovalenko had to immigrate to the United States in 1981, where he became popular and had solo exhibitions. His masterpieces are preserved in museums and private collections of New York and Los Angeles as well as in the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the United States' largest museum of natural sciences.
On display are more than one hundred works by Vasily Konovalenko, including stone sculptures, drawings and theatrical sketches. Besides, the visitors would have a chance to see the “speaking” fragments of the master’s unfinished works, such as Vladimir Lenin’s cap and boots.
This catalogue accompanies the exhibition "Vasily Konovalenko: A Sculptor of Gems". The Moscow Kremlin Museums, 1 June 2016 - 31 August 2016. The catalogue allows us to trace the career of Vasily Konovalenko (1929-1989), a remarkable artist, stone-carver and jeweller. There are more than ninety stone and bronze sculptures and silver works, theatrical costume and set designs as well as sketches for jewelry and sculptures presented in the publication. The catalogue is in Russian; captions - in Russian and in English. Price: 1,500 rub.
“The exhibition "Vasily Konovalenko: A Sculptor of Gems" is a display of the sublime heritage of Russian stone carving – a craft that Russians have always held in high esteem. Vasily Konovalenko was called ‘Danila the Craftsman’ as the successor of eminent craftsmen of the Urals and heir to the traditions of Fabergé.”
“This is a magnificent exhibition; it is dedicated to a highly original and a very interesting art, which goes back generations. In my opinion, this exhibition will touch feelings of the visitors both from Moscow and other cities. This is a wonderful story, which will bring many interesting, forgotten and nostalgic things in our culture.”
“The exhibition we are opening today is unique art collection. Unfortunately, Vasily Konovalenko’s name, - the craftsman, ranked alongside Carl Fabergé in his scope, talent and art legacy, - was wrongly unheralded in Russia. I am very glad that art legacy of Vasily Konovalenko’s work has opened to the public today. And I am sure that everyone will get a deep impression when getting close to his creation.”