Sunday, 18 June 2017


“Don’t work for recognition, but do work worthy of recognition.” - H. Jackson Brown, Jr. 

Ivan Ivanovich Godlevsky (Russian: Иван Иванович Годлевский; March 9, 1908, Kholm Governorate, Russian Empire – August 20, 1998, Saint Petersburg, Russia) was born in the town of Dobromychi (then the territory of Poland) in 1908. In 1913 his parents died in the First World War and he was admitted into the shelter of Countess Veniaminova in Moscow, but after the revolution he was brought up in an orphanage.

Since his early childhood Ivan was fond of drawing and painting. In 1926 he graduated from the Mirgorod Art School and then entered the Kiev Academy, where his talent was noted by a professor at the Krichevsky Academy. After the Kiev Academy he was drafted into the army, where he served until 1935. In 1936 he was admitted to the Leningrad Art Academy for the quality of his work without exams. He studied at the studio of Alexander Aleksandrovich Osmyorkin, was his favorite student and was a friend of the master for the rest of his life.

The war found the artist in Gurzuf, where he was writing his thesis. Godlevsky went into the army, went to war, was awarded a medal and was demobilised in 1946. He was able to graduate from the Academy only in 1949 and began to teach in the famous Muchinka. At the same time he was elected chairman of the painting section of the Leningrad branch of the Union of Artists.

Party member, war hero, professor of a prestigious university and head of the painting section, Godlevsky could have had a successful career. However, he was extremely honest in his relations with art and never changed his artistic principles. Godlevsky worked not for recognition, but for art. In his diary he wrote: “Creativity is the way to absolute happiness and the only meaning of life.” In 1956 Godlevsky fulfilled an important state order and received a considerable sum of money for it. He retired as professor and completely devoted himself to his passion - painting. To create pictures for him was a vital necessity. That is why in his paintings it is easy to see not only the great talent of the artist, but also his own sense of the fullness of being. Having thoroughly studied the foundations of impressionism, the artist created his own bright, easily recognizable, individual style in painting back in the early 1950s. It is noteworthy that this style remained characteristic of the artist until the end of his life.

The most devoted admirer of Godlevsky’s creativity was his wife, Vera Dmitrievna Lyubimova. It so happened that at first she fell in love with his paintings, and then in the artist himself. They were married in 1957.

In 1961 the first solo exhibition of Ivan Godlevsky’s works was held in the exhibition hall of the Leningrad Union of Artists. As soon as it opened, people stood in line in the street in order to be admitted. Newspapers reviews were not as complimentary and the artist was criticised for “formalism and Frenchness”. Still, the exhibition was so successful that it was approved for a visiting display in 12 more cities, but after Leningrad it was held only in Lviv. The second solo exhibition was organised in the Union of Artists only in 1978.

In 1990 the artist was invited to Paris and after the first successful exhibition of 150 of his works, they were submitted for sale to the French public at the famous Parisian auction house, Drouot, where 148 were sold. Godlevsky became a famous artist in France and decided to stay there continuing his painting. He settled with his wife in the South of France in the town of Le Pradet, near St. Tropez. Subesquently, further exhibitions of Godlevsky’s works were organised in France, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, Sweden and Italy. In December 1996 the artist decided to return to Russia, to his studio in St. Petersburg. In 1998 he died in his native land, his work finally acknowledged as significant and original.

The painting above is “On the Banks of the Ancient Volkhov River”, painted in 1970. It is rathe rdark and brooding, contrasting with others of his works that are brighter and perhaps more decorative such as his “Fishing Boats” or some that are more exotic and reminiscent of the orientalist tradition such as his “Samarkand”.

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