Igor V. Babailov, Hon.RAA, KStA
Vyacheslav Nikolaevich Zabelin
(1935 - 2001)
He was my last Professor of Painting and one of the preeminent artists of the late 20th century with whom I was fortunate to study.
~ Igor V. Babailov
Vyacheslav Nikolaevich Zabelin was born in 1935 in Khamovniki, an old region of Moscow. Zabelin recounts his childhood as having “passed by during the years when my country was engaged in a heroic war against fascist Germany”. After the war, in the late 1940’s, he had the opportunity to work in the studio of M.A. Slanov. One day as he was working in the studio, the famous artist Konstantin Yuon ( student of Valentin Serov and Konstantin Korovin ) came to visit. Yuon took notice of Zabelin’s work which resulted in Zabelin’s acceptance to the “1905” Moscow Art School in 1956. His studies here continued until 1961 when he enrolled in the Surikov Institute. Zabelin spent the next six years at the Surikov, obtaining his diploma and continuing on to get his post-graduate degree. Yuon would continue to help direct Zabelin along his educational path as well as inspire his work.
Like most Russian artists, Zabelin was strongly influenced by the Russian world around him. He said “I was born and grew up in Moscow…the old streets, the hidden quirks of this place, the Novodevichii Monastery, made me into an artist. These are my native areas, my small homeland”. His most favorite place to paint was in the Old Russian city of Rostov, from where a large majority of his paintings originate. He loved Russian architecture because of its wonderful asymmetry that could have been so easily balanced by some small window or arch on its façade (N.N. Vizzhilin). Zabelin said “We live in a time when historical cities and environs are losing their individuality and there is no end in sight to this process.” This realization brought great sadness to the artist as he so highly valued his Russian homeland and the beauty its historic structures and landscape possessed. Zabelin felt much the same way about the patterns he saw emerging in the art being created around him.
In 1967 Vyacheaslav Zabelin was invited to teach at the Surikov Institute which he graciously accepted. About his teaching approach he once said “In my pedagogical work, I have attempted to help facilitate my students to find their own voice and for them to understand their souls, and help those souls create, in an unrepeatable language.”
This was, he felt, one of the most important lessons that his students could learn. It was his belief that “individuality in art…is often understood to be a necessity to produce works reflecting the anger of our time, satisfying the fleeting whims of the public”, which of course he felt certain would not stand the test of time. Zabelin was a major supporter of artistic education and training that was deeply rooted in tradition and achievement. He was not fond of “amateur” or “homegrown”art. He felt that "when a school of training was not present, it was often replaced with “a self-sufficient manner and attempt to pander to the public and draw the attention of amateurs by superficial tricks, which are always used to hide incompetence.” V.N. Zabelin’s close personal friend, the famous journalist N.N. Vizzhilin, wrote of comments made at the opening of an exhibit of works by Zabelin’s students, that “In the process of teaching, Zabelin motivates his students to master not his way of painting, not his view of things or his method, but the principles of art.
” The artist and teacher himself said “Really, if one perceives life from the position of creative work, from the position of a search for the truth, if we perceive it, not putting all the schemes and dogmas into the bed of Procrustes, then life will open up before us in every way more unexpected, fresher, and interesting.” One of his student’s, Svetlana Smirnova, recalls Zabelin teaching her that “composition is of the utmost importance” and that it “is necessary to work on it all the time.” Vyacheslav followed this very principle in his own work. His friend Vizzhilin also remembers that “Before beginning any painting, he would carefully study the nature, consider the composition, [and] select the lighting. Because of this, he lived weeks on end in other cities, barely noticing the lack of physical comforts there.” Vyacheslav Nikolaivich Zabelin was a member of the Moscow River School of painters. He taught at the Surikov until his death in October of 2001. His friend, and journalist Vizzhilin later wrote “The things that made V.N. Zabelin stand out as a central figure in the Russian arts were his wholehearted search for aesthetic sense; his deep knowledge of Russian painting and literature; and his delicate understanding of the interdependence and inevitability of the changing of artistic styles, the richness of which is ever apparent in Russian culture.” He says also that the very essence of Zabelin’s work is that it “rose up from the traditions of
Russian art and [had] its roots in the deepest strata of Russian life.” Zabelin has been called the greatest Russian artists of the last quarter of the 20th Century.
“I was born and grew up in Moscow…the old streets, the hidden quirks of this place, the Novodevichii Monastery, made me into an artist. These are my native areas, my small homeland”
“We live in a time when historical cities and environs are losing their individuality and there is no end in sight to this process.”
“In my pedagogical work, I have attempted to help facilitate my students to find their own voice and for them to understand their souls, and help those souls create, in an unrepeatable language.”
“Individuality in art…is often understood to be a necessity to produce works reflecting the anger of our time, satisfying the fleeting whims of the public.”
“When a school of training is not present, it is often replaced with a self-sufficient manner and attempt to pander to the public and draw the attention of amateurs by superficial tricks, which are always used to hide incompetence.”
Awards: (partial list)
• Member of the Artist’s Union of the U.S.S.R.
• Head of the Moscow painting section of the Moscow Union of Artists
• Chairperson of the committee on the Protection of Monuments in the Union of Artists of Russia
• Member of the City Building Council
• Award for The Interior of the Annunciation Cathedral as the best work of 1980 in the Moscow Department of Artists’ Union
• Diploma awarded for the creation of the paintings that were on display at the VI Republican Art Exhibition “Soviet Russia” dedicated to the XXVI Congress on the CPSU, awarded by the Counsel of Ministers of the Russian Federation, 1981
• Titled Honored Artist of the Russian Federation, by the Artists’ Union of the Russian Federation
• Diploma awarded by the Academy of Arts of the USSR for his paintings The Petrovski Boulevard and The Bolshoi Theatre, 1987
• Honoured Worker of Arts of the Russian Federation, 1990
• The Professors Degree, 1991
• Silver Medal of the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Art, July 10, 1995
Collections: (partial list)
Works shown frequently at Lazare Gallery, Charles City, VA; Walls Gallery, Wilmington, NC; Wallace Fine Art, Longboat Key, Fl; as well as James Yarosh and Assoc., Holmdel, NJ.
Zabelin has over 300 paintings in the world’s museums including:
Tretyakov Gallery (Museum), Moscow
- Spring Evening in Rostov the Great, 1981, 64.5 x 69 cm.
- Spring Evening, 1983, 88.5 x 88.5 cm.
Russian State Museum, St. Petersburg
- Interior, Church of Christ the Savior in Rostov, 1987, 50 x 40 cm.
- Interior of Church, Ascension, 1988, 60 x 80 cm.
- Interior of Christ the Savior Church, 1984, 70 x 50 cm.
- Suzdal Grey Day, 1966, 47 x 70 cm.
- Interior of Resurrection Church, 1968, 30 x 40 cm.
- Clear Field, 1978, 50 x 70 cm.
- Home Above the Cellar, Rostov Kremlin, 1980, 60 x 80 cm.
The Rostov Kremlin Art Museum
[has an enormous memorial hall dedicated completely to his works, including:]
- Lilacs, 60 x 50 cm.
- In Rostov, 1997, 50 x 70 cm.
- Rostov, Washing Yard, 49.7 x 79.7 cm.
- Center of Rostov the Great, 1978, 50 x 69.5 cm.
- Old Estate, 2000, 50 x 40 cm.
- Sunrise/Sunset in Rostov?, 1970, 50 x 70 cm.
- Green House, 1999, 41 x 56 cm.
- Portrait of Wife, 1972, 89 x 89 cm.
- Grey Day, 1997, 60 x 80 cm.
- Rostov Beauty, 1968, 72 x 50 cm.
- View of Rostov Kremlin, 1969, 49.7 x 70 cm.
- View of Inner Yard of Rostov Kremlin, 1969,
49.5 x 70 cm.
- Street in Rostov, 1985, 60 x 80 cm.
- Pink House, 1991, 50 x 60 cm.
Russia Artists’ Union
- Interior of Resurection Church in Rostov, 1983,
Oil on Canvas, 41 x 55 cm.
- Winter, Borisogleb, 1993, Oil on Canvas,
55 x 82 cm.
Russian Art Museum, Kiev
Picture Gallery Museum, Tver
Rjazan Fine Arts Museum, Rjazan
Jarosalv Fine Arts Museum, Jaroslav
Kaluga Fine Arts Museum, Kaluga
Kurjan Fine Arts Museum, Kurjan
Taganrog Picture Gallery Museum, Taganrog
Orenburg Fine Art Museum, Orenburg
Orlov Fina Art Museum, Orlov
Kostroma Fine Art Museum, Kostroma
Novosibirsk Fine Art Museum, Novosibirsk
Nizhnij Novgorod Fine Art Museum, Nizhnij Novgorod
Artist Architectural Reserve Museum, Rostov
Ekaterinburg Fine Art Museum, Ekaterinburg
He has become a favorite of well-known private collectors such as James Yarosh (USA), Larry and Pat Merriman (USA), and Stefano Pirra (Italy).
He suggested and organized the All-Russian Art Exhibitions “Monuments of Motherland” which became an important event in the artistic and cultural life of the country.
Zabelin has been included in many survey books of Russian art and has had several books published on his work including his first coffee table sized book, with full page color plates, cataloguing all of his known works due out in 2006.
List of books that include information about Zabelin:
Path of Russian Impressionism
100 Years of Russian Artist Union
Published in Moscow 2003
In thy Name
Russian Artist Union
Published in Moscow 2004
(This book was published commemorating the 2000th birthday of the birth of Christ and primarily promoted Russia’s greatest artist who did religious paintings during the 20th century. It is a major book documenting the artist’s works who displayed at one of the Russian Artist’s Unions greatest shows.
The Great Painters
Published in Moscow 2001
A Dictionary of Soviet and Russian Painters
Active 1900 to 1980
Published in London, 1998
Russian Landscape, Great Collection
Published in Moscow 2004
List of known books published on Zabelin:
Published in Moscow
Published in Italy 2001
Published in Italy 1993
Published in Italy 1999
To Be Published in 2006 by the documentary film maker and book publisher Archivos Alba: Zabelin, Master of Color - this is to be a definitive work that will catalog all known works of Zabelin and has many contributors by art historians and artists who knew Zabelin. It will be a coffee table sized book with one plate per page.