Lot 309


Snow from the Past
signed with monogram and dated '97' (lower right)
gouache, pen and ink on paper
22.5 x 30.5cm

Sale, Christies London, 4 April 2007, lot 551, where acquired by the present owner
The Darren Shan Collection

Estimate: £3,000 - £5,000
Bidding ended. Lot is unsold.

Boris Sveshnikov was born in Moscow and trained at the Moscow Institute of Applied and Decorative Arts.  In February 1946, while still a student, Sveshnikov went to buy kerosene and was arrested by the KGB, accused of being part of a terrorist group plotting to assassinate Stalin.  He spent a year in prison awaiting trial before being sentenced to eight years hard labour.  After two years of working twelve-hour days, in temperatures as low as minus forty, Sveshnikov collapsed and was essentially left to die in the infirmary.  A family friend Nikollai Tikhonovich, a geologist supervisor to the camps, intervened and Sveshnikov was transferred to an invalid camp.  Here he was able to acquire basic materials and produced various portraits of fellow inmates as well as more grotesque scenes heavily influenced by the likes of Bosch and Breughel.  He came across an imprisoned Latvian minister, Ludvig Sei, who admired his art and managed to smuggle his works out of the camp and get them sent to Moscow. 

Following his release in 1954 Sveshnikov recalled a degree of artistic freedom in the camp, 'I got my ration of bread and painted what I wanted.  Nobody supervised me.  Nobody showed any interest in me.'  Although he is hailed as one of the principle exponents of Russian non-conformist art, he never considered himself an agitator.  Later in his career he developed the almost pointillist technique evident in the present work, but continued to depict fantastical but powerful scenes, based on the inhumanity he had witnessed during his incarceration.

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