Mstislav Dobuzhinsky – Russian painter
Mstislav Dobuzhinsky was a Russian painter, a master of the cityscape, an art critic, and memoirist. He belonged to the magnificent cluster of artists which formed around the World of Art society at the turn of the century.
Mstislav was born on August 2 (14), 1875 in Novgorod. His father served in the St. Petersburg Mikhailovsky Artillery School. After the birth of the son Mstislav’s parents divorced, and his mother, an actress and singer left the family. Mstislav’s father taught his son to illustrate the books he read. The boy was particularly keen on history books. The boy drew a great deal and his powers of observation developed. In 1895 he began studying in the Law Faculty of St. Petersburg University, and at the same time tried to get into the Academy of Arts. In 1899-1901 Mstislav studied in Munich and then in Hungary.
In 1901 in St. Petersburg, he joined the association World of Art. He was its youngest and least experienced member, but he quickly became a celebrity.
Since 1902 Dobuzhinsky participated in exhibitions. In 1919 he became the first director of the Vitebsk Art School, taught in St. Petersburg private art schools, was a professor at the Academy of Arts.
A Man in Spectacles (1906) is one of the artist’s most frank utterances about his contemporaries. The man stands before a window through which a city landscape is visible. His face is impenetrable and his stance immobile, but his inner concentration can be felt and a sense of reticence and loneliness arises.
After 1910 the artist travelled a lot—in the Scandinavian countries, Germany, Holland and Italy. In Amsterdam he did a study—Peter the Great in Holland (1910) — which echoed Serov’s picture Peter the Great.
In 1924, the artist received Lithuanian citizenship and left the USSR. From now on most of his successes were linked with the theatre. He designed sets for more than seventy productions, the best of them Russian and world classics: Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades and Eugene Onegin, Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Shakespeare’s Hamlet and King Lear.
In 1925, he worked for Riga Theater, from 1926 to 1929 – for the Paris Theater “Die Fledermaus”. Since 1929, Dobuzhinsky was the leading artist of Lithuanian State Theater (Kaunas). In 1935, a group of Kaunas theater went to England.
He was a member of the Paris Masonic Lodge “Jupiter” № 536 (Grand Lodge of France).
In 1939 Dobuzhinsky moved to the United States and worked there in the Mikhail Chekhov Theatre. Dobuzhinsky wrote a ballet libretto to the music of Shostakovich’s Seventh (Leningrad) Symphony, designed scenery for the ballet, and also produced illustrations to Shostakovich’s music.
He designed the magazines – World of Art, Golden Fleece, Apollo, and like other members of the World of Art he painted historical paintings (Peter the Great in Holland).
He designed theatrical performances of the Moscow Art Theatre (Month in the Country by Turgenev, 1909; Nikolai Stavrogin by Fyodor Dostoevsky, 1913), Diaghilev’s repertory and others.
Dobuzhinsky became the author of illustrations to the story Night Prince by S. Auslander (1909), Mistress into Maid, and other works of Alexander Pushkin, Swineherd by Andersen (1922), White Nights by Dostoevsky (1923), The Three Fat Man by Olesha (1928) and many other works.
Dobuzhinsky died on November 19, 1957 in New York.