In Memoriam: Oleg Vassiliev (1931-2013)


It is with great sadness that we must announce the passing of Oleg Vassiliev on January 25, 2013 in Shoreview, MN. The Museum of Russian Art has featured his works as part of our ongoing series, Discovering 20th Century Russian Masters from 2010 to 2011. His work, Freiburg Crucifixion, is represented in our newest exhibition, Concerning the Spiritual in Russian Art, 1965-2011. He lived for many years in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area with his son. He will be dearly missed.

Oleg Vassiliev is one of the most prominent representatives of the nonconformist art movement that flourished in the artistic underground in the last three decades of the Soviet regime. Oleg belongs to the generation of the pioneers of nonconformism, entering the underground art scene in the late 1950s – early 1960s.

Vassiliev’s complex and subtle creations made a profound contribution into the art and artistic philosophies of the 20th century.  Without being overtly political, the art of Oleg Vassiliev rejected any external authority besides art itself, opening up the space inaccessible to political tyranny and opposing the stultifying dictates of Soviet ideology. His artistic endeavor claimed art as the only expression of truth and its highest authority.  Rooted in the bold experiments of Russian avant-garde, Oleg Vassiliev’s works focused on the interrelation of space, surface, and light within the canvas.

Oleg’s work is central to contemporary Russian art:  it connects the past and the present and establishes the link between 19th century Russian realism, the avant-garde of the 1920s and contemporary art.

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