The House with the Mezzanine. 1991. Print on paper. Courtesy of Oleg Vassiliev.
The House with the Mezzanine. 1991. Print on paper. Courtesy of Oleg Vassiliev.

The Art of Oleg Vassiliev: Discovering 20th Century Russian Masters

The Art of Oleg Vassiliev surveys the career of one of the most important unofficial Soviet artists.

Oleg Vassiliev was recently featured on TPT’s MN Original series.  Click here to watch.

Full of personal memories, Vassiliev’s masterful works are an energetic meditation on human memory, forgetting, and a return to one’s home.A graduate of the Surikov Art Institute, Oleg Vassiliev  actively participated in the non-conformist art scene of Soviet Moscow from the 1950s through the 1980s. Vassiliev’s art is rooted in the rich tradition of the Russian Realist style and the early Soviet avant-garde.

His works on paper include his House with the Mezzanine series, inspired by Anton Chekhov’s story and building on the achievements of post-revolutionary constructivist art. The House with the Mezzanine print series unfolds a wondrously poetic and visually striking journey that makes tangible the pace of history. To read Anton Chekhov’s story click here.

Also featured in the Lower Gallery are his drawings, collages and some of his book illustrations done in the 1960s and 1970s together with his friend Erik Bulatov.  One of the lenders to this exhibition is the New York-based Kolodzei Art Foundation whose remarkable collection chronicles four decades of Russian and Soviet nonconformist art from the post-Stalinist era to the present.  Other pieces come from noted Vassiliev collector Neil Rector as well as from the artist and his family.

Born in Moscow in 1931, Vassiliev is one of the most important artists to emerge from the Soviet underground art scene. His artistic vision opposed the ideologies of the State-endorsed Socialist Realism combining constructivist approaches of the 1920s with the Russian realism of the 19th century. Vassiliev was influenced by the leading Soviet graphic artist Vladimir Favorsky (1886-1964). Together with his friends, well-known non-conformists Ilya Kabakov and Eric Bulatov, Oleg Vassiliev supported himself working as a book illustrator, while also creating his marvelous works in the seclusion of his studio.  Like many of his generation of underground artists, Vassiliev left Russia after the end of the cold war, moving to New York City in 1990. He now resides in Minnesota.

Vassiliev graduated from V.I. Surikov State Art Institute in Moscow, where he specialized in graphics.  Vassiliev’s work is broadly recognized for its unique place in Russian art and can be found in the collections of the State Tretyakov Gallery, The State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg; The State Center of Contemporary Art, Moscow; The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow; Denver Art Museum, Colorado; Duke University Museum of Art,  Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland; and the Norsk-Russisk Kultursenter Galleri, Norway.

View installation images here


On November 12, 2011 The Museum of Russian Art hosted a small private reception honoring Oleg Vassiliev’s lifetime of artistic achievement in the month of his 80th birthday.  Click here for details and photos.

Suggested exhibit-related reading from our Museum docents

  • Natalia Kolodzei and Kira Vassiliev eds. Oleg Vassiliev: Memory Speaks (Themes and Variations), Palace Editions, 2004.
  • Curatorial Assistance, Inc. 1998. Forbidden art: the postwar Russian avant-garde. Los Angeles, Calif.: Curatorial Assistance, Inc. with Distributed Art Publishers.
  • Rueschemeyer, Marilyn, Igor Golomshtok, and Janet Kennedy. 1985. Soviet émigré artists: life and work in the USSR and the United States. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe.
  • Anton Chekhov. The House with the Mezzanine.


Related Media:


Oleg Vassiliev at TMORA, 8/14/11

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