Soviet academy brushes off famous artist

By , Staff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

One of the Soviet Union's best-known artists, Ilya Glazunov, has just been refused associate membership in the Soviet Academy of Art at a meeting that denounced him as anti-Soviet and pro-religion.

Mr. Glazunov is known abroad for his huge canvas "Mystery of the 20th Century ," which officials rejected from a planned Moscow showing in 1977. He also has painted portraits of Indira Gandhi, the kings of Sweden and Laos, and President Kekkonen of Finland.

Two large exhibits of his work, in Moscow in 1978 and in Leningrad in 1979, each drew many hundreds of thousands of people and touched off widespread debate about his themes of czarist history, the Russian Orthodox Church, and his opposition to Soviet realism and moder city life.

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Mr. Glazunov, recently awarded the title of "honored artist" of the Russian Republic (largest of the 15 Soviet republics), is said to have been nominated for associate membership in the Academy of Art by the Ministry of Culture following his two successful exhibitions.

His name appeared in the newspaper Sovietskaya Kultura on nov. 9 as one of 157 candidates for associate membership.

Sources say he was among the final five or six nominees selected by the presidium of the academy. Then the "party group" of the academy -- 50 prominent members of the Communist Party -- held a closed meeting to approve the final choices.

Mr. Glazunov, it is said, was unanimously rejected. Among those said to have criticized him was Boris Ugarov, of the Repin Art Institute in Leningrad.

The meeting was attended by a senior official of the Central Committee's cultural department, Zoya Tumanova.

Other speakers attacked Mr. Glazunov for allegedly showing a low standard of artistic ability, said to be "bourgeois" in tone.

Specifically condemned were two Glazunov paintings shown in Moscow and in Leningrad: "Prodigal Son" (showing a youth in jeans kneeling at the feet of a Christ figure) and "To Your Health," which officials see as an attack on party exploitation of the average worker.

Two separate officials at the Academy of Art confirmed to this newspaper by telephone that Mr. Glazunov had not been accepted as an associate member.

"We had only five vacancies," said one official, who declined to be identified. "You can understand that the presidium could choose only the best. The choice was made strictly and thoroughly."

The official would not give the reasons behind the Glazunov rejection.

Mr. Glazunov, who has just been made a member of the Barcelona Art Academy in Spain, said in a brief interview later that he regretted the Moscow decision.

"I have learned," he said, "that members of the academy tried to make me out as a political figure.

"They don't like the fact that my exhibitions attracted hundreds of thousands of people.

"I hope that my art wins out in the end because it expresses the feelings of millions of Russians. It is not as important for me to be a member of the academy as it is to retain the freedom to show my pictures."

Mr. Glazunov said he was "very happy" to have been able to hold the Moscow and Leningrad showings.

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