The museum’s Fine Art Department consists of three sections: Uzbek avant-garde of the 1920s-1930s, Russian avant-garde of the 20th century and Contemporary art of Karakalpakstan.
Uzbek avant-garde of the 1920s-1930s.
The collection of Uzbek art of the 1920s-1930s presents a vivid and comprehensive illustration of the period, which saw the emergence of one of the most influential schools of fine arts. It covers a wide range of schools from realism (P. Benkov, Z. Kovalevskaya) to avant-garde (V. Ufimtsev, V. Lysenko, etc.). These schools were multinational, since a majority of the young artists came to Uzbekistan from Russia. Their energy caused them to conduct brave creative experiments. Historically, the social and cultural development of Central Asia was based on Islamic ideology, which did not allow representational art. But the 1920s demonstrated how artistic development of Uzbekistan was influenced by its rich traditions of architectural, applied and decorative arts and the art of the book miniature that date back to ancient times. The interweaving of various cultures and traditions contributed greatly to the expressiveness and emotivity of the artistic language. The monumental works by Volkov and Karakhan are notable for their perceptiveness and accurate depiction of the period: the rejection of the old world and creation of the new. Another common feature of the time was the interest in the Orient: the works of E. Koravay, N.Kashina, Benkov and Z.Kovalevskaya are philosophical and meditative conveying the hazy Eastern sun and regular unhurried life of ancient cities. A.Nikolayev creates an imaginative blend of Orientalism, combining the techniques of Italian masters and Russian iconography. U. Tansykbaev alludes to the traditions of impressionism and post-impressionism in his distinctive expressive manner, in the elegant simplicity of his pictures and resonant daubs of colour. The collection has his works of the earlier period which was the most fruitful in his career.
V.Ufimtsev came to Uzbekistan as a follower of futurism, influenced by David Burlyuk lectures. He regarded futurism as an art of future. The works by Ufimtsev of this period are characterized by their reserve and traditional artistic language.
In the years to come, many artists of Uzbekistan were forgotten. Canvases were stored away in studios, apartments and store-rooms of artists and their families until rediscovered by Savitskiy in 1960. Many were lost forever. But the works that remain are remarkable for their superior artistry and wide range of creative approaches.
It was in the 1960s that Savitskiy devised his particular approach to collecting: to obtain wherever possible a comprehensive collection of the works of each artist he was interested in. The same principle is applied to each section of the museum. Savitskiy noted: “… depicting the work in the most comprehensive way is our main motto and we strive to adhere it…”
Russian Avant-Garde of the 20th century
The works by 20th century Russian artists from another important part of the museum’s collection. The main body of work reflects the artistic movements of the 1st third of the century, which remained unheard of or forgotten for many years. Of particular interest is also the art of the following decades, both officially and “unofficially” recognized, the so-called “non-documented” art.
On the eve of the 20th century, the art of both Russia and Europe went through a period of change, uncertainty and denial. Already in the 1890s those (for example “Wanderers” ) subverting the rules of academic subject matter had exhausted all possibilities, and new powers, a new “modern” style began to emerge. Styles and trends were born out each other, some changed direction, some were irretrievably lost. The journal “The world of Art” (1899) and art exhibitions organized by S.Diaghilev and A.Benois gave Russian audience a chance to familiarize themselves with new trends in Foreign art as well as innovations of Russian artists searching for a new vivid and flexible system under the influence of Western European art. In the works by A.Shevchenko and R.Falk of the “World of Art” period, the influence of French art is evident in the delicacy and naturalness of colour solutions. Shortly afterwards, both artists joined the “Jack of Diamonds” group, which included I.Mashkov, A,Lentulov, P.Konchalovskiy, A.Morgunov and A.?uprin. The “Jack of Diamonds” members called themselves “Moscow Cezannists” for their use of Cezanne’s graphic technique tinged with neo-primitivism. Their decorative and expressive art is marked by its freedom from restraint and its use of grotesque forms and coloured objects. Like Cezanne they made still-life their favourite kind of art.
The whole spectrum of artists’ groups in Russian art produced various theoretical programmes which were subsequently grouped together under the lable of Russian Avant-Garde. The art divided into two main groups (the “right wing” and “left” wing) whose members constantly argued with each other. For example, on a dispute conducted by the “Target” group (former “Donkey’s Tale” headed by M.Larionov) one of the futurists appealed to audience, saying: "Why is the Globe striving to the constellation of Hercules? We’ve been given a chance to divert it to another planet. Women, nature, old art -all factors hindering mechanical structure must be eliminated".
The search for new creative forms was given new momentum by the Revolution of 1917. Art became a means of propaganda and a way to promote Utopian ideas of a new society. Artists painted posters, designed decorations for mass celebrations and political campaigns (S.Nikritin, K.Redko) and created new fabrics, interiors (V.Khodasevich) and book illustrations (S.Telingater, G.Echeistov, G,Zimin). These artistic organizations and styles did not exist for long, however: a decree of 23rd April 1932, “On Restricting Literary and Artistic Organizations”, put an end to the period of creative freedom and announced the only appropriate direction for Soviet Art: “socialist realism”. Anything that did not comply with the requirements of Soviet art was dismissed as formalism. Many artists were subjected to repression and relentless persecution because their works did not fit the narrow context of the ideology. Savitskiy was able to find and bring to Nukus many works of artists who did not escape the terrible consequences, artists such as M.Sokolov, V.Komarovskiy (shot), the “Amaravella” group of artists-cosmists. Thanks to Savitskiy’s foresight in the 1960s, he was able to obtain the works of artists who until recently were no more than a blank space in the history of art. R.Mazel, P.Sokolov, A.Sofronova, E.Ermilova-Platova, K.Redko, A.Stavrovskiy, Yu. Shukin, N.Tarasov, I.Shtange, R.Barto are just some of the newly rediscovered names. Never one to pursue fame, Savitskiy strove “… though late, to rehabilitate the real value of the creative work of a great number of artists.”
Contemporary art of Karakalpakstan
The establishment of the museum in the Republic of Karakalpakstan has played an important role in the development of fine arts in Karakalpakstan. The museum provides artists with the moral and material support, and artistic education necessary for creative growth. Many Karakalpak artists and sculptors such as J.Kuttymuratov, D.Toreniyazov, B.Serekeev, A.Utegenov, E.Joldasov and others consider themselves students of Savitskiy.
One of the first Karakalpak professional artists K.Saipov is a recognized master of still-life reflecting the pecularities of Karakalpakstan. A self-taught artist A.Utegenov is also a very talented person. His still-lifes are distinguished with easy and quick conveyance of nature. The contemporary Karakalpak sculpture is based on a traditional wood-carving which was very popular among Karakalpaks since ancient times. Influenced by folklore images a sculptor D.Toreniyazov produced many works trying to show a natural beauty of wood. Fantastic, richly decorated wooden works by A. Atabaev: doors, columns, musical instruments, masks bring the feeling of festivity. J. Kuttymuratov devoted his works to the female images. His technique is characterized with a thorough and detailed work of his objects’ faces.
The museum collection comprises the best works by Karakalpak artists and sculptors, giving an overall picture of the birth and development of fine arts in Karakalpakstan.