Author: Leonid and Olga Tikhomirovy
"Galina Ulanova at Home", 1967-70
The left panel of the triptych.
Before she agreed to do the sitting, Ulanova asked Pimenov if he knew me and about my style of painting. Without a moment’s hesitation, he answered: “Of course I know him, his wife is such a beauty!” So that was how he recommended me as an artist. My wife and I were painting Ulanova for seven years; she would come to our house in a light-coloured Ford. To make it easier for her, we suggested that she leave her Angora wool dress and golden shoes with us. When the portraits were finished and we were about to return the dress, it had been eaten by moths. I called Galina Sergeevna and said: “Remember the dress? The moths have eaten it”“Oh, it is my favourite dress,” she paused, “Oh, my favourite dress,” - silence again. I repeat: Moth-eaten, eaten by the moths. And suddenly she replied: “Well, I suppose it would have been eaten anyway, if not in your house, then in mine.”
We did two portraits: one full length - 180 cm - and a smaller one of her sitting down. They were sold in London for £60,000 each, and again my share was one per cent. Olga has also painted a self-portrait The Artist, showing her at work on Ulanova. The Bolshoi Theatre requested then all three paintings, but I refused. The lady director of a large museum in Leningrad followed me to London and I was accused of selling paintings abroad. And yet, as I have already mentioned, I was not in charge, so it did not come to anything. In our country my paintings went for next to nothing and therefore all my best works have gone to the West.
(From interview to the Egoist Magazine, October 2003). /press/egoist-journal-10-october-2003/
Olga and Leonid Tikhomirovy spent seven years working on the portrait of Ulanova. Why did we decide to paint her? – Leonid Petrovich repeats the question. - How could we not have painted the brilliant ballerina, our contemporary? It would have been the same as not capturing for future generations an image of Chaliapin or Yermolova, were they alive today. The answer, you have to agree, is more than convincing, especially so when here, in this studio, I have before me a huge group portrait of the conquerors of space Gagarin, Komarov and Korolev. - And the immediate impulse, - his wife Olga joins the conversation, - for that work came when we met Galina Sergeyevna at a gathering of Moscow’s arts intelligentsia at the Bolshoi Theatre. I remember us standing in the lower foyer and looking at the noisy festive throng coming down the wide central staircase. Straightaway we noticed Ulanova, who attracted our attention with the radiant simplicity of her clothes and a sort of shyness to her manner. We had not yet met her then, but were amazed, when we did meet, at how accurate that first impression was. It was for a reason that we chose to do our paintings of Ulanova (the triptych) in a soft colour pallete, which, perhaps best conveys her image - outwardly unassuming but always striking in its inward depth. However, before meeting Galina Sergeyevna and persuading her to sit for them, the Tikhomirovs spent more than a year doing sketches, working out, as they put it, “the idea of Ulanova”; reading lots of books on ballet, attending a number of performances at the Bolshoi Theatre, producing a whole heap of drafts. It was not easy to talk Galina Sergeyevna into sitting, - Leonid Tikhomirov recalls, - as she is far too busy and, what’s more important, always embarrassed by excessive attention to her persona. But nevertheless, we managed to win her over, proving that our decision to paint her was not an idle fancy. After that, things really got going. It’s hard to judge your own work, - Olga Tikhomirova joins the conversation again, - but we wanted to draw out who Ulanova was as a person and as an artist, to show that for her being still is purely external, as the inward labour continues non-stop, in the middle of whatever she happens to be occupied with at any given moment.
E. Pavlova, Rabotnitsa (Female Worker) magazine №8, 1974 /press/worker-journal-8-1974/
I have known and loved for a long time the three portraits of the great Russian ballerina Galina Ulanova painted by the Tikhomirovs. And somehow - I think I have already mentioned it somewhere before - in my perception they arranged themselves as a triptych: the full-length vertical portrait in the middle; Ulanova sitting on the sofa is the left part of the triptych, and Ulanova sitting for Olga, its right part. It is a single work of art, a complete poem about Ulanova and, in my view, wherever these pieces are displayed in the future - and the lobby of the Bolshoi theatre is the best place for them - they should be shown together, precisely as a triptych.
From the review by Vladimir Soloukhin of the 1978 solo exhibition in Moscow./exhibitions/moscow-1978/
In the portrait of Ulanova the artists aimed for a simple, straightforward and graceful representation that would correspond to inner character of the great ballet dancer.
I. Gorin, PhD in art history, Moskovsky Khudozhnik (Moscow Artist) Newspaper.
Exhibition in Paris, Leger Gallery, 1981/exhibitions/paris-lege-gallery-1981/
All-Russian exhibition dedicated to Vladimir Lenin
Solo exhibition in Moscow, 1978 /exhibitions/moscow-1978/Sovetskaya
Kultura (Soviet Culture) newspaper, №20, March 8, 1978 /press/newspaper-soviet-culture-20/
Rabotnitza (Female Worker) magazine, №8 1974
Molodaya Gvardiya, 1974 /press/young-guard-1974/