Author: Leonid and Olga Tikhomirovy
"Portrait of Galina Ulanova", 1967-74
The central 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 are the only artrists who painted Ulanova live. She did not like and did not have time to model, but after two years of persistent chasing, she finally agreed, after Olga told her in a telephone conversation: “After all, Galina Sergeevna, you have accomplished your mission in art, let us accomplish the main task of our life – your portrait.” She replied: “Now, this is a serious claim, now I can’t say no.” And she came to the studio and was sitting and standing for hours on end, and when Lyonya once said to her: “You must be tired of standing still for so long?”, Ulanova beckoned to him and let him touch her leg, which was as hard as a rock, and answered, “Do you really think legs like these get tired?”
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/
Exhibition in Paris, Leger Gallery, 1981/exhibitions/paris-lege-gallery-1981/
“Soviet Russia” national exhibition, 1976
Solo exhibition in Moscow, 1978 /exhibitions/moscow-1978/
Molodaya Gvardiya (Young Guard), 1974 /press/young-guard-1974/