Pavel Nikolayevich Filonov (1883 – 1941) ~ Praise or Pity?

Pavel Nikolayevich Filonov (1883 – 1941) ~ Praise or Pity?
Pavel Nikolayevich Filonov was a notable Russian avant-garde painter and art theorist. He started his art lessons in St. Petersburg at about the age of fourteen and at age 25, began formal studies in 1908 at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts. He was expelled 2 years later. So he went to work. Got a job as a magazine contributor for Soyuz Molodyozhi, an art group. He continued painting. In 1912, he published an essay The Canon and the Law and expressed his artistic views and ideas on analytical realism, also known as Universal Flowering, which refuted the surface geometry of cubism.

He made very little money from his painting. He wanted to donate his works to the Russian Museum as a gift, so they could start a Museum of Analytical Realism. He naively believed that the Russian Revolution would help to spread his ideas. He taught at free art workshops and established a group called Masters of Analytical Art. Sadly the Soviet Regime disapproved and forbid the exhibition of his works. (I call them his art treasures.)

Since Filonov never wanted to sell his works to individual patrons and display of his art was forbidden by the government, a legend was created around him that anyone who tried to steal one of his pieces or possess them in any would suffer a terrible fate, death or something even worse! Sort of like the curse of the Pharaohs. Only it was the curse of the ghost of Filonov.

The poor man starved to death in 1941, during the Nazi Siege of Leningrad; however, his wishes were finally realized posthumously. Fortunately for the world, his sister saved many of his paintings and when the opportune moment presented itself, she gave them to the Museum. What a loving tribute to his memory.

  • Are you familiar with this man's art or the work of other artists who embraced his artistic philosophy of Analytical Realism? What do you think of this short biography?
AGREE. Not only should his artwork be shown to the world and admired, but the artist should be honored, for staying true to his ideals and principles, even though the government officially prohibited his works from being viewed by the public and even though he died in poverty. He is to be PRAISED.

DISAGREE: People who have such great talent never seem to be practical thinkers. They should always try to make money from their gift. Using the income, they could do so much more. Selling his work to individuals would have in no way compromised his integrity or philosophy. He should not have died in poverty. It's sad. He is to be PITIED.

Image credit: Flowers of the Universal Flowering, Public Domain.


No one has agreed yet, be the first!



We have no business criticizing the man.

If people want to use things in the public domain, then that's their right. For instance, certain programs like GIMP, the free art software, are not making the owners rich because obviously the premium competition takes everything. However, it's no big deal to the owners, as they simply wanted to help the world without profiting from it. Also, there is landmark programs like Sesame Street, which aside from the name-brand merchandise, obviously are not made for profit (I'm not sure where the money from Sesame Street stuff goes.).
Posted by jyy on 11-22-2017
LOL. I'm not sure where the money from Sesame Street goes either. (O.o) But I loved that show. Raised my kids on it.

You're right. People who don't always use their gifts for money-making and they should not be criticized for that. After all, they aren't misusing and abusing their talents. Although that would be sad if they did. But still ... even if they did, it is their choice. Nobody can think for anybody else.

Honor This Artist

His work is unbelievable and it should be celebrated. Just look at the art and judge that on its own merit. Why split hairs over this? The art can change culture for the better and open windows into human experience in new and amazing ways. Whether dead or alive, an artist can be exploited or mass-merchandised--he or she can also be exploited and mass-merchandised in death...
Posted by JoeMilford on 12-08-2017


I have never heard of him, but sometimes artists do go through some criticism over the course of their lives. People should be open to new ideas. Criticizing artists for their ideas is often counterproductive and does not help. Many great works of art have been lost due to that reason.
Posted by kgord on 11-24-2017
I wholeheartedly agree with you. One I read his biographical notes, I was happy when it said that his sister had saved most of his works and that they were finally made available to the public.
Posted by foxchannel on 11-30-2017
If you will look at the history of arts and artists, you will notice that most of those who became popular did not get rich. One art connoisseur said that artists in the olden times did not have agents who sell their paintings so they did not become popular at once. Unfortunately for them, some of those whose paintings achieved notice were already dead which they were not able to taste success with their art works.
Posted by Corzhens on 02-23-2018
For me, the era of Pavel Nikolayevich Filonov was when the work of arts were not appreciated the way it is appreciated now and that is part of the reason he died a shameful death by starving. I wouldn't want to lay blames on him on the alter of not making money with his works of arts since the government were against what he did back in those days. The thing with whatever we do in life is that we need the support of the government to achieve that which we want to do and that's true true about this amazing painter of old.
Posted by Barida on 03-12-2018