Lev Tchistovsky 

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Biography of Lev Tchistovsky  ( 1902-1969 )

Lev Tschistovsky was a Russian figurative painter specialised in feminine nudes. He first trained at the Fine Art School in Saint-Petersbourg, where he was a pupil of Savinsky and Eberling. Laureate of his school, he left USSR in 1925 and took classes at the Fine Arts School in Roma and after in Florence.

He met Irena Klestova in Venice, at the end of the twenties. She was also a pupil at the Saint-Petersbourg’s Fine Arts School, and she was already exhibiting her paintings at the Salon des Independants in Paris. Lev Tchistovsky settled in Paris in Montparnasse’s district and married Irena. In his studio on Impasse du Rouet, he rubbed shoulders with Andre Breton and Tamara de Lempicka.

Member of the Salon des Independants in 1930, Lev Tchistovsky was exhibiting there regularly. His portraits and nude figures constituted the most of his abundant production. The classic realism of his works depicted erotism and sensuality of the women of his time.

During his whole career, he was inspired by Mythology that will give him a great inspiration. Passionate by icons, Lev Tchistovsky was preparing, just before he died, a publication about icons technique.The art historian Loukomsky depicted him as an authentic resistant of classical painting, whose technique approached the perfection, especially in his nudes.

He died in 1969, in his house in Cénevières in the Lot French department. His wife gave a lot of his paintings to the Urbain Cabrol local Museum. There are many of his art works in the Ermitage Museum in Saint Petersbourg. Robert Maxwell, magnate of the press, also bought some of his paintings.

These two paintings are very representative of Lev Tchistovsky’s art works. The first one is a feminine nude, realised with a great precision and the second one, inspired from Hindu mythology, is representing the second birth of Ganesh.

The painter has represented on this painting three very important characters of the Hindu mythology : Shiva, Parvati and Ganesh. Shiva is the most venerated of the divinities. He is always depicted with a cobra arround his arm and a third eye on the middle of his forehead,  symbol of wisdom ; from his hair ornamented with a crescent moon, symbol of time cycle, flows the Ganges, the sacred river. His wife Parvati, the daughter of the Himalayas, is endowed with a great beauty. She embodies the kindly form of Devi, the first goddess and becomes the symbol of loving wife. She’s holding in her arms her eldest son Ganesh. The painter has respected in his composition the harmony, the serenity and the beauty of these gods, as it used to be in the traditional iconographic representations.

When Ganesh was arround five years old, he was the guardian of his mother’s shower room. Parvati asked him to stop everyone to enter. One day, his father Shiva who was coming back from war arrived and asked him to come in. He has never seen his son before, and as Ganesh forbidded him to enter in the room, Shiva blind with rage to be contradicted by a child, cut off the little boy’s head with a light from his third eye.

Parvati told Shiva that he just murdered his son and asked him to give life to him once again. The god asked to his servants to come back with the head of the first living person they will see. It was a young elephant, so that’s why Ganesh has got this elephant’s head.

There are many symbols of Hindu mythology in this painting, for example the rat is Ganesh’s vehicle and we can also see the fish Matsaya incarnation of Vishnu on the Earth. 

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