Ernst Neizvestny, 1925–2016

The Russian-American artist, who famously stood up to Khrushchev for calling his art 'degenerate', has died

Ernst Neizvestny with a model of his sculpture for Khrushchev's tombstone. Via The Art Newspaper

Ernst Neizvestny, the Russian-American artist and sculptor has died, The Moscow Times reports. Born in Sverdlovsk, now Yekaterinburg, in the Urals, Neizvestny joined the Red Army in 1942, age 17, and fought in the Soviet campaign against Germany. After the war, he went on to study classical art in Riga and Moscow, and his work as an illustrator and sculptor soon gained national and international recognition.

In 1962, at an exhibition of avant-garde art at Moscow’s Manege exhibition hall, Neizvestny decried Nikita Khrushchev for having described his work as ‘degenerate’. Ironically, when Khrushchev died in 1971, his family commissioned him to design his tombstone, which now sits at Moscow’s Novodevichy Cemetery. Neizvestny left the USSR in 1976 citing ‘aesthetic differences with the regime’ and emigrated to New York where he taught art at various universities and kept on working until his death, age 91. Monuments and sculptures by Neizvestny can be found in cities across the world including Rome, Geneva, Stockholm, New York, Perm and Moscow. Earlier this year, the Moscow Manege staged a retrospective of his work, which is to tour Russia. 

12 August 2016.