OLEKSANDR K. SYMONOV
(28 Nov 1875 — 13 Jul 1957)
Landscape painter, portrait, monumental-decorative painting;
museology, organiser of numerous exhibitions.
Rector of KhSAI and Director of KhAC (March, 1943 – June, 1944),
Oleksandr K. Symonov was born on 28 November 1875 in the village Kapustentsi Gadyatsky district (nowadays Poltava region) to a noble family. His father was a lawyer. He early became an orphan and was raised by his aunt. Oleksandr began making his living when he was 14 years old. Since childhood he liked drawing.
In 1896 after several breaks in studying he finished school.
From 1896 till 1901 he studied at Empire Stroganov Central Art and Industrial College (according to other sources though he studied at Moscow College of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture). On graduating from the College with honours, he began his career in art and education.
From 1901 till 1910 O. Symonov gave classes of Graphic art at Commercial College in Symbirsk.
In 1907 he studied in Paris Academy of Fine Arts.
In 1910 he left Symbirsk for Moscow and worked there as a lecturer at Stroganov Art and Industrial College (till 1915). He also worked at a creative workshop.
From 1910 till 1917 the painter was a member of the Creative association World of Art.
From 1915 till 1917 he gave classes at Petrograd Tradesman School of Crown Prince Mykolai and was in charge for art-handcraft classes.
After the events in October 1917 Symonov moved to Kharkiv to some of his relatives.
From 1917 till 1919 he was a member of Kharkiv Literature and Art association Union of Arts.
From 1919 till 1922 he was engaged in creative activity and at the same time worked at Glavpolitprosvet of People’s commissariat for education. He was also appointed a research fellow in the museum sector; O. Symonov equipped museums and organised exhibitions.
In 1922 he was appointed Professor at Kharkiv Art Technical School.
In 1927 his personal exhibition took place in Kharkiv.
From 1930 till 1941 he was the Head of the Department of Drawing and Painting at Kharkiv Engineer and Construction Institute (KhECI) and at the same time he worked as a lecturer at Kharkiv Art Institute (up to 1934).
In 1934 his second personal exhibition took place in Kharkiv.
In 1938 he became a member of the Union of Soviet Artists.
In 1939 he got an academic degree of professor of KhECI which was approved by the State Commission for Academic Degrees and Titles (Moscow).
In 1940 the Academic board of the Ukrainian Art Gallery advocated for creating an album dedicated to O. Symonov’s creativity. However, the war kept them from fulfilling the idea.
From 1941 till 1943 O. Symonov and his wife lived in Kharkiv invaded with fascists. Symonov worked as a secretary of bureau of the Ukrainian Author Association (UAA).
On 19 February 1942 when the Red Army scoured the invaders from Kharkiv, he began teaching activity at Art Institute.
Since 14 March 1943 when the fascists invaded Kharkiv again and later on when Kharkiv was liberated on 23 August 1943 Oleksandr Symonov was the Rector of KhSAI and Director of KhAC. The administrative work was over when an associate professor S. Besyedin was appointed Rector.
In 1944 Symonov continued working at the Department of Drawing and Painting of KhECI.
In 1947 he retired; at the same year he became a widower.
In 1948 he moved for permanent residence to Gagry (Abkhazia).
On 12 July 1957 O. Symonov died at the age of 82. He was buried in Gagry.
During 1920s-1940s O. Symonov took part in more than 30 Ukrainian and All-Union exhibitions. The artist was an exhibitor of the association Firebird and a member of several art unions, namely ARAU and ARUA (since 1928), Association of Artists of Ukraine (AAU), Association of Artists named after I. Repin (Moscow), etc.
During the pre-war years O. Symonov’s works were exhibited in many museums of Ukraine, namely in Kharkiv, Odesa, Dnipropetrovsk, Sumy, Voroshilovgrad, and other towns of the former Soviet Union. The most famous paintings by O. Symonov are Last shepherd (1927), In the forest (1927), Ukraine. At the health resort (1927), Whitening the canvas (1927), Dniprelstan (1929), Mine (1929), Morning in Donbas (1930s), Outskirts of Kharkiv (1936), Pavlivka (1940), etc.
In early 1930s the artist worked in the monumental-decorative art and created a multimetre panel picture with the view of Sukhumi as it was ordered by Sukhumi city hall. Also a panel picture Southern landscape was created by him for the Palace of Pioneers in Kharkiv; it had a total area of 40 m2.
In accordance with O. Symonov’s will the Union of Georgian Artists established the House of Creativity named after O. Symonov. It is located in his house in Gagry and has as paintings by Symonov, so some works from his private collection. Unfortunately, after the Georgian-Abkhazian war in 1992-1993 the collection disappeared.