People’s Artist of the USSR and Stalin Prize winner Yuri Petrovich Kugach is featured as the cover image in a photo essay on Russia’s ubiquitous museum attendants. Sitting motionless and silent, in nearly every major room of Russia’s art museums, these attendants, usually older women, are like a kind of permanent performance piece. This series of photos, by photographer Andy Freeberg, focuses our attention on these often invisible participants in the Russian museum experience.
The first image in the series shows Kugach’s “Before the Last Dance.” One of Kugach’s most beloved works, it was preceded by many careful drawings and sketches. Several years ago Lazare Gallery acquired a beautiful study of the red haired woman from the Kugach family. The sense of form and the slight changes of color in her dress and in the luminous shadows beneath the bench made a huge impression on me at the time. It was only much later that I saw the final painting, but I still believe that this sketch could be considered a masterpiece in its own right.
Click here to view a large image of the painting at the Tretyakov Gallery’s website.