'Portrait of Guinsberg in a plaster-cast' signed in Cyrillic and dated '60' (upper right); further signed, titled and dated (on verso) oil on canvas 100 x 67cm (39 3/8 x 26 3/8in).
PROVENANCE: Purchased in Moscow c.1987 from a private person by the present owners (Private collection, France)
EXHIBITED: Possibly Moscow, Apartment of Alexander Guinsberg, Weisberg, 1961 Paris, Gallery Bernard Felli, end of the 1980s Moscow, State Tretyakov Gallery, V.G. Weisberg, An exhibition on the anniversary of the 70th birthday of the artist, 1994, no. 217
LITERATURE: V.G. Weisberg; paintings, watercolours, drawings, Exhibition Catalogue, State Tretyakov Gallery, 1994, p. 112, no. 217, illustrated p. 111
Alexander 'Alik' Ilyich Guinsberg (1936-2002) was a journalist and leading Soviet dissident who championed human rights. He devoted his life to giving a voice to those who could not be heard and suffered sorely for it. In 1959, he launched the journal Syntaxis, publishing the work of writers who were shunned in the Soviet press, and because of which, after only three issues, he was expelled from Moscow University and imprisoned for two years. Undeterred, he later wrote the White Book, which documented the 1966 trial of two writers, Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuri Daniel, which resulted in his arrest in 1967 and a five year sentence. On his release, he was banished from Moscow but continued to campaign for human rights and frustrated the authorities over a number of years, so much so that he was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1979, in exchange for two Soviet spies detained in America. Guinsberg settled in Paris in 1980 and decided not to return to Russia after the dissolution of Communism. He died in 2002 with his complex relationship with Russia unresolved.
Weisberg's preoccupation with the theory of art is evident throughout his oeuvre and particularly in his paintings which, like his still-lifes, are informed by the metaphysical: 'His figurative subjects dissolve increasingly into a layer of colour that overlays the pictures like a mist.' [[Non]Conform: Russian and Soviet Art 1958-1995; The Ludwig Collection, Peter und Irene Ludwig Stiftung and Prestel Verlag, Munich, 2007, pp. 436-7]. The Platonic concept of eidoi, or 'Forms' could be said to have influenced Weisberg's theories of art with the overriding idea that what we perceive in ordinary life are mere shadows of Forms, or original and ideal archetypes, with art acting as the channel of the Absolute.