Magazine article Russian Life

There Is No Beauty at Beauty Contests

Magazine article Russian Life

There Is No Beauty at Beauty Contests

Article excerpt

Alexander Shilov, 54, is one of those few, lucky artists who has enjoyed recognition during his lifetime. In 1983, just four years after his first personal exhibition in Moscow made a big splash, he received the honorary title of People's Artist of Russia. In 1985 he became a People's Artist of the USSR. Last year, Shilov told the State Duma that he would donate some 400 of his paintings to the state if a special building were allocated to house the collection. In uncharacteristic style, the Duma acted swiftly and unanimously to approve the resolution. Soon thereafter, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov acted with characteristic efficiency and allocated a nice, 19th century mansion at 5 Znamenka street. In May 1997, the gallery opened its doors.

Of course, official endorsement of an artist can be a double-edged sword. But it certainly has not stopped Shilov from voicing his views on today's state ideology - he is not the type to mince words. Accordingly, the artist has both fervent admirers, who like his "living" portraits, and vociferous critics, who reject his "artificial photographic style." But the facts speak for themselves. This past January, on a cold, Saturday night - eight (!) months after the opening of the gallery - there was a one hour wait outside in the cold to gain entrance.

In pursuing this month's story on Russian Beauty, Mikhail Ivanov sat down with the artist to hear his views on the subject.

Russian Life. Many people have their own views on beauty - but should not an artist know this better than others? What is beauty for you? The beauty of Russian women in particular?

Alexander Shilov: Of course, it all starts with the eyes. And then, through the eyes, through her appearance, what is important for me is charm and goodness. I need to see in the woman's eyes serenity, femininity, tenderness, and, by no means, any aggressiveness, or masculinity. I am against the woman trying to catch up with the man. Nature had in store for the woman a mighty role, so much so that the woman is much stronger than the man. In short, the French are right to say chercher la femme ["look for the woman"], for I believe that the woman is behind everything that happens on the globe, good or evil. That is the way physiology is, it is beyond our control. That is the way life on earth was conceived.

RL: Speaking of appearance, it is widely believed that only in Russia one can meet so many beautiful women ...

AS: I think, yes, in terms of percentages, Russian women are more beautiful than other women in the world. Take my favorite country, Italy. I arrive there full of visions of Bryulov's female characters in my eyes. But I don't see Bryulov's type of Italian women there. Sure you can find some - say one woman with beautiful hair, or with beautiful eyes, but, on the whole, Russian women are prettier.

RL: Why so? Some say it is all in the genes?

AS: I can't explain this. I just don't know, I am not a scientist. That's the way life on Earth was created: it means that's the way it was supposed to be - that women in Russian should be the most beautiful. Of course, single cases of beauties can be found everywhere, but, on the whole, the prettiest women are in Russia. But [now] they lack education and charm, and I wish they were less mercantile. For Russian women are losing something they used to possess. For instance, when I am tired after work, I like strolling the Moscow streets - the Arbat and all. And sometimes you can find old babushkas, old Muscovites. …

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