Before leaving the Soviet Union in 1975 and moving to Los Angeles, Anatole Krasnyansky, had already achieved recognition as an important watercolor painter and architect. His work was embraced in Europe and the USSR and stylistically today his "Old World" imagery still remains a part of his artistic output, appearing in evocative cityscapes which focus on his architectural skills and convey a poetic mood. More recently, he created an entirely new style which embodies his Eastern European roots and yet fully embraces his new life in the United States.
Anatole Kranyansky's disciplined understanding of the relationship between sculpture, painting, the applied arts and architecture has profoundly shaped his work and his artistic philosophy. His experimentation with mediums and materials led to a technical breakthrough and allowed him to create his own artistic method, which is independent from traditional watercolor technique. Through his use of exotic textural "prepared" papers he has extended the medium's potential and elevated watercolor to a more expressive and dynamic from of painting possessing qualities more commonly associated with oil or acrylic painting.
In his figural works which often at first appear abstract, Krasnyansky still maintains relationships to the tangible world. These images which suggest a surrealist influence rely on rigorous modernist formal considerations but still retain echoes of his Eastern European heritage.
Along with his impressive fine art credentials, Krasnyansky worked as a scenic artist in motion pictures, the theatre and television. His specialized background was ideal for this demanding profession and as a lover of the baroque he incorporated the strength and fluid grace of the Baroque into his professional projects. His contemporary fine art imagery relies on extensive compositional inventiveness and fluid linear emphasis honed by his countless hours as an architectural draftsman.
A catalog raisonne of Krasnayansky's graphic works spanning nearly five decades of his art is scheduled for publication in late 2011 or early 2012.
Selected Television and Motion Picture work:
From 1981 - Stage Art Director at Odyssey Theatre, West Los Angeles. Credits include: Productions of "Mandrake", Machiavelli I. Dimont-K. Maurer & Ron Sossi Productions. From 1977 - Set designer at Universal Studios. Credits include: Coal Miner's Daughter; Beatles Forever; The Blues Brothers; The Bastard; Prisoner of Zenda; The Archer; Battlestar Galactica; Condominium; Airport '79; Gilligan's Island and others; 1975-76 - Scenic Artist at ABC and CBS Television Studios. Credits include: General Hospital; Variety Specials for Frank Sinatra, John Denver, Bette Davis, George Burns, Olivia Newton-John; Academy Awards Shows 1976-1977 and others.
Stanford University, Palo Alto, California; Park West Gallery®, Southfield, MI; Los Gatos Museum, Los Gatos, California; solo exhibitions in New York, Boston, New Orleans, Atlantic City, San Francisco, Beverly Hills, San Diego and Tokyo; Dalzell Hatfield Galleries "International Watercolor Masters" (Camille Pissaro, Leonel Feininger, Marc Chagall, Diego Rivera, Reuben Rubin, Anatole Krasnyansky, Alfredo Ramos Martinez, Francois Gilot); UCLA, Los Angeles, California
Check out some of the Park West Gallery You Tube videos featuring Anatole Krasnyansky using the Video Bar below:
With an entirely mischievous twinkle in his eyes he greets me. I ask how he is, and as usual he responds, “Still alive,” with deadpan seriousness.
His “Cityscapes,” which delight so many viewers reveal his deep experience as a draftsman, his brilliance as an architect and his poetic ability to create a poignant, evocative mood through a facile command of the unforgiving technique of watercolor.
His “figural” imagery, steeped in the ground breaking theories of visual perception that pass from Cezanne, through Picasso, to the aesthetician, Rudolph Arnheim (Art and Visual Perception, 1974) continually wrestle with the complex visual problems of plastic space, color interaction and orchestration of form. Yet both styles reside harmonically in the creative world of Anatole Krasnyansky. He has also sought ways of “reconciling” the two styles of his art, and fusing them into a unique conception. These works display his figures in architectural interiors, with lavish cityscapes seen from the windows, or figures flying above complex architectural structures beneath them. Most recently, he has begun to populate interiors with modeled figures (akin to a notion of sculpture) in various poses and activities, with elaborate and detailed vistas of architectural designs in the distance.
Regarding the content found in his works, there is also a fascinating duality. Though his works initially appear to be driven by formal concerns, as they “dance” and entertain the eye in an aesthetic “performance,” he also contemplates carefully and with great detail the messages he intends to present. I have listened to him discuss a painting and describe one-by-one each figure presented. With great precision he illuminates the subtle nuances of expression, position, apparent activity and even the costume worn by the figure and these relationships to his messages. Often they carry political meanings and incipient statements about dictatorship, hypocrisy, guile and manipulation stemming from his experience as a Soviet citizen. It is rare to find an artist so fluid in the formal language of art to be so articulate as well in the meanings of his imagery. Most artists allow the viewer to draw one’s own conclusions. Anatole welcomes these as well, but typical of his paradoxical nature is anxious to reveal and articulate his own allusions.Read More
It is also this two-sided artistic coin that makes him so interesting in the early 21st Century world in which we reside; a world which seems to be less and less attuned to beautiful artistic dichotomies. Herein is another irony. In a world where the “elite” art of our time resides in an anti-aesthetic, an obsessive artistic narcissism wherein art continually looks at itself in the “pool” of context and asks itself over and over again, “Am I art, or not?”—Anatole’s art evokes powerful responses from thousands of people all over the world. The enthusiasm for his artwork is often dramatic, certainly passionate, and enduring for his devotees. I know collectors who have dozens of Krasnyanskys. Anatole and I have discussed the history of art many times. We’ve walked museums together and contemplated dynastic Asian sculptures, paintings by Velasquez and “installations” composed of truck mud-flaps and lunch box thermoses.
Bridging Two Worlds
Anatole Krasnyansky, the artist and architect from pre-Stalinist Ukraine, has made a significant impact on contemporary art with his unique, energetic, and deeply evocative works. As with the majority of great artists Krasnyansky allows the people, experiences and surroundings that have shaped his life to inspire his art. Particular inspirations derive from his youth and young adulthood in the U.S.S.R., his formal education as an architect, life in Los Angeles following his immigration to the United States, and his lifelong love of music. Within these memories, these artistic building blocks, he expresses the passion that distinguishes his art, and resonates with art historians, curators and collectors alike.
Krasnyansky earned his Masters of Architecture with the special title “Artist-Architect” from the Kiev State Art Institute in 1953. In the stimulating environment of the Art Institute the artists and architects exchanged ideas and exhibited their work. Krasnyansky and his fellow architecture students took courses in painting, drawing, and the history of art and architecture. Studying architectural restoration at the Academy of Fine Art in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) afforded Krasnyansky the opportunity to work on the restoration of Potemkin Palace and the Marble Palace at The Hermitage. This background in art history and restoration fueled the artist’s great admiration for historic buildings and Russia’s architectural heritage, which would later figure prominently into his artwork.
For the next two decades, Krasnyansky embarked on a number of major architectural projects in and around Kiev. Working in the style of international modernism under the watchful eye of the government, Krasnyansky designed the Central Medical Emergency Building and the Polytechnic Institute Subway Station, as well as hospitals, art pavilions, exhibition installations and monuments. He also worked on a number of important restoration projects, including the 14th century Vladimir Cathedral and the 16th century Monastery of St. Michael in Pereyaslav-Khemlnicky, Ukraine.
While architecture was Krasnyansky’s profession, his avocation was art; he created numerous drawings and watercolors during breaks from his projects and in his travels. Working in the traditional style of European realism, Krasnyansky interpreted the historic architecture of his homeland in watercolor and acrylic paintings like Kizhi, Russia (painting 1996; serigraph, 1998), in which he depicts one of the most extensive and highly visited tourist sites of Russia. The unique wooden architecture on this small island, in what is now the Republic of Karelia, includes the Cathedral of the Transfiguration, the Church of the Intercession, the Belfry, and several peasant houses, and is included on the Unesco World Heritage List, which documents natural and historical sites of significance located all over the world. Krasnyansky was equally adept at painting naturalistic landscapes, as seen in his watercolor, Outskirt of Prague (painting 1999; serigraph 2001). The beautiful washes of color in this work, with the touches of turquoise in the sky fading into the foggy distance, point to the technical mastery and gift as a colorist that Krasnyansky would demonstrate throughout his career.Read More
Frustrated with the continued government mandate on Socialist realism in art and concerned by the growth of anti-Semitism, Krasnyansky decided to immigrate to the United States with his wife Nelly and daughter Rimma, where he planned to support his family as an architect, if not as an artist. After settling with his family in Los Angeles in 1975, Krasnyansky went from one architectural firm to another armed with the impressive portfolio he developed while in the Soviet Union, but in the Cold War Era the only opportunities open to him were in the television and movie industries. Despite his limited knowledge of English, his inability to find an architectural position and his lack of a social network in America, the ever-resourceful Krasnyansky began a new career, first as a scenic artist at ABC TV studio, then as a set designer at Universal, MGM and Twentieth Century Fox studios.
During these early years in Los Angeles, Krasnyansky’s artistic goals changed from realist depictions of nature and architecture and the occasional portrait to a new search for intense emotional expression through color, form, and technique. Krasnyansky had long worked in watercolors and he continued to see them as final works of art rather than as preparatory studies for paintings in oil or acrylic. He decided to combine the highly developed precision of his watercolor technique with new explorations of the expressive effects that could be produced with highly textured papers.
Krasnyansky begins the process of creating a watercolor work by preparing a sheet of paper, covering it with washes of watercolor pigments and then roughing the surface. The color and heightened texture created a kind of abstract, expressive environment in which his subjects took form. Krasnyansky integrated the inherent characteristics of watercolor – its lucidity and transparency – with textured papers to achieve an organic interdependence of the materials.
Krasnyansky’s new experimentations resulted in a series of representations of human “types” in watercolor, such as The Dissident, The Immigrant, and Man of Destiny. In this last watercolor, painted in 1976, we see through a web of jagged lines an illuminated Christ-like visage, marked by a sense of struggle, pain, and uncertainty. Krasnyansky based this figure on the main character of the book Monument to a Cross Bearer by Arcibald Kronin. The textures created by the paper and lines create a heightened emotional tone in a manner reminiscent of German Expressionists such as Kirchner, Nolde,
These new experiments allowed Krasnyansky to transform his art from the naturalism developed in his years in Kiev to explorations of the symbolic use of color found in late Impressionism and Expressionism, and the distortions of form in Cubism and Surrealism. In the process, he developed two distinct and seemingly dissimilar styles that both sprang from his love of history, architecture, Russian and Ukrainian fairytales, and the performing arts. His views of architecture in the old cities of Europe have the more obvious connection to his architectural background and heritage. From his early sketches made in Europe, Krasnyansky made more detailed watercolors, such as his monumental painting, Memories of Venice (painting, 1995; serigraph, 1996). Though the tonalities of this work may initially seem muted, upon closer inspection the masterful handling of colored patches of watercolor that highlight the architecture dazzles the eye.
The other side of Krasnyansky’s art — his works depicting musicians, dancers, and scaramouches (buffoon-like characters from traditional Italian comedy) — developed through the influence of his life in Los Angeles. Krasnyansky created these paintings and prints after he attended his first hard rock concert in 1980, when, somewhat stunned by the experience, he attempted to express the noisy agitation of the sound and light show in a new style. The unfinished study Rock and Roll was the product of several years of experimentation to find a technique suitable to express his sense of bewilderment at this experience. The image combines elements derived from the flat, colorful, disjunctive planes of Synthetic Cubism and the strange, metamorphic forms found in Surrealism, as well as the fluid forms of the “psychedelic” art popular at the time in California. Krasnyansky created a series of related experimental works in which the contorted figures — half formed, half animal — represented his view of the condition of the human psyche as it is shaped by fear, uncertainty, and a constant bombardment of environmental stimuli. Through these explorations of 20th century modernist art, Krasnyansky created a new art form to express his intense emotional reactions to contemporary life in Los Angeles.
While this style has its origins in American rock music, Krasnyansky’s musical subjects in the works that followed were usually inspired by the genres of classical music and jazz. Since his youth, music has always played an important role in Krasnyansky’s life. He began taking violin lessons when he was around the age of six, and performed with a group of chamber violinists in concert halls. Though he was more attracted to drawing, music was nevertheless emphasized as an integral part of his culture by his mother and uncle. While he was living in Tashkent, his mentor, the prominent Russian film art director Alexander Black, also stressed the importance of classical music to nurture his heart, no matter what his life circumstances might turn out to be, and to inspire his art as well. Works with such musically-inspired titles such as Capriccio (painting, 1995; serigraph, 1997), Orchestra (painting 1995; serigraph, 1996), and Cellist (painting, 1999; serigraph, 2001) combine references to classical music with his harlequin-like figures. Krasnyansky transforms Picasso’s static, cubist harlequins into colorful, often joyous forms in various stages of movement. His figures and settings are also reminiscent of the theatricality of the Baroque, which is perhaps the period of art, architecture, and music that has had the biggest impact on the artist. As in Baroque art, the construction of twisting forms and use of color are vehicles for conveying complex meanings and emotions.Read More
Krasnyansky explains this goal in relation to his work Cellist in the following way: “The musician is playing a song, an etude, or a symphony. The song has a theme — love, hate, whatever. During the song, lots of memories are stirred in the musician and the viewer, different emotions come out. I tried to put into visual forms all of these ideas.” Like the great Russian painter Vasily Kandinsky, Krasnyansky equates the ability of the painter to create a range of emotions through color, texture, and form to the similar role of the musician.
One of Krasnyansky’s most moving paintings is Song of Love (painting, 1997; serigraph, 1998). In an interview with Richard Carroll for Park West Gallery®, Krasnyansky described the work in the following way:
A man and a woman fall in love but each with their own memories — sometimes happy, sometimes depressed. Doubt prevails, caused from previous experiences. He thinks, “Is this real love?” She has many faces. [She thinks,] “Does he love me or just want me?”
At the same time, there is an energy field. The background is like an aura. We all have a biological energy radiating from us. Memory is always with us, and we all have different emotions. Our brain works faster than our tongue. I have to use symbols, color, and outlines to express the energy and emotion in order to send the message. Some paintings are lighter, others more complex.
Having abandoned the realist style of his early work, Krasnyansky now relies on abstracted forms and expressive color to convey meaning. In this work, Krasnyansky seems to be reinterpreting his life in the form of a fairytale. There is one tightly compacted form illuminating the background. At the top of this form is a masked face, one of the brightest areas of the form. Following the shape along its right and left edges, it becomes a coat of many colors hanging down to his sturdy but highly decorative shoes. On the left is another face looking up at him, while opposite her face is the stringed lute. Though alone in this world, they have each other; they are protected from the elements and society by the coat and inside it, they are sustained by a Baroque ebb and flow of color and music. With their masks, we cannot know who they are, but together in their own world, their survival seems sure. Rising above the obstacles of his youth to become an architect, risking everything to immigrate to the United States with his beloved wife and daughter, embarking on a second career to support his family, he maintained his passion for creating art. Song of Love seems to embody the secret to Anatole Krasnyansky’s resilience and success. Long ago his childhood mentor Alexander Black, a well-known film industry art director, told him, “Listen to music and it will help you to be free.”
Perhaps it began in my days as a child during World War II when my family was forced to evacuate our home. After my mother would go to sleep, I would get out of bed and draw. I lit a candle (we had no electricity) and placed my history book from school upright to act as a screen from the light so as not to wake her. Then I would draw for hours.
From an early age I was fascinated by art and through my love of it, transported away from many of the situations which surrounded me. Eventually, when I became an architecture student at the Academy of Art, all of my free time was spent painting watercolors. When I think back to those times and of the places and subjects I painted I experience an overwhelming sense of joy and happiness recalling my contact with nature and history and the profound effect this had upon me.
Architectural landscapes have always fascinated me. Even today when I paint the “old cities” of Russia and Europe I attempt to convey my continuing excitement and deep respect for art and architecture created so long ago. In these works, I try to send a message to the viewer: “People, let us never forget our past. Never forget where we came from. Never forget the accomplishments of our cultures…the foundations of our civilization and our valued traditions.”
When I was a student I diligently studied the technique of watercolor. Watercolor is a medium often used by architects for their presentations of architectural designs and I was exposed to it at an early age. Only serious study of this unforgiving technique will allow one to master it.
I have been fascinated with the art of ancient Egypt, along with Egyptian architecture, paintings on papyrus, and later the invention of paper which allowed the advent of printing techniques and the use of watercolor. I am also deeply interested in the art of central Tibet from the time of Songtsen Gampo and his followers in the Seventh Century, who introduced Buddhism from China and India and created wonderful Buddhist paintings in tempera on cloth. I have also studied with fascination, manuscripts from the third through the 17th Centuries when the art of miniature painting reached its peak of technical accomplishment, and Flemish tapestries with their complexity of multi-figurative compositions often in large scale. In addition Gothic, Romanesque, Renaissance, Baroque and traditional Russian icons have also influenced me greatly.
All of this study and these influences in some ways triggered my desire to use water base paint-- watercolor, tempera and later acrylic paint mediums in particular. And the idea to potentially bring back these ancient water base mediums and their expressive potential into our contemporary times struck me. All of this has become the foundation and a primary influence for my compositions as well.
Although watercolor has traditionally been viewed as a secondary medium as compared to oil painting and used primarily for studies and compositional sketches, the idea of watercolor as the medium for a finished painting is not new. Artists have used watercolor for “finished” landscape and seascape paintings, portraits and compositions. These works were created using the academic watercolor technique of applying paint onto a passive flat surface of paper. The emotional response therefore was based primarily on the mastery of the artist and rarely on the medium.
In contemplating this, I asked myself, “What is the secret of the emotional response found in oil painting?” And, regarding watercolor “Is it possible to elevate the emotional response of the viewer and raise the level of importance to that of an oil painting?”
My belief is that this secret is found first in the mastery of the painter, but that this elusive response is achievable through the use of unique techniques incorporating applications of textured pigment and heavy brushstrokes which can achieve a relief effect.
The Evolution of my Imagery and Style
Consequently, without being fully conscious of it, American life, political events, news in the world of art and culture, my meeting with the rock-n-roll group Kiss (and my “cultural shock” after this meeting), pushed me toward surrealism. All of this became a base, a foundation for the development of my style—a style in which design, realism and abstract art are all brought together. A style which may be characterized in one word—Masquerade.
All aspects of our lives—everyday life, political life, are but a masquerade, multi-faceted and potentially dangerous…. We all have many faces. It depends upon where we are, what situation we are in and whom we are with…but in each case we are different. We are always different. That is why in my paintings my figures have a multiplicity of faces.
The first painting which became the basic foundation and launched the development of my newer style was Rok-N-Roll, (pg. 59) painted in a surrealistic manner with an apocalyptic feeling. In this painting one can recognize the influence of art of the Middle Ages, Gothic art and Russian icons.
In the process of developing new visual ideas and compositions, my preliminary sketches play an important role. I will develop an idea completely from a rough drawing all the way through to a precise and sustained composition in my sketches.
In my case, as the drawing becomes more refined and complete, it begins to suggest its own compositional balance and rhythm. When this process is finished and I have a completed drawing, it will stand alone as an independent work of art with its own visual power and message.
Then, I can conceptually “move away” from my concerns of structural integrity and any anatomical balance (since I have already achieved these qualities in the finished drawing) and focus on more intuitive elements of my painting process. This includes color balance and other aspects, but I work in this sensibility as if working on a purely abstract painting.
This process of combining rigorous fully developed drawing (which has resolved the problems of composition and structure) with the freedom of my more intuitive “abstract” painting process has created an effect which I believe is unique, and through this same methodology, a style which is recognizable even without my signature.
In addition, political events play an important role in my art. Paintings like Dictator (pg. 120), Glastnost (pg. 125), The Victory (pg. 121), Vanka-Vstanka (pg. 124), paintings now in progress at the time of this writing—Masquerade in Venice, Who Are You to Judge? and Witchcraft reveal a clear understanding of this area of my interest and in the possibilities of my style. Real lives of real people also play a great role in my art. Compositions like The Last Bottle (pg. 102), Opium Dens (pg. 103), Good Bye (pg. 108), and Busybodies (pg. 106) reflect on my responses to human weaknesses, addictions and unhealthy habits.
I also give great attention in my art to music and musicians. Music plays a very important role in intellectual life. The power of music contains an emotional message which triggers the best and most positive responses in the human soul whether classical, jazz or other forms.
I am also often asked about the influences of other important modern and contemporary Western artists on my life and work. Artists like Picasso, Miro, Chagall, Dali, Braque, Rothko, Pollack and so many others have had an influence on me and without their work I would have never created my style. But I cannot name one artist who has influenced me the most.
Rather, it has been this wonderful atmosphere of freedom, free unfettered and pure creation, and creation without rules, limitations and restrictions. This, along with the “avalanche” of information to which I am exposed, and respond to every day…all this has become the very stimulus for my creative passions and inventions.
Park West Gallery, founded in 1969, is one of the artistic leaders in a new generation of art collecting. For more than 42 years, Park West Gallery has been providing art auction events around the United States and extensive art programs on international cruise lines. The goal of Park West Galleries has remained unchanged since its humble beginnings; to create an entertaining and educational atmosphere that will spark a passion for art in every individual that comes across our collection.For centuries, art has primarily been held in the hands of the elite; commissions were given by kings, noblemen, and the church. The beautiful works of art that were created through those commissions remained in private collections, castles, and the homes of the very powerful. The common man had little time for anything but work and survival, and fine art was not in the average sphere of awareness. Fortunately, as the modern world progressed, industry began to replace agrarianism, serfdom was all but eliminated, and an appreciation for the "finer things" in life began to emerge. This shift carried on into the 20th century, which is considered by some to be the Golden Age of art publishing. Great artists such as Picasso, Renoir, Dali, Cezanne and many more found an outlet in the form of art dealers and publishers that brought their reputation and oeuvre to new heights. Park West Gallery follows in the proud tradition of celebrated publishers such as Ambrose Vollard and Louis Broder to represent the best artwork from many of the most prominent artists of the day. For more than four decades, Park West Gallery has played an integral role in furthering the evolution of art. Park West Gallery represents a wide range of artists from across the world, and enables their art to be seen by thousands of new people every week through our wide-ranging cruise ship art programs. These artists may be new talent to the art world, such as Michael Milkin or Csaba Markus, who are finding their style and attracting attention as burgeoning successes in contemporary art. Park West Gallery also maintains long-lasting relationships with well-established contemporary artists such as Yaacov Agam and Peter Max, who have proven themselves to be brilliant and influential forces in the artistic community with an impressive list of exhibitions and accolades. Park West Galleries also works closely with the estates of master artists like Miro, Picasso, Dali and others whose legendary names are already canonized in art history books. By presenting such a wide array of art, Park West Gallery is accessible and attractive to everyone, whether you are a basic art lover, a novice collector, or someone that has been building a collection for many years. The Park West Gallery collection consists of oil, acrylic, and watercolor paintings, hand-signed limited edition etchings, lithographs, serigraphs, and hand-embellished graphic works. Park West Gallery maintains its headquarters and main gallery location in Southfield, Michigan along with a world-class framing facility in Miami, Florida.