About Zenon Komissarenko (1891 - 1980)

Zenon Komissarenko represents the Russian avant-garde of the twentieth century, a student of Kazimir Malevich, Vladimir Tatlin, Pavel Kuznetsov. Painter, graphic artist, poster artist, cartoonist. Movie artist animator, screenwriter, director, director, teacher. Pioneer of Soviet animations (one of her "fathers-patriarchs"), the founder officially recognized in the world cartoon movie.

 

Zenon was born on April 10, 1891 in Simferopol in the family of painter Pyotr Komissarenko.

 

In 1912 he moved with his family to Moscow, where he began to paint in the studio of Konstantin Yuon (until 1915).

 

In 1914 he entered the Moscow School of Painting.

 

From 1917 to 1919 he continued his studies under the leadership of Kazimir Malevich (he was the Secretary of his Workshop), whom, along with Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, he considered as his main mentor. One of his closest friends while studying at the workshop, was Ivan Kudryashov (member of the Unovis association), with whom Komissarenko. During this period, under the influence of Malevich, Komissarenko painted a large cubist portrait of the famous cellist Sergei Kusevitsky.

 

In 1919, Zenon, having received the diploma of a monumental artist, actively continued to participate in the life of Workshops (which became in 1920 the Higher Artistic and Technical workshops - VKHUTEMAS).

 

In 1921, Komissarenko, as a passionate promoter of new trends in the visual art, was sent by P. Kuznetsov to Tashkent for several months with the aim to reorganize (with artist A.N. Volkov) the Art School of Turkestan.

 

In 1922, Zenon becomes a member of the Vkhutemasov group of projectionists (the association Method), organized by Solomon Nikritin (together with Redko, Tyshler, Labaz, Williams, Luchishkin and Plaksin), and participates with them in an exhibition at the museum of pictorial culture, and then in the first Russian exhibition in Berlin & Amsterdam (1922-1923), organized by David Sterenberg. Several paintings and graphic works were on display at the Museum of Picturesque Culture, while others were sent to various museums.

 

In 1922, after returning from Tashkent, Zenon was "infected" with a new idea: a dynamic painting (animation). “In the dormitory of VKHUTEMAS in the basement under his supervision newly graduated painters gathered. Cameraman Leonid Kosmatov joined them too. This is how the experimental organizational-production workshop took shape”. Zenon Komissarenko first movie, “Creation of the World” was shot, in which he was director, screenwriter, and animator.

 

In 1923, Komissarenko, together with Yuri Merkulov and Nikolai Khodataev, founded "An experimental workshop at the State College of Cinematography."

 

In 1924 they created the first Soviet animated film "Interplanetary revolution "- a masterpiece that went down in the history of world cinema.

 

In 1925, Zenon and his comrades make cartoons, which brought them fame thanks to the movies "China on Fire" and "1905-1925."

 

To create his works, Zenon came up with the "landscape method”; hand-drawn phases of the movement.

 

 Zenon Komissarenko collaborated with film studios such as Mezhrabpom, Gosvoenkino and Sovkino (1927-1933) and Soyuzdetfilm and Lenkinochronika (in the late 1930s).

 

In addition to animation and painting, he was engaged in caricature and posters, as evidenced by his 1925 participation in the first exhibition of Soviet film poster in Moscow, arranged by State Academy of Art Sciences (GAHN).  He was also engaged as a teacher at the State College of Cinematography.

 

From the beginning of the second world war, Komissarenko was evacuated to Tashkent (1941-1948), where he painted and taught at a local art school.

 

In 1948 he returned to Moscow and continued to work in various positions in cinema (in in particular, at the Gosvoenkino factory).

 

In the mid-1950s Komissarenko developed colored stained glass at the Institute of Glass.

 

All this time he continued to engage in abstract art (painting and graphics, working in mixed media).

 

Since the beginning of the 1960s, Zenon lived in the apartment of the artist Maria Raube-Gorchilina (Madame, as she was known). He was a representative of her “underground” art salon together with the sculptor Maxim Arkhangelsky (subsequently the keeper of his artworks) and other avant-garde artists (non-conformists): I. Kabakov, M. Shemyakin, O. Rabin, V. Nemukhin, Yu. Titov, brothers Korins, N. Tarasov, G. Makhrova, art historians Valentina and Jean-Claude Marcadet, the Parisian gallery owner Dina Verni and others.

 

In 1975 Komissarenko changed his home and moves to the attic of the House of Veterans of Cinema near Moscow (a nursing home), where he continues to create his abstract works, for which he was illegally placed by the house’s directorate in a psychiatric hospital. He was saved from the hospital by artist Valery Volkov (son A. N. Volkova).

 

Zenon Komissarenko died at the age of 89 on December 10, 1980 in Moscow at the House of Cinematographers due to an unfortunate accident.

 

Read more about the life and work of Z.P. Komissarenko can be found in the article by Vladimir Kirillov “Zenon Komissarenko -“  the last of the Mohicans ”of the Russian avant-garde” (written in Russian).

 

Critics about Zenon

 Galina Makhrova: a painter, watercolorist, decorator nad memorialist who lived in France

“He painted oil paintings. In the 60s, he goes over to paper and gouache, creates space, music, light,abstract paintings. He wrote them with one gesture, like a song ... The colors are bright, tender and, most importantly, luminous. Sometimes (not immediately) a figurative pattern was guessed. Jean-Claude and Valentine Marcade (famous French art historians) considered Zenon one of the most interesting artists of the twentieth century. They have  several of his gouache in their collection.

 

Jean-Claude Marcadet, a French art critic, specialist in the Russian avant-garde (especially to Malevich):

“Officially recognized as the founder of animation in Soviet Union, participated in all the outstanding events of the twenties years, Zenon Komissarenko, paying tribute to the universal enthusiasm for utilitarian arts and waiting for retirement age, is one of the most brilliant post-war artists. You would think that he kept treasures within himself, and finally, the dam broke, unable to withstand what had accumulated over the years and was not expressed artistically. When looking at the works of Zenon Komissarenko you feel a feeling of liberation”.

 

The painting by Z. P. Komissarenko (or “explosions of colored tachism”) is “consciously abstract ...this is the instrumentation of colored spots in the rhythm of the beating of the inner spiritual pulse. His color tales are like explosions. With a complete lack of book culture, led by only one true instinct, Z. P. Komissarenko modulates, as a musician of color, inexhaustible variations. You would think that for many years he kept within himself a treasure of sensitivity and that the dam finally broke through under the pressure of everything experienced and unexpressed for many years. In his artworks,
Z. P. Komissarenko a feeling of liberation is clearly felt. In these color
whirlwinds, through the prism of individual talent and from a certain angle, all of the art of the 1920s is experienced. One constant theme reigns in his compositions: mythical enthusiasm; as if he was a grandfather, seeking to tell his grandchildren about the legendary era of the past. The artist passes on to new generations his color bouquets made up of flowers of the past ”(“ The Light and Shadows of Russian Art of 1960-1971. ”“ New Journal ”, New York, 1980, No. 139, p. 101.

 

Lysandria Cesare, curator of the personal exhibition Zeno Komissarenko: “The Element of Feelings” in Moscow:

“Komissarenko ... many of the graphic sheets created under the influence of famous classical works of music such as Bach's “Fugue”, or, for example, Mozart’s “Magic Flute”. His works are full of perfect sounding colors, he arranges symphonies of colors, lines, images. A kind of “passionate silence ”, as Gustav Moreau called the painting ... His painting was created for intimate empathy, here a person speaks to a person, speaks through images and colors. Painting unusual, fantastic, but you can always guess the contours of the real world in it, despite its symbolic generalization and cosmic detachment. She created for intimate empathy, for initiates in her small, but such important secrets. "of the personal exhibition Zeno Komissarenko “The Element of Feelings” in Moscow: “Komissarenko ... many of the graphic sheets created under the influence of famous classical works of music such as Bach's “Fugue”, or, for example, Mozart’s “Magic Flute”. His works are full of perfect sounding colors, he arranges symphonies of colors, lines, images. A kind of “passionate silence ”, as Gustav Moreau called the painting ... His painting was created for intimate empathy, here a person speaks to a person, speaks through images and colors. Painting unusual, fantastic, but you can always guess the contours of the real world in it, despite its symbolic generalization and cosmic detachment. She created for intimate empathy, for initiates in her small, but such important secrets. "

 

Galina Demosthenova, a Russian art critic, president of the Malevich Foundation and curator of the 1998 exhibition of Zeno Komissarenko:

“Instinctively guided by infallible artistic sense of color, Komissarenko, like a musician, modulates colors, creating inexhaustible variations on his canvases. ” He began his journey in art not with impressionism, but by paying "tribute to the universal enthusiasm for utilitarian art", with formal and colored plastic experiments. In his work Komissarenko tried to connect the various lines of the Russian avant-garde of the 1910s, starting with cubism: “striving to the identification of the ideal-semantic content of art ”(Kandinsky), statement "Work with material” (Tatlin), focus on “laws and systems, modern level human knowledge ”(Malevich). Komissarenko studied under Malevich and learned a lot from him. " His compositions with a predominance of cosmic, musical, light motifs arranged from a stable set of specific elements and connected into one
harmonious whole. He created them in one rush, as a unique musical
improvisation. “The artist emphasized the integrity of the work as a system of connections, relations, contrasts, but at the same time, unlike the vanguard of the 1910-1920s, he refused “Set of colors” and turned to a variety of pictorial textures. In later works Komissarenko is guided by an intuitive approach to creativity, here he spokes not as a constructor, but as an exponent of internal impulses, being, as it were an unconscious instrument of higher powers ”(exhibition by a male artist’s pupil Zeno Komissarenko at the Moscow Museum of Cinema. 1998.

Vera Kalmykova, art critic and curator of the solo exhibition in 2015, “Sounding space by Zenon Komissarenko (1891-1980) ":

"In the works of this master a lot came together artistic directions, at least two types of art and two eras of the Russian avant-garde - 1910-1920s and 1960s."

 

Exhibition of works by Zenon Komissarenko

1922: December - participation in the First Exhibition of "Projectionists" (together with S. Nikritin, K. Redko, A. Tyshler, A. Labas, P. Williams, S. Luchishkin, M. Plaksin). Museum of pictorial culture, Moscow.


1923: participation in the First Exhibition of Russian Art (Berlin - Amsterdam). Erste Russische Kunstausstellung, Berlin, 1922, Galerie Van Diemen & Co.


1925: participation in the First Exhibition of Soviet Film Posters at the State Academy of Art Sciences, Moscow.


1933-1934: participation in the exhibition "Artists of the RSFSR for 15 years" in the poster and caricature section of the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.


1971: personal exhibition, Mosfilm studio, Moscow.


1972: personal exhibition, House of Cinema, Moscow.


1998: April 6 - May 1 - personal retrospective exhibition, Central Museum of Cinema, Moscow. Curator G.L. Demosthenova.


2001-2002: Participation in the exhibition "Abstraction in Russia: XX century".Gos. Russian Museum. St. Petersburg.


2002, November 5 - 14: personal exhibition, Artgentum gallery, in the premises of the Art Gallery, Intercolor, Moscow.


2004, October 20 - November 6 : participation in the exhibition “Gifts of Moscow artists to museums of Russia”. ROSIZO, Moscow, Kuznetsk bridge, 11.


2005-2006, December 14 ‒ January 10: personal exhibition “Element of Feelings”, Center for Contemporary Art M'ARS (Moscow). Curator Lysandria Cesare.


2015, February 26 - March 10: personal exhibition “Sounding space. Zenon Komissarenko (1891-1980). ” Gallery "Open Club". Moscow, st. Spiridonovka, house 9/2. Curator Vera Kalmykova.


2017, July 4 - September 10: personal exhibition "String Theory of Zenon Komissarenko." State Exhibition Hall "Ark". Curator: Anastasia Kozachenko-Stravinskaya. 


2017, November 15: participation in the exhibition-auction “XIX – XX centuries. Painting and graphics. Auction 53 ". Lot number 77 and number 118. 


2019, July 18 - August 18: participation in the Exhibition "Miscellaneous. Circles of unofficial art. ” Mordovian Republican Museum of Fine Arts named after S. D. Erzi (Saransk). From the Moscow collection of Mikhail Alshibay.

Museums and Collections that exposed Zenon Komissarenko


Museum of Picturesque Culture (Moscow) 1923-1928


Oryol Regional Museum of Local Lore (received from the Youth Museum in 1928)


Tashkent Art Museum (1940s)


Museum of Arts of the Karakalpak Autonomous Region (Nukus)


Central Museum of Cinema (Moscow)


Museum of Cosmonautics (Moscow)


State Russian Museum (St. Petersburg)


Museum of Modern Art (Moscow)


Yaroslavl Art Museum (Yaroslavl)


Museum "New Jerusalem" (Istra)


Jean-Claude Marcadet Collection (France)


Collection of S. Komissarov. House of Veterans of Cinema (Moscow)


Collection of M. Arkhangelsky (Moscow)


Collection of I. Seregin (Moscow)


Collection of V. Kirillov (France)


Collection of Y. Belov (Moscow)


Collection M. Alshibaya (Moscow)



The Filmography of Zenon Komissarenko

1922 - CREATION OF THE WORLD (screenwriter, animator)


1923 - AELITA (artist, animator)


1924 - INTERPLANETARY REVOLUTION (director, artist, screenwriter) 


1925 - CHINA IN FLAMES (director, artist)


1925 - 1905-1925 (animator)


1925 - HOW AVTODYA BECAME AWARENESS (director, artist)


1928 - LEARN TO SHOOT AT YAT (director, artist)


1928 - RECYCLING (director, artist)


1928-1929 - FIRST FIVE-YEAR (director, artist)


1929 - RUSSIAN RIFLE (director, artist)


1929 - MAXIM MACHINE (director, artist)


1929 - TACTICAL ATTACK (director, artist)


1930 - FORGOTTEN SOURCE OF ECONOMY (director, artist)


1930 - SUBMARINE (director, artist)

1930 - SHIPS (director, artist)


1931 - EXPLORATION (director, artist)


1932 - DEGASATION (director)


1933 - RAGS (director, screenwriter)


1933 - CHEMICAL EXPLORATION (director)


1940 - THE LAND OF YOUTH (production designer)


1961 - GREAT PRECISION (animator)