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Ilya Glazunov, The Mystery of the 20th Century, 1976.

Ilya Glazunov (1930–2017)

Michele A. Berdy of the Moscow Times reports that painter Ilya Glazunov, the founder and rector of the Russian Academy of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, as well the artistic director for the restoration of the Great Kremlin Palace, has died. He will be buried in Moscow’s Novodevichy Cemetery, where many of Russia’s elite from the fields of art, politics, and science are interred.

Glazunov was a favorite of the Russian government—he received the State Prize of the Russian Federation and the People’s Artist of the USSR award, among other accolades. He was renowned for his portraits of people from pop culture and history, from Monica Lewinsky to Prince Igor. One of his most well-known works, The Mystery of the 20th Century, 1976, features depictions of the Winged Victory of Samothrace, John F. Kennedy (with crosshairs over his face), Charlie Chaplin, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Vladimir Lenin, and a glowing Jesus Christ hovering around an atomic bomb explosion. Glazunov’s rendering of Solzhenitsyn—who wears a prison outfit—almost got him exiled from the Soviet Union, as it was an “ideological crime” to depict the novelist. Instead the artist was sent to Sibera to create portraits of the people who worked on the Baikal-Amur Railroad.

After he returned to Moscow, a large exhibition of his works was staged at the Manege Exhibition Hall in 1986. A museum containing Glazunov’s art and personal collection of religious icons opened close to the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in 2004.

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