David Shterenberg, Still Life with Vase, 1925,
oil on canvas, 100 x 80 cm
Signed in Cyrillic at lower right.
David Shterenberg was born in Zhytomyr, in Ukraine. He studied art in private studios in Odessa in 1906 before moving to Paris in 1907. There, he lived in La Ruche, an artists’ residence where Chagall, Modigliani, Léger and many others had their studios, and enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts while taking private classes on the side, with Van Dongen among others. He was influenced by Cézanne and by cubism, which allowed him to break free from perspective, but he never renounced figurative painting. His most interesting work consists of still lives, in which he simplified shapes and colours, polished his textures and materials, and tried to abolish three-dimensionality by flattening space in order to emphasise the geometric aspect of the shapes. In 1912 he participated in the Salon d’Automne and the Salon des Indépendants. He returned to Russia in 1917 and was named head of the arts division by Lunacharsky, the People’s Commissar for Education.
Shterenberg was responsible for carrying out a thorough reform of arts teaching, museums, exhibitions and official events throughout Russia on behalf of the new Soviet government. He was also in charge of official Russian art events abroad: he curate the Russian section of the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Paris in 1925, among others. When a strict realist style was imposed after Stalin’s rise to power in the early 1930s, Shterenberg only partially adhered to the new aesthetic. His paintings continued to appear in official exhibitions, but were no longer displayed in the place of honour.
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