3 Apr, 2021

Leonid Pasternak – painter and graphic artist

Leonid Osipovich Pasternak, father of the poet Boris Pasternak, was born (March 22) on April 3, 1862 in Odessa. The family had six children. Already in early childhood, Leonid showed a love of drawing, but his parents insisted on a more “earthly” profession.

In 1881, he entered the Faculty of Medicine at Moscow University, and two years later transferred to the Faculty of Law at the University of Odessa and studied there until 1885.

He did not stop painting during his student days – he took lessons at the Moscow school-studio of E.S. Sorokin, studied etching with I.I. Shishkin, and then went through a competition to the Royal Munich Academy of Painting and left for Germany. These years were the time of inspiration and formation of the master.

In 1889 he married pianist Rosalia Kaufman. Soon his painting “News from the Motherland” was acquired by P.M. Tretyakov for the Tretyakov Gallery. Pasternak gets the opportunity to travel to Paris, which he dreamed of all his life. After the ride, his brush and pencil become looser and more refined. Pasternak begins to use a new technique – a combination of tempera and pastels, draws a lot with charcoal. His works become more dynamic, expressive and natural.

Leonid participates in the annual exhibitions of the Itinerants. At the next exhibition, Pasternak’s painting “Debutante” attracts the attention of Leo Tolstoy. They are introduced, and Pasternaks become frequent guests of Tolstoy in Moscow and Yasnaya Polyana, where the artist draws the writer and creates illustrations for War and Peace and Resurrection, which were approved by Tolstoy himself and awarded the medal of the 1900 Paris World Exhibition.

By this time, Leonid Pasternak was already a professor at the renowned Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and will remain in this post for more than a quarter of a century.

In 1921, Pasternak, together with his wife and daughters, went to Germany for treatment – he needed an eye operation. Sons Boris and Alexander remain in Moscow. After the operation, the Pasternak family is in no hurry to return – a lot of work needed to be completed in Germany. In 1927 and 1932, two personal exhibitions of the artist took place in Berlin.

In 1933, Hitler came to power in Germany, and Pasternak and his wife left for their daughters, who by that time were already living in England.

Leonid Pasternak died in Oxford on May 31, 1945, having lived a bright and fulfilling life, was happily married and realized himself as an artist. The artist’s works are now presented in many museums and private collections in Europe, America, Asia and Australia.