Many painters referred to the Turkmen land as not only the center of exotics and unique identity but also a place that preserved wisdom of life foundations and its connection to the ancient culture. They were fascinated by the eternal and lasting beauty of folk art. The ornamental tiles of mosques and minarets glitter with the unusual blue, people's clothes impress with their noble colorfulness and their faces are peaceful and meaningful. This reality inspired outstanding Russian painters of the turn of the century for creation of paintings glorifying this colorful Asian life. The life and nature of Turkmenistan strongly impressed painters as a rich source for creativity.
Their love for this land, people and daily routine inspired them for making more and more new paintings dedicated to Turkmenistan. Each of them left a piece of soul in this glorious land, and many painters stayed there forever. They worked and taught the younger generation of people, showing them the way to the beautiful world of art. Famous masters, graduates of the best Russian schools of painting, played a big role in the establishment of the Turkmen national fine arts, bringing up several generations of painters, polishing many talents and taking their natural abilities to high professionalism. And those who left this fairy land took with them the love for Turkmenistan, remaining in their hearts the devoted fans of this land, while their paintings told the whole world about the beauty, culture and art of the Turkmen people.
The exhibition held in Ashgabat in 1934 on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Turkmenistan was the greatest event in the history of the country's fine arts. A group of Russian painters participated in the exhibition, including Konstantin Vyalov, Ivan Cherinko, Pavel Korolev, Nikolai Terpsikhorov, Martiros Saryan, Stepan Dudnik, Pavel Radimov, David Shterenberg and others. Together with their Turkmen colleagues, they visited all the regions in Turkmenistan to collect materials for their works that reflected the life of the young republic. A powerful art union presented the Turkmen national culture with the works of avant-garde and realism, filled with colors, light and air of the East.
The collection of the Turkmen State Museum of Fine Arts features a great number of works by painters who worked in Turkmenistan at different times and those who accepted the Turkmen land as their second home. Many paintings are displayed in the museum's main exposition. The works by others can be found in the thematic exhibitions that are being constantly updated.
The origins of this amazing collection date back to 1934, when a team of Russian painters arrived in Turkmenistan. They were keen on finding the oriental exotics in a new socialist format. The Russians worked together with Turkmen painters on the national theme and, at the beginning of 1935, they took part in an exhibition marking the opening of the All-Turkmen Congress of Soviets. The exhibition featured about 200 works (paintings, portraits and sketches) by 27 Moscow and Turkmen painters.
Russian painter Konstantin Aleksandrovich Vyalov (1900-1976), who studied national traditions and life as part of the team of Moscow colleagues, fell in love with the Turkmen color that inspired him for creation of the monumental work "Turkmen Woman". The painting embodies the most impressive features of a Turkmen woman, such as beauty, stateliness and pride. It conveys the master's admiration of the descendants of the Amazons. A young woman wearing a bright red national dress and bride jewelry is depicted standing on a high hill against the background of a gray-blue silvery sky. She looks serious and concentrated, as if accepting a new world. The painter lifted the woman's status over everyday life, as he was amazed with the creation of the Turkmen woman's hands, including all the diversity of the world, the entire universe from the traditional way of life to the unique creation. Konstantin Vyalov's works can be also found in the State Tretyakov Gallery, the State Russian Museum and other major museum collections.
Pavel Aleksandrovich Radimov (1887-1967) was one of the artists who marked a significant milestone in the history of the fine arts of Turkmenistan. He created a series of paintings that are stored in the museum funds. His works "Cleaning of Aryks", "Beater" and "Bazaar" are displayed in the permanent exhibition.
Martiros Saryan (1880-1972), whose works make up one of the most striking stylistic trends in world painting, went down in the history of world arts as a complex, multifaceted and sometimes contradictory painter. Saryan's stay in Turkmenistan was limited to Ashgabat and its environs, but he managed to complete in two months a series of fifteen landscapes, large panel "Cotton Picking in Turkmenistan" and a number of drawings. The painter shared his impressions in one of the letters, in which he said "the most interesting and fascinating thing about Turkmens are Turkmens themselves. They are all children of the desert - dreadful but at the same time enchanting and fancy. This desert makes an amazing impression." Looking at his works, one can see even without these words what Saryan was interested most of all in Turkmenistan. They were nature and people, or rather people in the natural environment. Donated to the Turkmen people, Martiros Saryan's paintings take a deserving place among the masterpieces of the museum's pictorial collection. These paintings are the suites of genre and landscape compositions on Turkmen themes, such as "Cabbage Fields in Bagir", "Grape Harvesting in Bagir", "Annau" and "Bagir" made in 1934.
A trip to Turkmenistan brought many impressions for a representative of pictorial aesthetics, Nikolai Borisovich Terpsikhorov (1890-1960). The bright colors of the Turkmen land significantly enriched the color palette of his paintings. An unfamiliar lifestyle broadened the supply of his genre impressions. The Turkmen sketches laid the foundations for several big genre paintings, such as "In the Village of Dzhemgyet", "Turkmen Girl at the Window", "Turkmen Woman". Unfortunately, some of his works "Weavers", "Aul Keshi", "Carpet Weavers" perished under the rubble of the notorious Ashgabat earthquake of 1948, but they remained in many catalogues.
Having arrived in Turkmenistan and plunged into its extraordinary colorfulness, painter Stepan Ilyich Dudnik (1913-1996) created a number of the portrait genre works of eminent personalities of the early 20th century. The painter's subtle artistic flair and deep understanding of people helped him to glorify representatives of different professions and, at the same time, to preserve the individuality of his every character. Having fallen in love with Ashgabat, he lived in it for many years, making a series of paintings dedicated to the Turkmen people. In the 50s, he went back to Russia and kept returning to the subject of Turkmenistan in his canvases until the end of his life.
David Petrovich Shterenberg (1881-1948) was one of the most important figures of Russian painting of the late 1910 - early 1930s. There is a small village and a lot of greenery in the foreground of the painting "In Bagir". Behind the village, there is a yellow plain blending with brown mountains with lilac-gray meanders of the valley against the light blue sky. There is an aryk filled with water on the canvas "Street in the Village". On the left side, parallel to it, one can see a line of buildings that go into the distance.
Ivan Ivanovich Cherinko (1908-1948), who came to Turkmenistan, debuted at the anniversary exhibition of 1934. The painter's works were significant for Turkmen painting.
The Turkmen land became the second home for many painters who came to work and stayed there for life. The picturesque natural landscapes, abundance of sunlight, sincerity and kindness of people generated love for this ancient land and reluctance to part with it. In the 30s of the last century, Gennady Babikov, Julia and Mustafa Daneshwar, Eugenia Adamova and other remarkable masters - graduates of Russian art schools, students of famous Russian masters - came to Turkmenistan. They supported the establishment of the classical Turkmen fine arts based on the traditions of Russian fine arts.
The artistic relations that connected the Turkmen and Russian peoples many years ago are still relevant today. Exchanging ideas, experiences, participating in joint exhibitions and restoration projects, the specialists of the two countries continue enriching the cultures of the two peoples, following the path of the great masters of the past.