PICTORIAL ENERGY OF LOVE
The Museum of Fine Arts of Turkmenistan hosted with great success a solo exhibition of the famous painter, graphic artist, Honored Art Worker of Turkmenistan Gennady Fedorovich Babikov (1911–1993), marking his 110th birth anniversary. The painter’s creative style is original and easily recognizable at any exhibition in any neighborhood in any genre. Babikov’s works make up the “golden fund” of the Turkmen fine arts.
Gennady Babikov began to mature as an artist in the 30s of the last century. The painter was born on January 5, 1911 to a peasant family in the small town of Rannenburg in Ryazan province. He spent his childhood in the Urals. The fabulous nature of the Urals obviously engendered a passion for the landscape in the soul of the future painter, which he carried with him for the rest of his life, and largely determined the pattern of his work as a landscape painter. After the death of his father, the mother and children moved to relatives in Rzhev, where he spent his school years. Babikov liked drawing from childhood. His art teacher, noting the young man’s craving for painting, advised him to take up this business professionally.
In 1929, Babikov was admitted to the Moscow Central Studio of the Painter Association. His teachers included famous painters Ilya Mashkov and Pyotr Konchalovsky, who greatly influenced the formation of the painter’s artistic vision. Experienced mentors instilled in him love for systematic work with natural landscape and deep understanding of the reality.
In the autumn of 1934, the painter and his family moved to Ashgabat for permanent residence, where Babikov began working as decorative designer of books for a book publishing house. The sunny and colorful Turkmen land fascinated the master. He was interested in literally everything: landscape, people in their national attire and history of Turkmenistan. In 1934, he created the first “Turkmen watercolor” and a series of sketches imbued with the ethnographic perception of the East – “Old Turkmen village”, “Anau Mosque”, “Keshi”. Already in 1937, Gennady Babikov was admitted to the Union of Artists of the TSSR for his active artistic and social work.
When the Great Patriotic War started, the painter volunteered for the frontline and fought in the division of General Dovator. Even there, he did not part with a pencil and a notebook. Hastily made drawings reflected everything that he saw: landscapes of the front line, villages devastated by the Nazis, scenes from the everyday life of a soldier. Of interest are the many portrait sketches of his comrades in the regiment who were awarded for military merit. The painter sketched each fighter, put the date and indicated what the award was given for. More than one hundred works have survived to this day. The painter created several series of works, such as “The Way of the Regiment. Dovatators” (1943), “Ruins of Rzhev” (1945) based on military motives.
Upon his return to Ashgabat, Babikov took active part in the life of the country. He headed the Union of Artists of Turkmenistan and participated in many exhibitions. Beginning the second half of the 50s, the painter actively worked in the genre of industrial landscape. So, he should rightfully be considered the founder of this genre in Turkmen painting: “Cheleken” (1953), “Cheleken ozokerite” (1962), “Drilling Rig in the Caspian Sea” (1954), “Repair work at Bezmeinsky cement plant” (1968). He was also fond of the maritime topic and made a lot of paintings about the seaside city of Krasnovodsk, its environs and dynamic life of the seaport.
The painter traveled a lot. There is no corner in Turkmenistan that he did not paint. Nature in Babikov’s works is the arena of the man’s constructive activities. It is animated by him, his thoughts and the flight of his creative imagination. The painter saw the poetry of modernity in the industrial motives.
In the 60s, Babikov enthusiastically worked in the technique of linocut, returning to the plots of the 30s. Painting in an academic manner, the painter experiments with watercolor techniques, participates in all-Union exhibitions of watercolor painters. His works aroused great interest among colleagues who were eager to understand the secrets of his skill.
Gennady Fedorovich’s still life works enjoyed huge success among admirers of his talent. The style of still life, called “Babikov’s” in Turkmenistan, is distinguished by the special materiality of the object, the use of a special set of “entourage”, such as pomegranates, peaches, lemons, cherries, juicy melons reproduced in “Autumn in Ashgabat” (1983), “Summer Still Life” (1985). This range is juicy, impulsive, with a special honey glow that can be achieved through certain techniques by the virtuoso of the brush. The author was able to convey the fullness of life. His painting style is light and skillful, the color is rich. The painter did not want to move away from realism, his still life works are a hymn to life as it is.
One of Gennady Babikov’s great achievements is development of the rare coloristic gift of his son, Stanislav (1934–1977), an innovative painter who stood outside the narrow “profile” genre framework of Soviet art criticism of the 60–70s of the last century. The untimely death of his son was a tragedy for the painter, which naturally was reflected in Babikov’s painting. It was filled with drama.
The pictorial culture of the talented master has been a benchmark for Turkmen artists for decades. The works by Gennady Fedorovich Babikov, whose artistic career was a milestone in the development of national painting, received recognition not only in Turkmenistan but also abroad. His paintings are exhibited in many museums around the world.
At the anniversary exhibition, viewers were presented with previously unknown works by the master – “Autumn”, “Road to Archman”, “Inspiration” that have recently replenished the museum collection when the funds were revisited by the museum’s researchers.
Even after the demise of the genuine painter, his works continue exciting the audience because they have a particle of the master’s soul who glorified the Turkmen land in his works that became his native land. And love for this land shines through every plot, every character of Babikov’s paintings. Time passes and Gennady Fedorovich’s canvases continue to amaze with their positive energy that the talented artist generously shared with the audience.