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2022  N7-8(208-209)
Nikolai Anatolyevich Yershov went down in the history of the Turkmen fine arts primarily as a singer of the beauty of nature of his native land, a master of graphics and an unsurpassed maestro of still life works.
The Honored Artist of Turkmenistan, Nikolai Yershov, was born on December 9, 1932 in in the village of Nizhnyaya Dobrinka in Volgograd region on the banks of the Medveditsa river, a tributary of the Don river. The nature of these places seemed to breathe kindness into his heart and soul. As a child, he painted wherever he could and with whatever he could - a pencil on paper, chalk and charcoal on a fence, on sand and even on a misted glass of the window.
In the spring of 1939, when his family moved to Ashgabat, the young painter was not even seven years old. A little village boy saw the train for the first time and was very frightened by the roar of the wheels, the dazzling light and the piercing whistle of the engine. And after a few days of travel, waking up early in the morning, he suddenly saw a bright sun; the whole world was drowning in golden rays. It was the city of Samarkand outside the window. And these feelings turned out to be so vivid that he carried them through his whole life, reflecting them in his paintings.
When the war began, the future artist was a schoolboy, and he experienced all the hardships of the war years. Classes continued as usual, although children of those years were more preoccupied not with lessons but with the fact that people fought in battles somewhere. There were not enough notebooks, they wrote on gray, thin paper. But the desire to paint was great, and the boy started drawing on the covers and endpapers of books and textbooks available at home. Classmates began to share their books, impatiently waiting for him to return them already with drawings. They were very interested in looking at them. For girls, Kolya painted scenes from fairy tales, and portraits of heroes, tanks and planes for boys.
During his school years, the future painter met Stanislav Babikov (they studied at the same school), who was the son of famous painter Gennady Babikov, who later became one of the best masters of painting in Turkmenistan.
Once, Stas invited his friend to his home and showed his father’s paintings. Kolya Yershov was delighted to see real oil paintings. Portraits of familiar people looked at him from the paintings. He recognized the city landscapes, the courtyard of his friend, the vineyards in the snow. He was struck by the juicy colors with which the tulips were painted, the way each flower, spring grass and each blade of grass were displayed in the picture. He seemed to even feel the breath of a light breeze. Perhaps it was then that Kolya understood that he wanted to become a real painter. Yershov recalled how Gennady Fedorovich plunged headlong into painting and produced a lot of them after returning from the war. Watching the process of painting, the boy already then received the first master classes.
Nikolai Yershov forever remembered the day of October 6, 1948. He remembered the hard days after the devastating earthquake, when many lost loved ones and friends. All students and teachers who survived were evacuated to Baku, where they continued their education at an art school.
In 1949, Yershov took part in a contest dedicated to the anniversary of A.S. Pushkin. With pen and ink, Nikolai drew an illustration to Pushkin’s tragedy “The Miserly Knight”, and as a prize for this work he was awarded a set of brushes and oil paints, a luxurious and very valuable gift for those times. In those years, Yershov produced many sketches and urban landscapes, drew pictures of Turkmen nature from memory that became so dear to him. Living in a huge industrial seaside city, he missed green hills that stretched beyond Ashgabat, spacious steppes, native Ashgabat courtyards, gardens buried in roses and greenery.
After graduating from college, Yershov joined the Department of Art of the Tashkent Theater and Art Institute named after A.Ostrovsky. He created a number of panels that revealed his skills and talent as a master of monumental painting, as conveyed in his work named “Builders”. The painter succeeded in designing exhibitions for significant dates. He tried himself in many genres, including painting of portraits, and he did it with great skill, trying to convey the inner world of a person, his mood. Nikolai Yershov traveled a lot around the country, admired the enthusiasm and selfless work of the builders of the Karakum Canal and the Khauzkhan reservoir, to which he dedicated his painting “The Master of the Big Water”. Against the background of the water surface of a man-made lake, he depicted a peasant, a hard worker, who knows the true value of life-giving moisture for the mother earth.
Still life is one of the most beautiful pages in the carrier path of Nikolai Yershov. These, simple at first sight, but very graceful, carefully thought out, sensual still life works are real masterpieces that give joy to viewers.
Still life “Peaches and Grapes” is one of the most interesting works. Looking at the ripe fruits of grapes, fluffy tender peaches, one can attest to the abundance, fertility, generosity of the land that produces so many fruits. Using color transitions, subtle gradations of tone, the painter conveys freshness, tenderness, juiciness, even the aroma and taste of fruits.
The southern fruits depicted in his still life works “Garry Gyz”, “Quince”, “Apricots” are saturated with sun and warmth. The painter’s autumn landscapes are permeated with bright light. Although the sun is not visible in these works, the sunlight is spilled everywhere. It lives in the autumn foliage.
Speaking about Nikolai Anatolyevich’s works, experts note his extraordinary skill in depicting the volume of objects, such as fruits. They are so tangible in his still life works that one feels like holding them on the palms, proving his skill in selecting a certain combination of colors and creating a special color that evokes a feeling of warmth, arouses a special mood - kind and calm. Looking at his still life works, one can immediately see that these are gifts from the Turkmen land, as they are depicted against the background of purely Turkmen household items and their details, for example, a carpet with characteristic national patterns.
Many painters preferred the lilac, capturing it on their canvases. The blooming lilac inspired the master to create a still life called “Lilac”. Art is eternal, but the life of flowers, unfortunately, is transient. We admire the lilac that already bloomed in bygone years and whose beauty has been preserved by the painter for posterity.
By the will of fate, the painter witnessed the great achievements of the era of power and happiness of the Turkmen people. It provided him with a fresh and joyful mood for the work that is commonly referred to as inspiration. In 2019, Nikolai Anatolyevich Yershov was awarded the title of laureate of the Byashim Nuraliyev State Prize for his service to the art of painting.
His love for life, nature of native land, his rare skill to make colors shine, radiate joy are the main features of the talent of the Turkmen painter who is no longer with us but whose canvases keep the breath of a bright and ever-living world.


©Turkmenistan Analytic magazine, 2005