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 Constantine Cherkas  (1919 - 2011)

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Lived/Active: California / Russian Federation      Known for: geometric landscape, animal

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Constantine Cherkas
from Auction House Records.
3rd St. Tunnel - Bunker Hill
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Constantine Cherkas (1919-2011)

Born Constantine Cherkashininoff in Moscow on Aug. 5, 1919, he was the only child of artist Michael Cherkas and the former Antonina Diatloff.  At 14, he apprenticed with famed Russian colorist Ilya Mashkov and at 17, became one of the youngest students to attend the Moscow Academy of Arts.  His professors nicknamed him the “Russian Gauguin.”

In 1941, Mr. Cherkas married art conservator Kira Krukoff.  On their honeymoon in Kiev, they were captured by the Nazis and sent to a German labor camp.

Following their release, Mr. Cherkas enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna in 1943. After World War II, Allied forces relocated the Cherkases to a refugee camp in Munich where Mr. Cherkas continued his studies at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts.  In 1949, the couple emigrated to the United States, living in Pennsylvania before settling in Santa Monica in 1952 and building a five-decade career restoring art.

Mr. Cherkas’ own artistry was known for depicting time and space, said art collector Brad Bateman of Salem, Oregon.  On a single canvas, he used color to illustrate daytime in one area and night in another.

Entering his studio was like entering a sunset, it was so vibrant and vivacious and colorful,” said John Bowlt, professor of Slavic languages and literatures at USC. “It was packed full of paintings. It reminded one that he was a very fertile artist.”  His Russian-style chalet became a place to live, work and showcase hundreds of his oil paintings.

Mr. Cherkas died of pneumonia on April 10 at Villa Pomerado Skilled Nursing in Poway.  He was 91.

He was one of the last great colorists in terms of modernism, said Dan Peragine, friend and art teacher at The Winston School in Del Mar.  One of his larger impressionist pieces, depicting the 9/11 tragedy, is on display at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.
His color use and combination of color to create an overall emotional effect was almost sculptural,” he said. “I called him a sculptor’s painter.

In addition to his art, Mr. Cherkas and his wife, Kira, made their living and reputation restoring master works for collectors including Dorothy Chandler, Mary Pickford, J. Paul Getty and the estate of Randolph Hearst, Jr.  They revitalized pieces by Rembrandt, El Greco, Remington, Monet, Renoir and Picasso, among others, for museums including the National Gallery of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Chicago Museum of Art, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The Cherkases had Old World Russian techniques for restoration, including using rabbit skin glue for relining paintings,” said Peragine. “Every living fiber of them echoed the Old World. With his passing, I feel like that world is lost.”

The more you live with his work, the more you love it,” said Bateman, who owns several of Mr. Cherkas’ oils. “I never tire of a Constantine painting.  “The intensity is there, but so is a softness. You could see that he put his soul into each painting.”

Ruth Cherkas says:
Constantine Cherkas was a painter who was a master juggler of color and light, juxtaposing the two, creating a spell binding and iridescent effect.

Constantine loved the southwest, with its towering and irregular canyons that illuminated light and shadows while defining abstract shapes.  Constantine illuminated his canvases with the brilliance of color and light much like Van Gough. Constantine painted with an eye that took in geometric shapes, color and light, and then infused it with a soul.

Constantine’s paintings bridge the Renaissance with the modern, and the past with the present.  He intellectually and spiritually fused the two.  He was not a showman, nor an idol, nor a gallery favorite, but he was, an artist.

Daughter-in-Law
Ruth Cherkas

Information provided by Ralph Blunt

These Notes from AskART represent the beginning of a possible future biography for this artist. Please click here if you wish to help in its development:
Born in the USSR, he became a US citizen. His art studies were at the Moscow Academie of Fine Arts, MFA 1941; the Vienna Academie of Fine Arts, 1945; and the Munich Academie of Fine Art, 1945-49. Becoming a resident of Julian, California, he has been active in numerous exhibitions there. He is known for watercolor and oil landscapes with figures.

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