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Ilya Glazunov was born in 1930 to a well-educated Leningrad family. His father was a respected historian from an aristocratic family that had survived the revolution. During the siege of Leningrad by Hitler’s armies from 1941 to 1944, his parents both died of starvation. Ilya was evacuated to a remote village near Novgorod where he lived for three years like a peasant, digging potatoes. He managed to escape, and he was back in Leningrad in 1951 when he gained admission to the prestigious Repin Art Institute, where special attention was paid to acquisition of sound artist techniques. He refused to adopt the official Social Realism style favored by the regime and for fourteen years he was prevented from joining the Artists Union; without membership in that union it was virtually impossible to survive as an artist and he had to earn a living as a porter.
Glazunov married the granddaughter of Aleksandr Benois, first curator of the Hermitage in Leningrad. She died several years ago. Even during the Communist Regime, Glazunov’s apartment in Moscow was exceptional; it had three kitchens, one for each of the floors that it occupied. His studio opened up into a magnificent rooftop structure he called the tower, which had a wooden gallery that housed his unique collection of icons. He entertained guests with church music played over state-of-the-art Japanese stereo systems. He made no secret of his dislike of the Soviet systems and his preference for everything pre-1917, yet he was visited regularly by Soviet officials, most of whom wanted him to paint portraits of their wives.
He was the Soviet Union’s most popular artist; he is also internationally known for his portraits of famous people.
Written and compiled by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.
Malise Ruthven in Architectural Digest