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 Ernst Neizvestny  (1926 - )

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Lived/Active: New York / Russian Federation/Switzerland      Known for: Public monument sculpture-abstract figure

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Russia and then after World War II going to Switzerland and ultimately New York City, Ernst Neizvestny became a sculptor of large public monuments as well as smaller works, each created with the conviction that "the sculpture contains within itself a dialogue between spirit and flesh."

Of him in the New York City Tribune, March 29, 1988, it was written: "In just a matter of years, [Neizvestny] has established himself as an internationally-renowned modern American master." And American sculptor Alexander Calder said to Neizvestny: "All my life I create the work of children, and you create the work of man." 

Among his monumental works and public sculptures are Lotus Blossom at the Aswan Dam in Egypt, which reportedly is the largest sculpture in the world; Monument for All the World Children at the Artek Pioneer Camp in the Crimea, Ukraine; the tombstone of Nikita Khrushchev at the Novodevechiy Cemetery in Moscow, Russia;  the bust of Dmitri Shostakovich at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC;  the Holocaust monument in Riga, Latvia; and the Tree of Life II at the United Nations in New York City.

Neizvestny's early education was in the USSR, where he attended art schools in Leningrad and Samarkand during World War II.  From 1942 to 1945, he was in the Soviet Armed Forces as an airborne commando officer.  On April 22, 1945, he was severely wounded in Austria and declared dead, "posthumously" receiving for heroism the Order of the Red Star.

In 1945, he taught drawing at the Suvorov Institute in Sverdlovsk, and the next year enrolled in the Academy for Fine Arts in Riga, Latvia.  From 1947 to 1954, he studied art at the Surikov Institute of Art in Moscow, and in 1955, he became a member of the Moscow Branch of the Sculpture Section of the Union of Soviet Artists.

In Moscow from 1954 to 1962, he was active in numerous exhibitions and completed numerous monuments, many of them linked to the War including the national monument of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany for which he won a Soviet competition.

In 1976, he emigrated to the West, going first to Zurich, Switzerland and then to New York City.   The following years were highly productive for Ernst Neizvestny.   In 1983, he presented his Heart of Christ sculpture to Pope John Paul II and began lecturing at United States universities on art and philosophy.  He was a guest professor at New York University, Harvard University, Yale University, Columbia University and the University of California at Berkeley.

Neizvestny also wrote essays that were published in a book titled Space, Time and Synthesis in Art, did illustrations for the writings of Samuel Beckett, and over 200 etchings for a publication titled Book of Man's Fate.  He did numerous commissions and exhibitions in Russia and other parts of Europe, did illustrations for the Book of Job and a sculpture series called Animal Power.  In 2000, President-elect Vladimir Putin of Russia awarded Neizvestny the Medal of Honor for Artistic Achievement.

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