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Yuri Petrovich Kugach
(Moscow, Russia , 1917 - 2013)
Yuri Petrovich Kugach was borning in Suzdal in the Vladimir region of Western Russia in 1917. In 1931, he entered the 1905 Moscow Art Institute in the painting department under N.P. Krymov. In 1936, he transfer to the Surikov Institute where he studied with I.E.Grabar and S.V. Gerasimov. While there, Kugach fell in love with fellow classmate and artist Olga Grigoryevna Svetlichnaya and in 1937 they were married. While they were still studying at Surikov, a son, Mikhail, was born. In 1942, Yuri graduated from the Institute. In 1943, fearing that the encroaching German army would take Moscow, the Soviet government decided to evacuate their most notable and most promising artists to Samarkand, Uzbekistan for the duration of the war. Yuri, Olga, and the their son were evacuated along with 10 other notable artists. After the war, Yuri would return to Moscow as a teaching at Surikov from 1948 to 1951. After a few years of teaching, on Olga's request, the family moved to the countryside near Academicheskaya Dacha, a famous gathering place for artists who wanted to paint the beautiful landscapes of the Tver region. Yuri loved his wife and valued her art above his own. His son Mikhail recalls his father saying that he would work hard at becoming famous and playing the political games required in the Soviet Union to make money as an artist so that he could support his family and allow Olga paint her beautiful works without the interference of politics and commericalism. This accounts for the prolific body of work Yuri produced and Olga's much smaller but high quality works. In the countryside, Yuri and Olga, ardent adherants of the Soviet idea that "art is only strong when it is national," both used their time to depict their nation by depicting its citizens going about their daily affairs. They became famous for scenes of village and family life which they took from their own surroundings. Yuri Kugach eventually took a job as a teacher at the Academicheskaya Dacha School for artists. There he played a crucial role in the foundation of the Moscow River School, a school which emphasized academic realism and portrayal of the feeling of a landscape. Now in Russia, Kugach is considered one of the greatest artists of the 20th century and has recieved countless awards. In his 90s, Yuri continued painting, remarking, "I paint mostly landscapes now. Genre scenes require too much physical exertion. But to not paint is unthinkable. I've always painted landscapes because nature is a gift which ennobles."