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Ekaterina Belashova-Alekseeva

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Ekaterina Belashova-Alekseeva

(St. Petersburg, 1906 - 1971)

Ekaterina Fedorovna Alekseeva was born in St. Petersburg. Her father was employed by the avid art collector, Sergei Botkin, and so she grew up surrounded by art. She attended boarding school in Tyrkovy-Toroshkovichi village near Novgorod and began making cloth dolls and clay sculptures to amuse the younger children. She continued her education at the Industrial Art Technicum in Leningrad (1923-1924) where she specialized in sculpture and then at the Leningrad Higher State Art and Technical Institute (Vkhutein) (1926-1932). In 1933, Andrei Matveev took her on as a postgraduate student and she moved to Moscow to work as an assistant at the Nikolai Andreev Professional Training Studio for Sculptors. The pre-war period was highly formative in Belashova-Alekseeva's creative process. She cited Matveev and Anna Golubkina as her greatest inspirations. Belashova-Alekseeva would later entitle this period "People who change the world" for its portrayal of the human striving for higher ideals. During this time, on a work related trip, the young artist met, Mikhail Belashov, a fellow sculptor and graduate of Vkhutein. The couple was soon married and began collaborating on design competitions, only one of which, The Statue of Viktor Kholzunov, pilot and Hero of the Soviet Union, was actually erected. This statue's fame spread after it was miraculously preserved from heavy bombing. In 1941, war was declared in the Soviet Union, Belashova-Alekseeva's husband volunteered, and was killed that same year not far from Smolensk. Bereaved, Belashova-Alekseeva threw herself into sculpting to work through her despair and to provide for her young son. Unvanquished, a bronze portrait of a woman, possibly a self-portrait, became an icon of War Years for Belashova-Alekseeva. The bronze depicts a thin woman, the victim of the battering of the war, and yet her stance bespeaks a sense of self-respect and defiance to the horror of war, akin to the artist's own feelings in relation to her grief. Belashova-Alekseeva began teaching at the Moscow Institute of Applied and Decorative Art in 1947 and where she continued through 1952. In 1952, she became a professor and moved to teach at the Higher Art and Industrial College until 1965. In 1957 Belashova-Alekseeva became a member of the Board of the Union of Artists of the USSR where she served for several years as the First Secretary. Upon the death of Board Chairman, Sergei Gerasimov, she temporarily took his place and then in 1968, she was elected Chair of the Board at the Third Congress of Artists. The works of 50s and 60s were characterized by introspection and intense contemplation. Belashova-Alekseeva was known for her love of company and her unfailing optimism. Her motto was a quotation from a letter written to her by fellow artist, Sergei Konenkov, "Each and every day should bring joy. Remember this, and rejoice at every day you live." Belashova-Alekseeva found joy in every aspect of her life and strove to excel in every field she was involved in. In her later years she would remark, "They talk about youth and old age in art, about the young and the old. I have to admit that I could never see who was old, and who was young, or at what point an artist becomes 'old'. A true artist is young until the end of his days."

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