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  • Amira Tomiris Akhmetova

Kazakhstan Sculpture: 1920-1950's

Updated: Jul 26

The first mention of professional sculptors' works in Kazakhstan came about in 1939. At that time, there was a contest to create a monument of the great Uzbek poet Alisher Navoi. One of the participants was sculptor A. S. Ponomarev, who graduated from the Baron Alexander von Stieglitz School of Technical Drawing in Petrograd and a native of the town of Verniy, who returned to Alma-Ata in 1920 and later organised art workshops to decorate the city. Ponomarev created the first sculptural portraits of such 19th-century Kazakh educators as ShoqanWalikhanov, AbayKunanbayev, and YbyraiAl- tynsarin. These works were done in the best traditions of classical realist art, which became formal and canonical for these types of works. In 1938, sculptor V. Kroshin, who graduated from the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in Lenin- grad, came to Kazakhstan.


Shamsutdinov Khasan. 1910-?. Uralsk Portrait of Gaisha Mikanova, Twice Hero Of Socialist Labour.1959. Source: The Kazakh Art, 2013.

Virtually nothing is known about the period of his life in Kazakhstan, and only one work from his artistic heritage remains, entitled Portrait of General I.V. Panfilov, 1948. This work is housed in the A. Kasteyev State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan. In 1940, sculptures were featured at several exhibitions in Kazakhstan, showing an increasing interest in the art of sculpture, as exhibited by such professional artists from the regions as H. Shamsutdinov, H. Krymshamkhalov, A. Chikin, Y. Gummel and others. Many famous Soviet sculptors were evacuated from Leningrad to Kazakhstan during the war, including I. Chaikov, O. Kudryavtseva, I. Ryk, L. Muravina, V. Bogatyrev, and B. I. Urmanche. Their works significantly influenced the formation of the Kazakh sculptural arts at an early stage, denoting a high standard of professional development. However, the lack of proper working conditions and artistic materials made it impossible to implement some orders fully. As a result, the surviving works from that time were mainly made from plaster.


Nauryzbayev Khakimzhan, 1925 - 2009. Almaty, Young Dzhambul. 1958,Source: The Kazakh Art, 2013.

The Kazakh sculptural arts began to develop further in the 1950s. The first professional Kazakh sculptor was H. Nauryzbaev, who graduated from the Kharkov State Academy of Design and Arts in 1951. He produced many works which are part of Kazakhstan's Golden Fund of Fine Arts. Nauryzbayev's art was a milestone and the beginning of the heroic national image in Kazakhstan's professional sculptures. Nauryzbaev created more than 300 works, including famous monuments to Abay and ShoqanWalikhanov in Almaty - the first monumental sculptures by the Kazakh artist. In these works, the sculptor completely sidesteps the conventional method of creating official portraits in the form of busts, creating insightful psychological imagery and expressive monumental memorials in terms of their sculptural completeness. These memorials are considered pre-eminent in the history of Kazakh art. Nauryzbayev's intimate portraits, which retained the best traditions of Russian–European classical sculpture, have a particularly poetic tone, each reveals- ing a lyrical or dramatic richness of the image. The particularities of Kazakh thought and the cultural core of traditional consciousness were translated in his works at the subject level and tended toward a specific range of motives and the characteristics of their interpretation. Kurmangazy (1958) and Portrait of the poet M. Khakimzhanova (1964), as well as many other portraits, were created by the sculptor from nature. By identifying and emphasising the characters' individuality, conveying a portrait likeness and the subject's personality traits, he also typifies the portraits, reflecting the spirit of the times in which his models lived. The things that attract one to portraits by Nauryzbayev are their utmost honesty, logic, simplicity and harmony in identifying the inner essence, the inner world of the person depicted.


Zhuravlev Nikolay, 1926. Almaty, Ringer. 1958, Source: The Kazakh Art, 2013.

P.D. Usachev, as a graduate of the Vera Mukhina Leningrad Higher School of Industrial Arts majoring in sculptural art, joined the Kazakhstani world of art in the mid-1950s. His talent manifested itself in the unique lyrical and poetic tone that he imparted in his works. In 1958, his first sculptural portraits were displayed at an exhibition organised for the Days of Kazakhstan's Culture and Art in Moscow. His works opened in the gallery portraying Kazakh women: Ballerina (1958) and Student Girl (1959). In those years, Kazakhstan had many other novice sculptors as well. For example, N. Zhuravlev delicately and specifically conveyed the lively mood and sentiment in his works On the Skating Rink (1959) and Herdsman (1958). At the end of the 1950s, the genres and themes in Kazakhstani sculpture were becoming increasingly diverse. Besides portraiture, the artists also created scenic, decorative and monumental sculptures and manifested a deep interest in contemporary themes. A. Isayev started his artistic path with themed and genre-related sculptures. In 1958, he made an indoor sculpture called Smelter. The first Kazakhstani sculpture exhibition was organised in Alma-Ata in 1957. Although this exhibition did not adhere to any exact concept, it displayed and briefly described the ten-year development of Kazakhstani sculpture. The exhibition brought together some older generation artists, such as Ya. Kuchis, I. Nikolishin, Z.


Beregovaya Zoya, 1914-1991. Almaty, Bayan Sulu with starling. 1962, Source: The Kazakh Art, 2013.

Beregovaya and Kh.Nauryzbayev. There were different decorative sculptures and compositions of various contents and subjects with numerous details. However, despite the abounding artistic styles, a common aspiration to express and develop the national content of the selected themes was observed in all the works. The only master of small sculpture at that time was Z. Beregovaya. She worked with majolica, biscuit china and porcelain. Her elegant statuettes were made in the Soviet style of the 1950s, enriched with local Kazakh themes. The elegance of colour and shape gracefully embodied poetical images from Kazakh folklore, Kyz-Zhibek and Swans (1962), or romanticism to the everyday lives of ordinary working people shown in her works, which were perceived as short hymns glorifying the joys of simple living, A Girl with a Donkey (1959), Poultry Maid (1959). A unique role in the development of Kazakhstani art in the late 1950s by I. Ya. Itkind's sculptural portraits alluded to both fiction and reality. The sculptor did not concentrate on any artistic style. His figural embodiment only depended on the material and vision he had as an artist: Laughing Old Man (1957) and Man of Wisdom (1958). In the 1950s as well, B.A. Tulekov set out on his artistic path. His works portrayed the artist's search for a compositional expressiveness achieved by motional dynamics and statics of figures: A Hunter with an Eagle (1958) and Commemoration of the War Heroic Women (1975). At times, B. Tulekov had recourse to a portrait genre willing to create profound and multivalent images, such as the Portrait of the KapellmeisterFuatMansurov (1960), the Portrait of the twice-honoured hero of socialist labour, sheepherder Kuanyshbayev (1969). Tulebekov created these works in the best traditions of Soviet sculpture.


Source: The Kazakh Art, 2013.


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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is the famous artwork of Kazakhstan?

The Golden Man is a famous archaeological discovery made in 1969 in the Issyk Kurgan region of Kazakhstan. It is a statue that is thought to depict a man from the ancient Saka culture and is believed to date back to the 5th or 6th century AD. The statue is made of gold and is thought to be one of the most well-preserved examples of ancient art from Central Asia.


Who is regarded as the greatest painter in Kazakhstan?


Abylkhan Kasteyev (1904-73) is Kazakhstan's greatest painter. He was born in the town of Oral (then in the Russian Empire, now in Kazakhstan). After graduating from the Moscow Art School in 1924, he returned to his homeland and taught at the Alma-Ata Art School until 1931, when he moved to Tashkent. In 1938, he settled in Almaty. Kasteyev's paintings are distinguished by their lyricism and rich palette. They reflect the artist's love for his native land and its people. Many of his works are held in museums in Kazakhstan and Russia.


What is Kazakhstan's art?

Kazakhstan's art is often representational, depicting scenes from everyday life and Kazakh history. Many abstract and experimental works of art are produced in Kazakhstan. Traditional Kazakh folk art includes ceramics, woodcarving, textiles, and jewellery. The 1990s saw a revival of traditional arts and contemporary art movements.

Kazakhstan's art scene is growing and becoming more popular all the time. If you are interested in purchasing or exhibiting Kazakh art, please get in touch with us for more information. We would be happy to help you get started on your collection or put you in touch with some of the best artists in the country.


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