The Anatomy of Artistic Creation.
By Tommy Hawkins
The uncharted, winding roads traveled by legendary immigrant, artist/architect Anatole Krasnyansky have been perilous. From his 1930, pre-World War II birth in Kiev, Russia (USSR) to registered nurse Rosalia and scientist/inventor Lev, to his eventual 1975 escape from Communist oppression and anti Semitism, his story has been a tangled tale of two worlds.
Anatole’s father died of leukemia at age 35, a condition believed brought on by his extensive unprotected research into atomic energy. He left behind a grieving widow who vowed never to remarry and a 19 month old son.
In 1941 with the war all around them and just before the German invasion of Kiev, 10 year old Anatole and his mother evacuated to Stalingrad. From there they fled to Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Avoiding the mine fields of war, the precocious young Krasnyansky drew and painted everyday. Unlike other kids, he had no interest in sports or playing outdoors. Even at that early age, art was his avocation. He and his mother survived in a one room, dirt floor apartment with only a stove, a cot, a table and two chairs. There was no electricity. Long into the night, by candlelight, Anatole would create war scenes on paper, next to the cot where his mother slept. He was obsessive.
While in Stalingrad, the Krasnyanskys met fellow-evacuees Alex and Irene Black. Alex was of Russian and English parentage, and a well known set designer and art director for the Leningrad movie studios. So impressed with Anatole’s talent the childless Blacks offered to take him to Leningrad to be enrolled in the finest art school in the Soviet Union. It was an offer that Rosalia respectfully refused. She couldn’t bear the thought of being away from her son.
In 1945, as the war was ending and the Krasnyanskys were still in Uzbekistan, the influential Mr. Black arranged to have several of 14 year old Anatole’s paintings featured in an art exhibit. It was the first for the young artist, who received great public praise.
Following the war, the Krasnyansky family returned to Kiev and held a meeting to discuss its collective future. There it was decided that Anatole would not be allowed to become a starving artist. Instead, he was enrolled at the Kiev Academy of Art and Architecture. There he received his first formal training to become an architect. Having painted all of his young life, Anatole remembers the day that sealed his fate. His maternal uncle and surrogate father, Lev (same name as his father), showed him a beautiful portfolio of art and architecture displayed at the historic Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad). That sharing was all consuming, fanning the flame that burns brightly within him.
The succeeding six years were devoted to intensive, government sponsored architectural education. Anatole excelled as he mingled with other artists, architects, sculptors, and designers. He graduated with a Master’s Degree in Art and Architecture. Having blended his new skills as a draftsman with his gifted ability to draw and paint, Anatole was ready to take on the world. But not so fast…for those six years of collegiate training, he owed the Soviet government five years of dedicated service, without freedom to change his working place or position.
Undaunted by it all, Anatole surged ahead. He fulfilled his mandatory obligation and was free to work where he chose. His skills could not be ignored. Krasnyansky participated in open architectural competitions, winning first prize for his design of the Kiev Subway Station and the rendering of the House of Books in Alexandria. At the same time, his art was accepted to several exhibitions organized by the Artists’ Union. Several of his works were purchased by the government and displayed throughout the country.
Anatole dreamed of one day immigrating to America, but realized that in order to reach his goal, he had to become less visible. So for three years he disassociated himself from high profile projects and concentrated on his art. When he felt comfortably outside of the social main stream, and with the help of the International Jewish Federation, he applied for and received permission to leave the USSR. With his wife Nelly and 8 year old daughter, Rimma, they boarded a freedom train to Vienna, Austria – then on to Rome, Italy. It was in Rome that the Krasnyansky’s final destination was decided. Canada’s immigration package was far more beneficial than the one offered by the USA, but to his wife’s dismay, Anatole pleaded for passage to America. After a five month stay in Italy, he got his wish and the family immigrated to Los Angeles.
Their first 18 months in the United States was a frightening struggle to survive. It was 1975, Anatole was 45 years old, the nation was in fiscal turmoil, interest rates were high, all building related activities had come to a screeching halt and there were no architectural jobs available. Running on empty and hounded by the fear of becoming homeless, Anatole started knocking on doors of television and the movie industry. Eventually he landed jobs at CBS and ABC as a scenic artist, and set designer at Universal, MGM and 20th Century Fox.
With a background second to none, Krasnyansky has established himself as a world-class artist and architect. His artistic creations have been exhibited at Stanford, UCLA and UCSF, and they grace the walls of art collectors and homes throughout Russia, Europe and the United States. A 349 page volume beautifully documenting the life and works of Anatole was recently published by the Park West Press. Since 1994, Krasnyansky has enjoyed an exclusive relationship with Park West Gallery in Southfield, Michigan, which is the largest privately owned gallery of original art in the world.
Krasnyansky proudly praises his wife of 56 years, Nelly. She has been the family’s guiding force. Having set aside her Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering, she is a dedicated mother and grandmother, business advisor, and handler of all of the complexities of everyday life, giving Anatole the freedom to create.
Describing Krasnyansky’s body of work is not a simple task. His creations are colorful, complex, evocative and energetic. Using multiple images, they convey strong messages invoking an emotional response. They incorporate his knowledge of art history and his love of many forms of music. Glimpses of his architectural background are ever present.
His evolution to international fame embodies many sectors of art, including realism, expressionism, cubism, and modernist surrealism. He spans the globe from Baroque to Rock ‘n’ Roll. As he paints, he preaches, ‘Never forget your past, never forget where you came from, never forget the accomplishments of your culture and the value of your traditions.’
To view more of Anatole’s work, visit Park West Gallery: