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Ernst Neizvestny: A Life In Pictures

Soviet sculptor Ernst Neizvestny died on August 9 at the age of 91 in his adopted home of New York. The artist was well-known for clashing with the Soviet authorities, but his combative relationship with Nikita Khrushchev had a storybook conclusion.

Neizvestny in 1967. Before embarking on his career in art, Neizvestny had to survive World War II. As a young volunteer in the Red Army, Neizvestny was declared "legally dead" after being severely wounded on the battlefields of Austria in 1945. 
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Neizvestny in 1967. Before embarking on his career in art, Neizvestny had to survive World War II. As a young volunteer in the Red Army, Neizvestny was declared "legally dead" after being severely wounded on the battlefields of Austria in 1945. 

Neizvestny with one of his works in 1966. Because his father fought against the Bolsheviks during Russia's civil war, the young Neizvestny was destined for a difficult, if not dangerous, career inside the Soviet Union.   
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Neizvestny with one of his works in 1966. Because his father fought against the Bolsheviks during Russia's civil war, the young Neizvestny was destined for a difficult, if not dangerous, career inside the Soviet Union. 

 

One of Neizvestny's small-scale sculptures on display. The artist gained international attention for his clash with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev during a notorious art exhibition. 
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One of Neizvestny's small-scale sculptures on display. The artist gained international attention for his clash with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev during a notorious art exhibition. 

Khrushchev at the New Reality exhibition of contemporary art at Moscow's Manezh hall in 1962. The Soviet leader reportedly shouted obscenities at the artists. "[I] don't understand," he asked. "Why do you distort the faces of the Soviet people?"  Neizvestny, who was told he was wasting metal, was the only artist to stand up to the attack, and vehemently defended his sculpture.   
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Khrushchev at the New Reality exhibition of contemporary art at Moscow's Manezh hall in 1962. The Soviet leader reportedly shouted obscenities at the artists. "[I] don't understand," he asked. "Why do you distort the faces of the Soviet people?" 
Neizvestny, who was told he was wasting metal, was the only artist to stand up to the attack, and vehemently defended his sculpture. 
 

Neizvestny at work in 1965. Khrushchev reportedly concluded his confrontation with Neizvestny at the Manezh by telling the sculptor: "You're an interesting person, I like these kinds of people, but you have an angel and a devil in you at the same time. If the devil wins, we will destroy you. If the angel wins, we will help you."
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Neizvestny at work in 1965. Khrushchev reportedly concluded his confrontation with Neizvestny at the Manezh by telling the sculptor: "You're an interesting person, I like these kinds of people, but you have an angel and a devil in you at the same time. If the devil wins, we will destroy you. If the angel wins, we will help you."

Neizvestny's sculpture Prometheus, in 1973. Soon after the unveiling of this monument the artist left the Soviet Union for Switzerland and later settled in New York. Once in the United States he struck up a friendship with the American artist Andy Warhol, who immortalized the sculptor's fractious relationship with the Soviet authorities by calling Khrushchev "a mediocre politician of the Ernst Neizvestny era."
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Neizvestny's sculpture Prometheus, in 1973. Soon after the unveiling of this monument the artist left the Soviet Union for Switzerland and later settled in New York. Once in the United States he struck up a friendship with the American artist Andy Warhol, who immortalized the sculptor's fractious relationship with the Soviet authorities by calling Khrushchev "a mediocre politician of the Ernst Neizvestny era."

When the Soviet Union collapsed, Neizvestny was working on an epic monument to victims of the gulag -- the country's infamous labor camps and penal colonies.
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When the Soviet Union collapsed, Neizvestny was working on an epic monument to victims of the gulag -- the country's infamous labor camps and penal colonies.

The monument Mask of Mourning, a memorial to victims of Stalinism, during its unveiling in the eastern Russian city of Magadan in 1996. Playwright Arthur Miller once called Neizvestny a "prophet of the future" who represented the "philosophical conscience of his country."
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The monument Mask of Mourning, a memorial to victims of Stalinism, during its unveiling in the eastern Russian city of Magadan in 1996. Playwright Arthur Miller once called Neizvestny a "prophet of the future" who represented the "philosophical conscience of his country."

Another of Neizvestny's notable works is the 150-meter relief, Monument For All The World's Children, which he completed for a Soviet scout camp in Crimea in 1966. 
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Another of Neizvestny's notable works is the 150-meter relief, Monument For All The World's Children, which he completed for a Soviet scout camp in Crimea in 1966. 

Neizvestny at work on his Crimean monument to the world's children in 1966. 
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Neizvestny at work on his Crimean monument to the world's children in 1966. 

Perhaps one of the most satisfying commissions for the sculptor during his time in the Soviet Union was Khrushchev's tombstone. Relatives of the former Soviet leader, who died in 1971, approached Neizvestny and commissioned the work, which he completed in 1974. The elaborate tombstone, located in Moscow's Novodevichy Cemetery, is constructed of contrasting blocks of black and white stone. 
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Perhaps one of the most satisfying commissions for the sculptor during his time in the Soviet Union was Khrushchev's tombstone. Relatives of the former Soviet leader, who died in 1971, approached Neizvestny and commissioned the work, which he completed in 1974. The elaborate tombstone, located in Moscow's Novodevichy Cemetery, is constructed of contrasting blocks of black and white stone. 

Neizvestny with his daughter Olga in 2008. Upon hearing news of the sculptor's death, one journalist described it as "a great loss for Russian culture, for everybody who knew this extraordinary man."
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Neizvestny with his daughter Olga in 2008. Upon hearing news of the sculptor's death, one journalist described it as "a great loss for Russian culture, for everybody who knew this extraordinary man."

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