Putin Tells Renowned Artist How to Improve His Work

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has tried his hand as an art critic, suggesting improvements to a painting that a respected Russian artist completed 36 years ago.

Putin's attention was drawn to a sword in "Prince Oleg with Igor," a large painting depicting medieval Russian heroes, when he visited the studio of painter Ilya Glazunov for his 79th birthday last week.

"The sword in his hand is a bit short," Putin told the artist, who had completed the painting in 1973. "It looks like a pocket knife in his hands."

Such a weapon "would only be good for slicing sausage," he added.

Glazunov, whose paintings often glorify Russian culture and who opened a state-run gallery dedicated solely to his works in 2004, told Putin that he had an excellent eye for detail and promised to change the painting.

"I don't miss a single detail," Putin agreed.

Putin also questioned why, in a separate painting titled "Eternal Russia," Glazunov had portrayed Josef Stalin together with his political nemesis Leon Trotsky. Glazunov replied that Trotsky had an important role in Russian history as well.

Putin has some experience in the art world, selling a painting of a snowfall as seen through a window for 37 million rubles ($1.1 million) at a charity auction in January. He signed the painting "V. Putin" in large letters across the top.

Putin has also played the role of theater critic. In March, after attending a performance of the Alexander Griboyedov play "Woe From Wit," he complained that the main character cried too much and appeared weak.