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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

One Man's Musings on Mortality

When Dmitry Krasnopevtsev died at the age of 70 in 1995, he left behind powerful contemplations on time, the human soul and the gap between man and God.

An artist-hermit who would listen to the silence of the universe and meditate alone in his studio, Krasnopevtsev has been honored with a permanent exhibit at the Museum of Private Collections. Opened this summer, the exhibit displays some of his best works, as well as part of his studio.

Krasnopevtsev painted primarily still lifes, and his subjects were far from exotic f broken jugs, broken tree branches and stones. His works, however, are highly philosophical. Krasnopevtsev's mind seems to have taken flight, gained altitude and looked at Earth from high above, seeing its general outline.

What does it mean f several broken jugs piled one upon another without any respect for the laws of gravity? Nothing, of course. And yet the jugs create a certain rhythm, which in the long run is what the universe is all about f a rhythmic evolution of spirit.

No matter how many abstruse words have been said about Krasnopevtsev by art critics, his own notes disclose much more about his art and his personality:

"When you're working on a painting you may get angry, swear, scrub away what has been painted, but you must not forget or lose the feeling that you're painting an icon f let it portray a tree and a stone, a bottle or a herring's tail f all the same it is an icon, an icon glorifying and thanking the Creator."

A deeply religious person, Krasnopevtsev was concerned with man's relationship to God.

"Man cannot be a creator, he is just a discoverer of the already created f outside and inside himself, a discoverer and performer of the Creator's will."

Like his art, Krasnopevtsev's studio is a window into his solemn, spiritual world. Slices of semiprecious stones decorate his bookshelves. "Hen's gods," stones with holes in them worn as necklaces for happiness, hang in bunches in front of icons, and dried starfishes are piled up in front of his paintings. The artist used these objects everyday to make endless painted collages, which symbolized so much more than the objects themselves, the disposable symbols of mortals.

Krasnopevtsev preferred to stay away from the art world, but was respected and admired by those in it all the same.

"He was an aristocrat of the spirit," a gallery owner told me when Krasnopevtsev died in 1995. "He could communicate with anyone f at the level of his interlocutor, although his own level could be much higher. You could feel it and yet be very comfortable with him."

Krasnopevtsev's little-known early etchings are one of the most impressive components of the display. Masterful and subtle, they offer a complete contrast to the artist's still lifes. He might have made a superb illustrator, but then he would have never become what he was f a distinguished artist in his own right, always recognizable and unlike anyone else.

The Museum of Private Collections is located at 14 Ulitsa Volkhonka, open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed Monday and Tuesday. Tel. 203-1546. Nearest metro: Kropotkinskaya.