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Pisareva, Gelyafree

Russian, 20th century, female.

Born 1933, in Leningrad (now St Petersburg).

Painter, sculptor, ceramicist, graphic artist.

Gelya Pisareva graduated from the Leningrad Art School (now the Tavricheskaya Art School) in 1955. In 1961, Pisareva continued her training at the Ilya Repin Leningrad Institute for Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (now the Russian Academy of Arts) where she studied enamelled ceramics in the Department of Sculpture. She is a member of several artistic organisations including the Union of Artists, which she joined in 1967, and the independent non-profit Ozerki – Artists’ Village.

At a young age, before her formal training in art, Pisareva and her family fled to Ukraine to escape the air raids, food shortages, and deadly clashes during the Leningrad Blockade in World War II. Inspired by Russian icon painting, peasant and folk arts and crafts, and the lubok (popular, inexpensive, and mass-produced woodblock prints), Pisareva’s work draws heavily upon artistic traditions from her native Russia. The artist primarily depicts women immersed in various routine domestic duties such as washing clothes, drying linen, taking care of children, ploughing fields, and harvesting food. In these works, Pisareva explores the unmodernised and rural realms of Russian life. Pisareva’s heavily applied paint in colourful, lush, luminous, and textural strokes celebrates the lyricism and labour of the peasantry. Pisaerva fuses peasant, religious, and mythological imagery of figures with stylised, and at times featureless, faces adorned with haloes and wings set in natural landscapes. Pisareva depicts the beauty and bounty of village life such as the different seasons, bodies of water, flowers in bloom, fields ripe for harvesting, and welcoming cottages. By extension, the artist’s sculptural work includes both wooden figures in the round and flat paper sculptures of peasants, angels, and saints. By depicting the cycles and rhythms of nature, the artist revels in and contemplates the calm sublimity of the natural world. Ultimately, Pisareva’s work transcends the monotony of everyday peasant life with sublime and ethereal figures in timeless and idyllic environs. Perhaps recalling the bucolic refuge she found in a Ukrainian village at an early age, Pisareva envisions and preserves the tranquillity and lyricism of life in the rural landscape.

Museum and Gallery Holdings

Moscow (MoMA)

Moscow (The State Tretyakov Gal.)

St. Petersburg (Central Exhibition Hall Manege)

St. Petersburg (St. Petersburg Mus. of Dolls)

St. Petersburg (The State Mus. of City Sculpture)

St. Petersburg (The State Russian Mus.)

Tyumen (Tyumen Regional MFA)


  • Nikitina, Tatiana: Pod otkrytym nebom: katalog vystavki, exhibition catalogue, Galerei︠a︡ sovremennogo iskusstva ‘Art Kholding Tatʹi︠a︡ny Nikitinoĭ’, St Petersburg, 2015.