N. Slobodinskaya, Turkmenian girl with cotton, 1942-43, plasticine. 6.5 Turkmen girl with cotton
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- 6.7 Girl with a grape or the Asian’s bliss
- 6.8 Turk with a pipe and the state of recollections
- 6.9 Old Uzbek – guardian of the past
- 6.10 Talking man and thought’s movement
- 6.12 Oriental Madonna - dialogue with a soul
N. Slobodinskaya, Turkmenian girl with cotton, 1942-43, plasticine.
The Turkmen girl with cotton represents a sculptural small-sized plasticized sketch,
which approximately dates 1942 – 43ss. It displays a full of lyricism and inner poetry
image of a young beautiful woman in traditional Turkmen dress, bearing a head
gear. The young woman holds cotton in her skirts. One of the applied artistic means
of expressiveness - the figure’s posture: the female figure is not shown in static pose,
but rather in a natural and free movement. She is depicted stepping at the stairs,
while gazing upwards. Although she’s got a buggy voluminous dress, an outlined
breast and declivous shoulders, all indicate at her true beauty, a refinement and
slenderness of her young proportional figure. Wide traditional shoes underline her
thin ankles. The sculpture’s fine head proportions and the head gear permits to
name her a Turkmen Nefertiti (mainly due to the beautifully shaped and outlined
head’s skeleton form together with a full of dignity and self-respect gaze). This
comparison appears naturally, the sculpted statuette definitely recalls the legendary
image.The figure’s pose is full of calmness, self-discipline and preciseness. The artist
aimed to depict her in the natural environment of work: gathering cotton in the
fields. The stone like element behind the young woman indicates at the nature’s
entourage. A motive of cotton gathering is not the unique in a range of sculptor’s
Asian sculptures. Cotton gathering – was one of the main type of work in the country
as during the Soviet epoch Uzbekistan was one of the major cotton providers of all
the USSR.The figure’s gaze is full of deep thoughtfulness, an inner self concentration,
sadness and dreaminess, hope and tenderness. As if the author would aim to show
us all her rich feelings spectrum, the emotional fullness of her heart and soul. Her
deep emotional world which we may guess in her gaze, her stormy emotional state
is emphasized by her appearance: a rich dress’s lines texture and its curves. A viewer
can guess in the portrayed a sensible, emotionally full, thin young woman. By
external attributes (cotton in the skirts, nature’s element) the female figure may be
symbolically associated with an image of prosperity – a goddess so beloved and
often displayed by the master in different styles and manners. The girl’s appearance
clearly indicates at her national traits and Asian origin, although the author
accentuates and mainly depicts her individuality. The whole rich sculptural
composition with base permits to assume that this sculptural sketch was probably
conceived as a model for a monument. Unfortunately there is no documentary
evidence to prove it. The architectonical proportions of the composition are
adhered exactly. There is no information left if the sculptor exhibited or turned this
plasticine sketch into a more solid material or which precise dimensions it had. It’s
interesting to compare two different visions of the female Asian characters of
Russian sculptors. One belongs to the Professor Vera Muchina and other to her
apprentice – Nina Slobodinskaya. Muchina’s Uzbek girl is full of dynamism, purposeful
determination, her figure seems light, but her step is heavy. Uzbek girl’s face is
shaped schematically, its face expression is not personified; Muchina’s sculptural
image by itself seems to embody a symbol – sign of will, a perpetual motion,
confidence. Meanwhile Slobodinskaya’s Turkmen female image is full of inner lyrics,
individualized poetry of female sensitivity, tenderness and sadness. While Uzbek girl
determinately but unthoughtfully continues her way, Turkmen girl stops in the state of
dreaminess and pensiveness, concentrated on her inner world, in a silent dialogue
with the world.
N. Slobodinskaya, Turkmen shepherd, 1942-43, plasticine.
N. Slobodinskaya, Turkmen shepherd, 1942-43, plaster cast, 31 x 20 x 55.
Photo of the Market place, early XX, Rigistan, Samarkand, Bogaevsky.
The Turkmen shepherd can be regarded as a brilliant example of Asian portrayals.
Seating in a natural pose, an old man is playing some national musical instrument.
He is haggard, peaked and gazes directly at viewer. His figure is shaped in detail,
without any hint at schematic manner of depiction.
Apparently, in approach to work Nina Slobodinskaya follows the basic advises of her
teacher Vera Muchina – to seek a truthfulness of depiction, and consequently uses
realistic method, portraying without mercy, naturalistically all the age signs of the
Turkmen man. Nevertheless, the main idea of the author was not to show the
ugliness of oldness, but instead a tense, complex and rich inner life of this personage,
on which age has no influence. Through the sounds of his musical instrument the old
man seems to have a silent, mute dialogue with him-self, his soul, possibly recalling
important, happy moments of past, or may be preparing to his meeting with Future.
Quite often during this creative period and further Nina Slobodinskaya portrays old
people. Those images are always very expressive, full of inner meaning and
personalization. Without neglecting the pure sculptural qualities of the work, we may
suggest that the key message the sculptor attempts to transmit – spiritual fulfilment of
an inner model’s world.
Anna Golubkina, who was a guru in sculpture for Nina Slobodinskaya, discovered
images’ richness and beauty in subject of oldness, and I suppose it was due to her
creative influence that such a theme was so often developed and displayed by our
A. Golubkina, Oldness, 1898, bronze. O. Rodin, Old courtisan, 1884-85, bronze.
Being a philosopher in stone, looking for a deep psychological characteristic of her
models, Golubkina in her sculptural work the Oldness revealed an inner world’s
human beauty, which in this case is shining even through the physical traits of
wasting away. Anna Golubkina achieved to depict oldness as a natural step into
belly, trying to feature that oldness appears as a temporal state before a new birth,
and that life itself turns as an infinite circle, Golubkina’s sculptural figure creates a
circle by its composition. This sculptural image was a kind of response of apprentice
Golubkina to her teacher Rodin, who depicted an old courtesan, accentuating the
physiological ugliness of oldness.
Nina Slobodinskaya also appears to be a real philosopher and psychologist in
sculpture. The key subjects that inspire her and evoke her professional interest are
human characters, complex personalities, which she attempts to explore and to
reveal their characters’ inner life’s essence.
The sculptor’s analysis is not over with a detailed portrayal of model’s physical traits;
Slobodinskaya is looking for more – a deep characteristic of individuality’s
complexity, richness and multi-dimensional aspects of his personality. In the Asian
creative period Nina Slobodinskaya evinces as already a mature formed artist, who
has developed and determined her own plastic language of expression and
consciously and independently selected the key subject in her creative work. Thus
sculptor’s main source of inspiration and the leitmotiv of her work becomes a human
being. The artist will be faithful to this theme the rest of her life through the variety of
sculptural images and forms.
Being away from Leningrad and the strict official demands, the firm control of the
Artists’ Union, Slobodinskaya finally feels free to search for subjects interesting for her.
She did not feel pressure any more to depict just socialistically orientated optimistic
images with a main purpose of propaganda; instead she displays people in their
everyday life in natural environment of Samarkand, concentrating her creative
search on displaying their deep human psychological and spiritual essence. I think it
is significant, that the artist chooses to work on deep full of humanism, intimal
psychological sculptural portrayals in the epoch, when all personal had to be on
service of the Social, following the State’s aims; at the period when an interest to
intimal interior world of a person was officially neglected, violently and artificially
supressed and substituted with a new ideal - man’s life and interest to him was
justified, only conditioned by his successful service to the society, - to the State.
Another coloured plaster cast statuette which Nina Slobodinskaya created was The
Girl with a grape – a lyric image of an apparently 10 year’s old girl who is shaped in
a natural pose holding a grape in her hands. Her posture is relaxed and calm. The
moment when the author saw her and was inspired was probably an instant when
the girl was gathering grape in her parents’ garden. The figure’s head is inclined. The
girl is thinking or dreaming, she is not looking at the viewer but she is in silent dialogue
N. Slobodinskaya, A girl with grape, 1942-43, coloured plaster cast, 30 x10 x 41.
N. Slobodinskaya, A girl with grape, 1942-43, coloured plaster cast, 30 x10 x 41.
At the market, 1930s, photo, Paul Nadar.
Detachment, concentration on inner thoughts, inner spiritual world of a portrayed
model, philosophical meditation – it’s a common trait of the sculptor’s sphere of
artistic search. The girl’s figure’s pose creates an expressive visual curve. Precisely in
this period the author starts colouring her plaster cast figures. Apparently south
colours inspire the artist to express vividness, contrast and brightness of Uzbekistan.
Contrast colours give a new expressiveness to her sculptural figurines.
A rich, lash dark brown-orange colour of the girl’s body creates a visually expressive
contrast with her blue traditional Uzbek trousers, accentuates her wide cheek-bones,
eyelashes, and a straight line of her black hair. The colouring gives a new sound,
new image’s expressiveness to the statuette, which reminds terracotta figurines.
The blue accentuated voluminous trousers emphasize the impression of lightness and
refinement of the young lady. The master seems to will and depict not just a figure’s
movement but through it - also a movement of her thoughts, her heart and her soul.
Later the sculptor follows and further develops this artistic tendency in the Asian and
the post-war period in order to concentrate viewer’s attention not on external
movement and physical traits, but on the character’s inner movement;
Slobodinskaya creates a number of static figures which seem to come to a standstill
and stand motionless. To one of such examples may be related The Turk with a pipe.
N. Slobodinskaya, Turk with a pipe, 1942-1943, plasticine,
6.8 Turk with a pipe and the state of recollections
His motionless figure cannot be more expressive. Every muscle, every body’s detail
are so properly shaped and his face is so incredibly vivid, that the first impression a
viewer gets – that he sees a photo of a real man, not of an elaborated plasticine
figure. His neck, shoulders are perfectly outlined, his face with an accentuated
wrinkles is attentively pronounced which indicates how deeply and he remains in his
thoughts, being profoundly concentrated on reading. He firmly holds his pipe and
the fingers of his feet are effectively thrown out. So realistically and vividly the author
creates this man, which a passer-by in the twilight’s time would take for real. This
work is another testimony that the sculptor achieved a high level of the refined
technique, in addition the sculptor tends to depict not just a figure’s physical
reproduction but something which is more difficult to show – the model’s state of
mind, to give a profound psychological characteristic and to display his intimal
personal portrayal. Unfortunately only the photo is left as the proof of this unique
Another work of Slobodinskaya which corresponds to the subject of oldness created
during her refuge in Samarkand was The Old Uzbek.
Without posing the depicted old man simply and naturally seats in his usual manner.
We may imagine this man in the calm streets of Samarkand, passing another usual
day, meditating on his life. The manner of depiction seems to be truthful and
realistic. A small-scale coloured plaster cast statuette appears to embody all the
south characteristic of Asian traits such as calmness, sluggishness, a lazy slowness,
which also mirrors an atmosphere of tranquillity and laziness prevailing in the
environment of Samarkand in the middle of XX century.
N. Slobodinskaya, Old Uzbek, 1943 -1944, colored plaster cast, 38 x 18 x 112.
N. Slobodinskaya, Old Uzbek, 1943-1944, colored plaster cast, 38 x 18 x 112.
At the market, Samarkand, 1930s, photo, Paul Nadar.
The accentuated wrinkles and a tensioned front indicate at a big life experience
and a heavy memory’s luggage, which counts a minimum three generations. The
old man personifies a vivid memory and the history of Samarkand. In his eyes viewer
may guess tiredness, sadness and yearning, probably of the majestic past of
Tamerlane’s lands or his aspirations to see a lighter future of his native land.
The same immobility and motionless of human figures were captured by the official
photographer of the former Russian Empire - S. M. Prokudin-Gorsky who in the early
XX century was sent by the order of Imperator Nicolay II to Uzbekistan with purpose
to portray local life and people. These images served also as a visual illustration of life
realities which further were recreated for the official report to the State’s
The ease and naturalness of his pose, a vivid expressiveness of his face, a detailed
portrayal of his body, the colourful contrasts of the silhouette and the figure’s
proportions perfection – all indicates at the sculptor’s high technique level, at the
developed skills and the practical knowledge and a respectful mature philosophical
attitude to model. The sculptor enjoys contemplating the portrayed characters,
trying to demonstrate their spiritual essence.
Nina Slobodinskaya liked experimenting with different sculptural genres, so she
decides to use a relief’s form to portray an image of the Talking man.
N. Slobodinskaya, Talking man, 1943-44, tinted plaster cast, 40 x 50 x 54, relief.
The artist originally coloured the image, which with the time almost lost its colours’
intensity. A vivid face expression gives impression of an inner thoughtfulness, mental
movement, demonstrates the beauty of an actively thinking and dialoguing man;
these traits are accentuated by the active fingers’ depiction, an open mouth and a
tensioned front. The sculptor had found her central subject in sculpture and now
faithfully continued working on portrayals of interesting and curious characters as
she liked to say to her friends and family
. The author did not avoid life-size
sculptural portraits format. As was mentioned before a material’s scarcity was one of
the reasons she sculpted mainly small scale works during this period. But there are
two bright examples which demonstrate the master’s inclination towards sculptural
N. Slobodinskaya, Zulfia, 1943-1944, bronze, 32 x 21 x 58. N. Slobodinskaya, Zulfia, 1943-1944, plaster cast, 32 x 21 x 58.
N. Slobodinskaya’s Zulfia’s sculpture in the Leningrad magazine, 1945, N3.
Andrey Gnezdilov’s verbal recallings, interviewed on 09.08.14.
The mentioning of N. Slobodinskaya’s Zulfia’s sculptural portrait in The newspaper Leningradskaya Pravda, n.49, 1945.
showing dignity, self-confidence and youth’s stubbornness. The girl – is a
characteristic example of Uzbek’s beauty: oval face, pug nose, outlined eyebrows
accentuate the beautiful oval of her face, her gaze is full of both: dignity, firmness
and independence - a strong character’s manifestation. But simultaneously the
portrayed image is full of lyrics, tenderness and a refined beauty. The sculptor as
usual tends to catch and portray the individual psychological essence of the young
complex and contradictory character.
The sculptural image was exhibited at Leningrad official periodic show and
impressed the critics. it deserved a special mentioning in various published editions
sources, such as a popular the Leningrad magazine, being illustrated on the last
page, where they used to publicize works of art of the top interest; further this
sculptural image appears in the Leningradskaya Pravda newspaper, where the
critic, Dr, and journalist Lobrokovsky gives a special attention to the Zulfia’s work in
6.12 Oriental Madonna - dialogue with a soul
The strongest and the most significant sculptural work of Nina Slobodinskaya, which
may be considered crucial and resulting in all her creative Asian period in
Samarkand is The Oriental Madonna.
N. Slobodinskaya, Oriental Madonna, 1940-47, marble, 49 x 30 x 21.
N. Slobodinskaya, Oriental Madonna, 1940-47, marble, 49 x 30 x 21.
P. Kuznetsov, Step, 1910s, oil on canvas.
There is a curious background history of the sculptural image’s creation. Once, in
Samarkand Nina Slobodinskaya went to the market to buy some food for her family.
In a short while a hungry husband and her son suddenly saw her returning without
anything but a Tadjik’s young woman hand in hand. Nina Slobodinskaya was so
excited and did not stop exclaiming: “Don’t you see? She has got Madonna’s
! The family neither got lunch nor a proper supper that day, but the sculptor
passionately started working on the new project with all her enthusiasm and
As to the sculptor’s work’s manner, there were strict rules: while sculpting the
sculptor did not tolerate any interference. Any meddling in her work process was not
only undesirable but even unacceptable. The author’s studio was a sacred territory
for her family and friends. Her beloved preserved this respect towards the sculptor’s
work till the last days of her life.
Being a complex personality herself, Nina Slobodinskaya was able to discover rich
individualities around her and tended to portray them revealing and exposing their
true deep essential psychological and spiritual characters. Gradually carving, she
achieves to uncover and expose a complexity of a portrayed personality. As an
artist and good psychologist she used first to explore and get to know a person she
Verbal recallections of Andrey Gnezdilov, interviewed on 07.08.14.
willed to sculpt, so the majority of her best works are shaped in direct work and
contact with a model.
As a result of the hard work - we see the sculptural portrait of a young Asian woman.
Its prolonged beautiful form of head reminds a famous Nefertiti’s image. The model’s
hair, gathered by a kerchief is a reminiscent of Renaissance’s type of hair gear sell.
Her head is a beat inclined, a thin prolonged cranium and the oval of her face
accentuates finesse and a refined feminine image of the model: the underlined
cheek-bones, a prolonged nose, a pronounced mouth, slightly swivel-eyed, her thin
neck delicately holds a perfect form’s head. The young woman seems to be full of
thoughtfulness, hidden tenderness and simultaneously of the fatigue. The portrayed
lady is not dialoguing with a viewer, instead she’s fully concentrated on her inner
world, and a hard work seems to take place in this complex and contradictory mind.
The sculptor seems to uncover young woman’s profound psychological character,
brings out her complex inner world, denuding her spiritual essence. Viewer may also
guess in a young lady’s portrait – sadness, obedience, a quiet tenderness, a deep
thoughtfulness. Her thoughts seem to be far from life’s vanity. By state of
philosophical contemplation, calmness, tenderness and a light trait of sadness the
the glance directed inside – all hints at inner self-concentration, an inner silence of
both female sculptural images.
Another aspect which the artist successfully achieves to catch and display would be
the essence of a female Asian national character: restraint, obedience, resignation,
tenderness but simultaneously an inner will and strength, appearing in the necessary
Furthermore, in addition to inner strength which the female image transmits, it also
leaves some enigmatic feeling of vagueness, kind of innuendo and mystery. That’s
probably why viewer’s gaze repeatedly returns to this female Asian’s sculpture, as if
trying to find an answer to a riddle, and yet The Eastern Madonna remains a thing-in-
Human images and atmosphere of Kuznetsov’s Asian painting is incredibly close by
its spirit and emotional appeal to the sculptural depiction of N. Slobodinskaya.
Calmness, sadness, obedience to the same life’s rhythm and time’s current, kind of
personages’ interior self-concentration and insularity characterize both – personages
of the Step and the Asian sculptural image.
As to creative approach, sculptor Slobodinskaya used classical technique, applying
realistic style of sculpting based on Vera’s Mukhina method. Finally the sculptural
portrait of the Oriental Madonna was purchased by the State Museum in
Komsomolsk-na Amure and actually belongs to its permanent collection.
Man’s inner dialogue with himself, dialogue of soul with heart, a tensed inner
highest artistic purposes and creative interests of Nina Slobodinskaya. These creative
searches directly correspond to spiritual beliefs, philosophical interests, and life
searches of Nina’s Slobodinskaya and her close environment.
K. Petrov-Vodkin, Portrait of an Uzbek boy, 1921, oil on canvas. I. Getmanskaya, Uzbek’s boy, 1961, oil on canvas.
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