"The present is saturated with the past as a live sponge is saturated with water."

—Oleg Vassiliev, from "On Memory", 1980
Image: Memory of Kira, 2011 (detail)

An introduction

Oleg Vassiliev (1931-2013) was one of the most important Russian non-conformist painters of his generation. Despite his special connection to his homeland, Vassiliev's art explores universal themes and has been exhibited in prominent museums and galleries in Europe and the United States, as well as those in Russia.

“It may be hard to believe that three artists working with limited means in a closed society once changed art history.  But they did.  The three are Oleg Vassiliev, Erik Bulatov, and Ilya Kabakov.”

—Robert Storr (2014), “An Enlightened Man in a Dark Place and Time”

“The image of memory, its portrait, the various qualities of its nature—that’s what Vassiliev’s work is all about.”

—Erik Bulatov (1998), “Portrait of Memory”

In the words of others

“Oleg Vassiliev is a major figure of the daring, nonconformist generation of Soviet artists that emerged in the first years after Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953.”

—John Yau (2011), “Distance and Intimacy”

“If there exists in reality such a notion as a Russian genius, then Oleg Vassiliev is it.”

—Komar & Melamid (1999)

“Among contemporary artists in both Russia and the West, Oleg Vassiliev is unprecedented in his work’s combination of artistic mastery and contemplative metaphysical depth.”

—Julia Tulovsky (2014), “Oleg Vassiliev:  Space and Light”

“And why do we feel that these seemingly peaceful, deserted landscapes are so thickly populated by restless ghosts?”

—Francine Prose (2007), “Postcards from Turgenev:  The Drawings of Oleg Vassiliev”

In his own words

“I want to combine the energetic space of the painting with the depiction (as realistic as possible) of the subjective world.”

“To me, the visible and tangible world is more a thing of remembrance than of perceptions of reality.”

“Memory is not a simple imprint.  It selects and intensifies some aspects from the past, erases others, transforms them, spruces them up, and even dramatizes them.”

—Oleg  Vassiliev
ConceptualismView All Paintings
Photographer: Igor Palmin

Oleg Vassiliev

If there is a word that defines Vassiliev's work, it is memory. More verb than noun in his vocabulary, memory is a creative process rather than a simple trace: "It selects and intensifies some aspects of the past," Vassiliev wrote, "erases others, transforms them, embellishes them, and even dramatizes them." Vassiliev imbues his paintings with a sense of nostalgia and the longing for a past that seems to anticipate the disappearance of the reality he paints.
– State Tretyakov Gallery (Moscow)


Our Mission

Our mission is to help educate the public regarding the life and art work of Oleg Vassiliev and to help preserve and further his legacy.  We aim to serve as a resource for museums and others who may be interested in creating exhibitions or publications pertaining to Vassiliev's work. This digital gallery attempts to archive his work in a way that the public and scholars alike can enjoy and study.