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Sergey Timofeyevich Konenkov (also Sergei Konyonkov) (Russian: Серге́й Тимофеевич Конёнков; 10 July [O.S. 28 June] 1874 – 9 December 1971) was a famous Russian and Soviet sculptor. He was often called "the Russian Rodin".
Konenkov was born in a peasant family, in a village of Karakovichi in Smolensk province. Sergey studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, graduating in 1897, and at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts. His diploma work at the Academy - a huge clay statue of Samson tearing the chains - broke most existing laws of academic art and put him at odds with his teachers, who apparently destroyed the work with hammers.
During the Russian revolution of 1905 Konenkov was with the workers on the barricades, soon after creating portraits of the heroes of the rebellion in Moscow. Konenkov later supported the Russian Revolution of 1917.
In 1922 Konenkov married Margarita Ivanovna Vorontsova, and in 1923 they travelled to the United States to take part in an exhibition of Russian and Soviet art. The trip was supposed to last for a few months, but Konenkov stayed in the States for 22 years, living and working in New York.
Work in US
In 1935 he was commissioned by the Princeton University to do a sculpture of Albert Einstein. It is said that Einstein was interested in the work of the Russian sculptor, but was more focused on his wife, Margarita Konenkova. Einstein and Margarita, who also was acquainted with the physicist Robert Oppenheimer, allegedly had a love affair, judging by the "nine of the great scientist's apparently genuine love letters, written in 1945 and 1946." There have been allegations that Margarita was working in those years for the Soviet Government, but no concrete evidence has been provided to support the theory.
Return to Russia
Under direct orders from Joseph Stalin in 1945, a ship was sent to New York to bring Konenkov back to the USSR. The sculptor was given a large studio on Gorky street in the centre of Moscow. He "had found favor enough with the regime to be asked to design a plaque commemorating the first anniversary of the October Revolution on the Senate Tower of the Kremlin."
Konenkov created sculptures of Aleksandr Pushkin, Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Ivan Turgenev, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Vasily Surikov, Johann Bach, Paganini, to name a few. He also made wood carved crosses and other pieces for the Marfo-Mariinsky Convent in Moscow.
He is buried in Moscow’s Novodevichy Convent.
Kore (Russian: Кора), 1912
Bather (Russian: Купальщица), 1917
The Poor (Russian: Нищая Братия), 1917
- Sergei Konenkov, Marie Turbow Lampard, John E. Bowlt, and Wendy R. Salmond, The Uncommon Vision of Sergei Konenkov, 1874-1971: A Russian Sculptor and His Times, p. 3. Google books
- The Uncommon Vision of Sergei Konenkov. p. 5.
- Martin Kettle, "Letters reveal scientist's compromising passion: Einstein's affair with a spy from Moscow; Evidence found in Russia shows that the father of modern physics had a long relationship with a Soviet agent who was trying to extract nuclear secrets while the US was developing the atom bomb," The Guardian, 2 June 1998, p.3.
- Robin Pogrebin, "Love Letters By Einstein At Auction," New York Times, 1 June 1998. www.nytimes.com
- Dennis Overbye, "New book describes FBI pursuit of Einstein," New York Times News Service, Deseret News (Salt Lake City), 7 May 2002.
- Fred Jerome, The Einstein File: J. Edgar Hoover's Secret War Against the World's Most Famous Scientist.
- Philip Marriott, "A Friend of the Einsteins," Moscow News, 22 September 2004.
- The Uncommon Vision of Sergei Konenkov, 1874-1971: A Russian Sculptor and His Times. Marie Turbow Lampard (Editor), John E. Bowlt (Editor). Rutgers University Press (1 March 2001). (ISBN 0-8135-2854-2).
- New York Times - How the F.B.I. tracked the calls of Einstein (features meeting with Konenkov’s wife)
- Letters suggest Einstein affair with spy
- Konenkov's Grandson Arrested For Arson
- Konenkov's grave
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