Our Notes & References
Rare album of striking colourful designs by the Cubist and Art Deco artist and architect: we could trace only one copy in public institutions, at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library (US, Ohio) and none in Russia.
Serge Gladky’s biography is rather vague. Born in the 1880s in Poltava region in Ukraine, he studied in St Petersburg and in 1924-26, published the magazine ‘Umeni Slovanu’ [‘Slavic Art’] based in Czechoslovakia. Since 1924, he lived in France where he started an “art and advertising decorating business” (Ermolaeva, our translation). During or just before the World War II, he returned to Ukraine and since then his fate is generally unknown. According to Ermolaeva, he was sent to the Gulag in 1945 for “anti-Soviet activities” and died in the far north in 1952.
Gladky published his works using the pochoir (stencil) technique popular in France at the time, employing ornamental and geometric patterns often inspired by nature and animals. Such colourful pochoirs had to be printed in a limited number of copies in order to maintain the brightness of colour. The present edition, for instance, had only 170 copies (the present one is #13) with 30 full-page dynamic designs by the artist, taken from theatre and dance – at a time when the Ballets Russes was an established and recognised innovation force.
The album’s preface is by the poet, novelist and art critic André Salmon (1881-1969) who, together with his close friends Pablo Picasso and Guillaume Apollinaire, was one of the early proponents of Cubism. Salmon calls Gladky’s plates “inventions merveilles, miraculeuses”, praising the artist’s ability to capture the essence of Russian culture through geometric forms: “Oh! je sais; la révolution cubiste de 1906 a facilité la tâche de M. Serge Gladky. Sachant de ce cubisme tout ce qu’on peut en connaître, j’admire d’autant plus l’artiste russe d’en avoir su recevoir tout ce qui lui permet de recréer, dans le temps et l’espace, dans l’heure et dans l’éternel, sa lointaine patrie, composant des costumes qui sont autant d’absolus décoratifs”.
Lubow Wolynetz, The Art Deco Works of Serhii Hladky // Treasures at the Ukrainian Museum and Library of Stamford, 2010. (online)
Anna Ermolaeva, Serzh Gladkii i kartiny russkoi revolutsii, 2022 (online).