Sergey Ivanovich Kalmukov
SERGEY IVANOVICH KALMYKOV (Russian: Серге́й Иванович Калмыков; 6 October 1891 – 27 April 1967)
was a Russian painter, draughtsman, and writer.
Barely known during his art career and abandoned at the end of his life, he is currently regarded as one of the most important figures of the Russian avant-garde art, an author of over fifteen hundred of paintings, drawings, illustrations, theater decorations, and numerous writings. During his life Kalmykov has developed an original style of painting and draftsmanship that can be described as ‚magical impressionism‘.
His eccentric lifestyle matched the originality of his art works. He was walking on the streets wearing bright, burlesque dresses, had no furniture in his apartment except the piles of the newspapers bundled to resemble a bed, a table and some sort of chairs, and dedicated all his time and mental energy to produce the art works. He died in a psychiatric clinic where he was placed shortly before his death due to his presumed mental illness.
In 1935 Sergey Kalmykov moved to Alma-Ata, then the capital of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, invited to work at the newly established Musical Theater of Alma-Ata, later reorganized into the Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet named after Abai. He worked with the theater until his retirement in 1950s, and created numerous decorations and art works for the theater performances. He also became increasingly known in the city due to his own art works, radically different from social realism art style then dominant in the USSR. Some of his paintings were abstract and expressionistic, others were surrealistic, phantasmagorical. He experimented with the different shapes of the canvases (circles, triangles), and often embedded texts into his drawings and paintings.
He also self-published a few book-like volumes, made of sketches, drawings and his own texts, often written in an enigmatic and expressive manner. “The world is very sick. No surprise that only the Artists can rescue it”, wrote he in one of such books.
Kalmykov was often drawing on the streets and in the parks of Alma-Ata, and soon became a city legend because of his extravagant clothes (bright red beret, blue trousers with gold stripes, and a coat with the attached tin cans) and behavior. He was never selling his works, and only presented some of them to his friends and sometimes even to the strangers.
After his retirement in 1962 Kalmykov experienced increasing financial difficulties, ate very poorly (allegedly his food ratio the late years consisted only bread and milk, and he didn’t have warm meals for months). Purportedly he suffered from mental illnesses, but no diagnostics or treatment was conducted during his life (posthumously he was diagnosed with schizophrenia by some of the local psychiatrists).
Shortly before his death Sergey Kalmykov was placed to a psychiatric clinic, where he died on April 27, 1967, from pneumonia aggravated by the extreme dystrophy). The place of his grave is not known.