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 Stepan Pisakhov

Born:   13 (25) Otober 1879
Deceased:   3 May 1960

Russian artist, writer, ethnographer, and fairy tale author


Stepan Grigorievich Pisakhov was born in Arkhangelsk into a family of a craftsman jeweler and engraver. After finishing a municipal school in Arkhangelsk he studied in Baron Stieglitz Arts College in Petersburg. He continued his education as an artist in Paris and in a private Petersburg studio. Ilya Repin himself invited him to work in his studio. In 1899 Stepan Pisakhov participated in an art exhibition in Petersburg, and in 1907 his paintings were displayed in Rome, and in 1910 in his native Arkhangelsk; in 1912 he was awarded a silver medal at an art exhibition in Petersburg.

Maternally, Stepan Pisakhov came from the Trufanova Gora Village on Pinega River. His grandmothers brother, grandpa Leontiy, was a professional folktale narrator, and from his early childhood the future writer lived amid rich word-creation traditions of the Russian North. Hence was his aspiration to bring the primordial harmony of old Russian speech back to literature. Its roots were found in authentic records of tales, songs, sayings, and first of all in their sounding, which was still alive at that time.

Pisakhov was not a typically writing writer: he started to make up and tell his tales early, but rarely put them down, as he said. The peculiarity of his texts, which were first of all intended for listening audiences, was conditioned by their spoken origin. For a long time Pisakhovs tales existed in the form of his verbal performances and oral retelling by his listeners.

The first reviews of his creations were mentioning him as an artist, not as a writer: in 1918 the Severny Den newspaper published L. Leonovs articles For the upcoming exhibition of artist Pisakhovs paintings and Poet of the North. Only in 1924 his tales from the Northern Munchausen cycle were published in the collection On Northern Dvina. In 1927 northern folktales recorded and commented by Stepan Pisakhov were published in the almanac Sovetskaya Strana. In 193840 Pisakhovs tales in two volumes saw the light in Arkhangelsk. In 1940 the Literaturnaya gazeta newspaper published discussions of Pisakhovs tales at a writers conference.

The geography of Pisakhovs active creative scope was extraordinarily various, stretching from Novaya Zemlya to Cairo. As an artist he got lots of impressions from his youth travels in Italy, France, Turkey and Egypt. Yet, his major theme, both as a writer and an artist, was his native North, its images, folklore and speech. Pisakhov perceived the Russian North in detail and from many sides, as an artist, folklorist and ethnographer; he investigated the coasts of the White Sea, visited Novaya Zemlya, waters of the Yugorski Shar strait, connecting the Barents and Kara Seas, and took part in arctic expeditions. Stepan Pisakhov is a representative of that epoch, which felt the impoverishment of folklore and thus saw the need for combining folk traditions with promising opportunities of written literature.

The language of tales, Pisakhov confessed, was closer to him, than the usual literary language. Folk tale is the school for mastering the national language, its cogency, imagery, importance and non-emptiness.

Pisakhov is one of the greatest tale writers of the Russian North; he undoubtedly belongs to the most remarkable fairy tale authors of the world; regarding the scope of fancy Pisakhov holds a special place among the top ten tale writers of the world, Fyodor Abramov wrote.


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