The exhibition is a tribute to the memory of the St Petersburg graphic artist and designer Askold Ivanovich Kuzminsky (1938–2005), the creator of the logos for the State Hermitage, the Leningrad Metropolitan and the Yeliseyev shop, as well as the diploma awarded to Honorary Citizens of St Petersburg.
Kuzminsky graduated from the Leningrad Art and Graphics Teacher Training College and worked until the mid-1990s at the Leningrad branch of the All-Union Scientific Research Institute for Technical Aesthetics. His first encounter with the museum took place in the Hermitage archaeological expedition of 1960 that was led by Grigory Grozdilov, in Pskov. From that time onwards, Kuzminsky considered himself inseparably connected with the Hermitage. His wife was on the staff and many of his friends also worked here. In the mid-1990s that link found visual expression in his work on a corporate graphic style for the State Hermitage. In December 2008, several items connected with Kuzminsky’s work on the museum logo were put on show in the Winter Palace. The present exhibition is a continuation of that display and expands our knowledge of the artist’s oeuvre.
The exhibition presents two facets of Askold Kuzminsky’s output. The first section introduces viewers to his early graphic art, mainly from the 1960s. In these works by a still very young artist that are practically unknown to the public one can see a serious fully-fledged master. In many of them, Kuzminsky combines seemingly incompatible techniques and tries using materials in unusual ways. The most telling example in this search is a double portrait of the artist himself and his brother-in-law Boris Doktorov. Kuzminsky used a ruler to create the boundaries of the background, while his chosen drawing material was carbon paper, which he rubbed on the picture to obtain different depths of tone. The graphic works presented also include colour landscapes executed in pastels, wax crayons and watercolour.
The second part of the exhibition is devoted to Kuzminsky the designer, and above all to the development of the Hermitage’s corporate graphic style and logo. Askold Ivanovich tried to combine the Russian and Latin-alphabet (English) versions of the logo and sought motifs in distinctive works familiar to the museum’s visitors. Those were both the animals from Scythian jewellery and the grille of the gates into the Great Courtyard of the Winter Palace. Creative searchings are also reflected by the artist’s humorous approach. That can be seen, for example, in his designs for the logos “Rubens in the Hermitage” and “Sobchak [St Petersburg’s mayor 1991–96] in the Hermitage”, the logos for some Hermitage departments and subdivisions, the insignia of the Director and Chief Curator, and in the invitation ticket to the opening of the “public facilities beneath the Jordan Staircase”.
The exhibition also includes books that were designed by Askold Kuzminsky. He did much work in that field, designing a two-volume edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories, Daniil Granin’s Evenings with Peter the Great, the books About Volodin. First Reminiscences and The Theatre of Rezo Gabriadze. A significant place is taken by the Memoirs written by the artist, who also illustrated them and published them with a small print-run at his own expense.
The majority of the items in the exhibition provided by the artist’s son, Konstantin Kuzminsky, are being shown publicly for the first time. An illustrated brochure in Russian Kto pridumal bukvu "E”? K 80-letiiu so dnia rozhdeniia A.I. Kuz’minskogo (State Hermitage Publishing House, 2019 – 32 pp., ill.) has been produced for the exhibition with a foreword by Mikhail Piotrovsky, General Director of the State Hermitage. The exhibition curator is Nikolai Leonidovich Zykov, a researcher in the State Hermitage’s Department of Western European Fine Art.