Leonid Shvartsman: An Artistic Reading of the Petersburg Tales by Nikolai Gogol





creative work of L. A. Shvartsman, Petersburg Tales by N. V. Gogol, Russian fine arts of the 1950s


This article analyses little-known works by artist L. A. Shvartsman (1920–2022) based on the Petersburg Tales by N. V. Gogol. The works from private collections created in 1953–1956 did not attract the attention of researchers at the time, whereas the appeal to the characters of The Overcoat, Portrait, and Nevsky Prospekt was an important stage for Shvartsman in the formation of a personal artistic programme. His studies at the art school at the All-Union Academy of Arts (1937–1941) determined his attitude to classical art and influenced the emotional perception of St Petersburg. The atmosphere of the “thaw” contributed to the master’s appeal to the unsettled life of a “little man”, defenceless in the face of power and a rude crowd. Having achieved fame as an animation film production designer by the mid‑1950s, Shvartsman sought to build his own system of translating verbal language into visual language outside the film production system, independently solving the creative tasks set. By calling his works “illustrations”, the master did not mean a book illustration, for which it is necessary to initially think over the design and style of the publication. The artist went from full-scale sketches, developed colouristic approaches and strove for the self-sufficiency of each work, hence the noticeable easel character of his works. At the same time, they also have expressive images inherent in sketches of animated films, stylised figures, a sense of action that logically develops and is predicted. The artist approached Gogol’s text selectively, focusing on the life and characters of the heroes, on the originality of the St Petersburg environment. He is interested in the image of Akaky Akakievich, moderately funny and ridiculous, but attractive in his fixation on rewriting papers – a matter which he treats with inspiration, with full dedication. Shvartsman did not want to dramatise situations, avoided climaxes, being satisfied with fixing the temptations of life, which, in the end, would lead the characters to a sad ending. In the process of artistic reading of the Petersburg Tales, Shvartsman not only developed expressive images and compositions, but also built his own creative worldview with moral guidelines and rules.

Author Biography

Evgeny Alekseev

PhD (Art History), Associate Professor, Ural Federal University named after the first President of Russia B. N. Yeltsin.

19, Mira Str., 620002, Yekaterinburg, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0003-3460-6679



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How to Cite

Alekseev, E. (2024). Leonid Shvartsman: An Artistic Reading of the Petersburg Tales by Nikolai Gogol. Quaestio Rossica, 12(1), 305–318. https://doi.org/10.15826/qr.2024.1.880