Self portrait 1911.

Pavel Filonov a genius artist unrecognized by critics

Self portrait 1911.
Self portrait 1911.

Pavel Nikolayevich Filonov (born January 8, 1883 – died December 3, 1941) – Russian artist, one of the active leaders of the Russian avant-garde of the late 19th – early 20th centuries. The work of Pavel Filonov had a significant influence on the development of fine art in recent history.

Pavel Filonov called himself an artist-researcher. He called for drawing “every atom.” Striving to understand the world, the master reflected his own vision of historical events, natural phenomena, and music.

Pavel Filonov was an original painter and a sympathetic person who did not sell his works and taught students for free.

Portrait of Evdokia Nikolaevna Glebova, the artist’s sister
Portrait of Evdokia Nikolaevna Glebova, the artist’s sister

Education of Pavel Filonov

Pavel Nikolaevich Filonov was born into a peasant family in the Tula province, the village of Ranevka on January 8, 1883. His father was a cab driver, and his mother was a laundress. Parents supported their son’s desire for creativity.

Pavel Filonov showed himself to be a hardworking person from early childhood. He graduated with excellent grades from the “Carriage Row” school of the local parish, doing his homework at night and working part-time during the day. After moving with his sister to St. Petersburg, the 14-year-old teenager got a job in painting and painting workshops. After completing the courses, the young man began to work and rented a separate apartment for himself. At the same time, Pavel attended evening drawing classes.


He was not accepted into the Academy of Arts twice. The lack of education had to be made up for by copying paintings and private lessons. During this period, Pavel Filonov arranged a trip for himself along the Volga, the Caucasus and Jerusalem. He worked hard, made sketches, but even the third time he managed to get into the Academy only as a volunteer.

His studies lasted from 1908 to 1910, then Pavel Filonov was expelled for too bold experiments with color and nature. The artist managed to become close to the poet Velimir Khlebnikov and fellow futurists. Promoting analysis in painting, he published the article “Canon and Law,” criticizing the cubism of Pablo Picasso. He called for “analytical art”, proposed to look carefully at every particle, to trace the development of any phenomenon from the smallest atoms to the whole organism.

Pavel Filonov City winner.
City winner.
Collective farmer.
Collective farmer.


The artist traveled to Europe, designed the scenery for the tragedy “Vladimir Mayakovsky”, illustrations for “Izbornik”, created the poem “Chant about the Sprouting of the World”. He managed all this before mobilization and sending to the front of the First World War.

Pavel Filonov warmly supported revolutionary changes and chaired the military revolutionary committee. Two years later he married revolutionary Ekaterina Serebryakova, who was 21 years older than him.

Pavel Filonov Feast of Kings 1913.
Feast of Kings 1913.
Pavel Filonov Formula for spring (1928–1929).
Formula for spring (1928–1929).

The last years of the artist’s life

Pavel Filonov considered himself a convinced communist, but the authorities were wary of him and did not allow him to reorganize the painting department. In response, the artist created MAI – a workshop of analytical art, which attracted more than seventy people. In the 30s of the twentieth century he was called “crazy.” Due to lack of money, he had to paint in oils on cardboard and paper, but he stubbornly continued to teach students for free.

The Great Patriotic War and the siege of Leningrad began. On December 3, 1941, Pavel Filonov died of malnutrition and was buried at the Serafimovskoye cemetery. Despite the difficulties of the blockade, the master’s sisters were able to preserve three hundred of his works for posterity.

Pavel Filonov Living head 1923.
Living head 1923.

In the seventies of the last century, Pavel Filonov’s paintings became the object of profit for criminal elements. Some disappeared from museums and turned up among private collectors in France. Only a few works were returned to Russia.

The first exhibition of Pavel Filonov’s heritage took place only in 1988.

Man and woman.
Man and woman.
Pavel Filonov Man in the world.
Man in the world.
Pavel Filonov Maslenitsa. 1913 1914.
Maslenitsa. 1913 1914.
Pavel Filonov Peasant family 1914.
Peasant family 1914.