(1953 – 2008) By Victor Forbes, Feb 2007. For Fine Art Magazine Vladimir Gorsky arrived in the US, an immigrant from Russia, virtually penniless yet determined to make it as an artist here. In an interview with Fine Art conducted from his Dallas, TX studio in February 2007, Gorsky describes his lean days on the Texas docks right up to his stature today as an internationally recognized and acclaimed talent who has consciously and substantially contributed to the international art scene.
“In Russia during the Soviet Union era, artists were used as instruments of propaganda assigned to paint portraits of government leaders and political posters to decorate government plants, factories, collective farms, movie theaters and concert halls. Imagery, for example, that showed the working man and peasant woman working together to make a bright future. In those days, besides painting for the government, I always had commission work to go along with my official artistic duties. If you stepped too far from the norm, you would be jailed – so this extra work had to be done secretly. My father left the USSR in 1974 for the United States. I tried to visit him ten years later, applied for a visa, was turned down, and my life became a misery. The authorities fired me from one place immediately and I was getting no more orders for my art. They did not let me emigrate, and it became almost dangerous for me to be there. My father tried for two years to get me out, sending letters to Senators and Congressmen in the United States. Only one man responded – Sen. Gary Hart. He went to Russia to see Gorbachev and met me at the American Embassy, telling me he will ‘deliver my name to Gorbachev’ and will see me in the U.S. very soon. Two weeks later, I received a call from the authorities and finally left my own country. It is always very hard to leave your homeland and start a new life. At that time, on one could have predicted that the Communist Party regime would collapse one day and there would be such freedom over there.
While my father was in the U.S., and even before, I was committed to my career as an artist. My art teacher in Russia became my friend and told me it would be very difficult to make it as an artist in America. As in Russia, the competition would be fierce. I promised myself I would do everything possible to be an artist in America. When I was getting ready to finally leave, my father advised to not take anything with me – paint, brushes, canvas – because the best quality in available in the U.S. I gave all my equipment to fellow artists in Russia, and then found that if you want a nice quality brush in the U.S., it is very expensive. A tube of good oil paint can be up to $50.
My father tried to discourage my artistic ambitions. When I arrived, he showed me a “frame and art gallery” with an original painting, including frame, for $49.95. What would be the artist’s share of that we wondered. This was shocking news, and it was a nice painting. I said, ‘There’s something wrong here’ and decided that I will create art in my own way and not worry about price. I sold my first painting in Boca Raton for $4,000, and received $1,000 for myself and was very happy about that.
When I arrived in Houston in 1987, I had no English language skills and sought any kind of job just to make a few dollars. I finally was hired as a docker, unloading refrigerators with frozen food – pigs, beet, whatever. I loaded trucks and delivered the goods to ship yards and loaded boats exactly as it was done 100 or 200 years ago without any modern equipment. We had no cranes; we were a production line. I felt like I was in an historical movie. I made my $4.50 an hour salary and managed to pay $100 a month for an old car; managed to buy my own TV and VCR and to rent a little apartment for $225 a month. I was proud of myself. I was making some money and could prepare for my future career as an artist.
My next job was a little closer to art. I became a color separator in a silkscreen shop. The owner realized I was artistic and understood color. This was my upgrade job for $5.50 an hour and I was very happy about that. I worked there two or three months and made my first painting for the owner who decided to make a serigraphy from my original. For this, he agreed to keep me alive financially for a month and I made my first painting on rice paper, using a new technique similar to that of the Chinese Hunan School with Russian enamel and stained glass influences. Two different editions were printed, but then the shop owner went through a horrible divorce and had to close the business. From that time on, 1988, I have been an independent artist, not working for anyone. I just do my art. In 1989, I produced my first one-man art show in Houston. I rented a ballroom in the Doubletree Hotel, with a pianist friend. He helped me with his mailing list, inviting his friends and followers. It was a great success. His clients became my clients, some became my friends, and I sold about $15,000 in art. The only way to be successful is to show your work, no matter how much it costs. You have to go for it if you don’t want to be a driver or something else, knowing it is a kind of gamble nonetheless.
After that I created all kinds of activities, painting for different dealers, various galleries, and private clients and started exhibiting at the NY ArtExpo from 1989. Also during that time I decided to do a special commission which I never did before – traditional wooden Russian Easter eggs. I decorated them with religious subjects, fairy tales, and portraits of children with 24K gold leaf and precious stones. I made 19 unique eggs, starting at $3,000 for one egg – a very specific work, delicate and difficult. This was done in the same technique as icon restoration, with egg tempera and gold leaf.
In 1995, at the Las Vegas ArtExpo, I exhibited my Russian Fairy Tale series for the final time. I began them in 1988, and sold over 100 original paintings from that series. I then started to paint traditional oil portraits on canvas and completed over 50 portrait commissions, including former President Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush for The Bush Library and Senator Gary Hart, who helped me get out of Russia. My next series, European city scenes, was created from my travels to six European countries. I then began From Depths of Ages, a series of historical works from the Stone Tablets to the Mona Lisa. These were historical images with different ideas. At the same time, I started a major project Tapestry of the Centuries, (9’ x 18’) depicting 2000 years of world history which was three years in the making. It debuted at Atlanta ArtExpo in September 1999, and has been shown from the West Coast to East Coast in the U.S. generating donations for various charities. Miracle in the Desert (7.5’ x 12.5’), a Las Vegas history, was another big project taking two years to paint. In 2003, I started a new series of PopArt portraits of movie stars, rock stars, and famous icons.
Twenty years ago the United States became my new country and I am proud to be an American and an American artist.”
First Thousand Years 1st to 5th Centuries 1. The Birth of Jesus Christ.
The impact of the birth of this Child on the history of the world has been felt ever since.
2. The Crucifixion of Christ.
According to traditional accounts Jesus died on the cross on April 3, 33 AD and was resurrected on April 5, 33 AD.
3. The Fresco of Doura-Europus.
A fresco is a painting on moist plaster using pigments dissolved in water. This one was executed between 230 and 240, and depicts the duties of the priesthood and symbols related to it. Aaron, whose name is written in Greek letters, overlooks the scene.
4. Augustus, Caesar (63 BC - 14 AD).
The grand nephew of Julius Caesar, Augustus was the first Roman emperor. He halted the decline of the country after 50 years of civil wars and established a new basis for Roman government that was to last three centuries. With great skill, tenacity and organizational ability, he brought renewal to every aspect of Roman life as well the Pax Romana to the early centuries of the First Millennium.
5. Constantine I the Great (c280-337).
After defeating rival general, Maxentius, Constantine became Emperor of Rome. Since the support of the Christians was instrumental in Constantine's achieving the throne, in 313 he issued the Edict of Milan, which allowed Christians freedom of worship. Constantine implemented humane legal reforms influenced by his new religious views. He rebuilt the city of Byzantium, renamed it Constantinople and made it the eastern capital of the Roman Empire. Despite certain achievements, Constantine's reign was still marked by despotic excesses.
6. The Arch of Constantine (312).
One of three surviving ancient Roman triumphal arches in Rome, it was built to celebrate Constantine's victory over Maxentius at Milvian Bridge in 311. Constantine attributed the victory to a vision of a glowing cross that he had seen and the placing of crosses on his soldiers' shields.
7. The Colosseum (75-80).
This giant amphitheater was built in Rome under the Flavian emperors and is a freestanding structure of stone and concrete, measuring 620 by 513 feet and seating 50,000 spectators. Within its confines took place thousands of gladiator contests as well as simulated combat engagements, including naval battles. Constantine put an end to gladiatorial contests.
8. Fragment of the Arch of Titus (still standing at the entrance to the Roman Forum).
In AD 66, during the reign of Roman emperor Titus Flavius Sabinus Vespasianus, the Jews revolted against Rome, which action resulted in the siege and final destruction of Jerusalem. The climactic moment of this military action was the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70.
9. Ruler of Hatra (clOO/200?).
In the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, Hatra was ruled by a dynasty of Arab princes. Excavations in Iraq have revealed numerous sculptures from the period, including statues of the princes and their families.
10. Destruction of Pompeii.
This vibrant Roman city on the Bay of Naples was completely buried during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79. The flow of lava left in its wake entire buildings and their inhabitants as well as artifacts from daily life preserved in volcanic ash.
11. Diocletian, Gaius Aurelius Valerius (245-316).
This Roman emperor (284-305) established political stability in Rome after decades of anarchy by instituting a peculiar system of multiple emperors and caesars. The reign of Diocletian is also remembered as the time of the last great persecution of the Christians.
Buddha, the "Enlightened One," also known as Siddhartha Gautama, was the founder of Buddhism, originally conceived in India in the 6th century BC. Buddhism teaches achieving the middle path between mortification and ambition with the ultimate goal of reaching a state of Nirvana, which frees one from the cycle of birth, suffering, death and rebirth. Buddhism has been the most important religious and philosophical creed for vast numbers of Asians since its introduction in China in 1st century AD until present times.
13. Caesar Nerva Traianus Germanicus (53-117).
The first Roman emperor (98-117) to be born outside Italy, Germanicus spread the boundaries of the empire to the east (Dacia, or modern day Rumania, Arabia, Armenia, and Mesopotamia), initiated great building projects and enhanced government assistance to the population.
14. Ts’ai Lun (c50-121).
Around AD 105, Ts'ai Lun, an official of the Imperial court of China, invented one of the first practical varieties of paper, using mulberry fibers, discarded fishnets and rags as well as hemp stalks.
15. Caligula (12-41).
"Caligula" ("Little Boots") was the nickname of Gaius Caesar Germanicus, Roman emperor from AD 37 to 41. Notorious for his insanely arbitrary despotism, Caligula named his horse as Consul and believed himself to be a god.
16. 2nd Century Roman Schools.
In the 2nd century AD in the West began the establishment of state-sponsored schools worthy of the name. In AD 425, Roman emperor Theodosius II founded an institution of higher learning at the Roman Empire's eastern capital of Constantinople, endowing it with 31 chairs for the teaching of letters, rhetoric (both Greek and Latin), philosophy, and law.
17. Personal Bodyguards of the Emperor of Rome (circa 1st century AD).
18. Germanicus Caesar (15BC-19AD).
Nephew and adopted son of the Roman emperor Tiberius (AD 14-37), Germanicus was a successful and enormously popular general who avenged the Roman army's defeat by Germanic tribes at Teutoburg Forest, hence his sobriquet "Germanicus." He would have become emperor had he not died at an early age in AD 19.
19. The Fresco of Zarathustra from Doura-Europus.
The prophet Zarathustra, founder of the Zoroastrian creed, was born approximately 1500 BC in Central Asia near the Sea of Aral. Zoroastrians revere the forces of nature and maintain a dualistic concept of ultimate good and evil. Adherents of this religion were wide spread in Rome in the 3rd century AD, rivaling Christianity. Zoroastrianism is practiced today among the Parsee ethnic group in India.
Mithra, the Iranian god of the sun, justice, contracts, and war in pre-Zoroastrian Iran. Mithra. or Mithras, as this deity was widely known in the Roman Empire during the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, was honored as the patron of loyalty to the Roman emperor.
21. Jewish-Greek Gold Medallion.
This gold medallion has an enigmatic inscription in the Greek language and contains Jewish symbols -- the Menorah, a shofar, and a lulav (2nd & 3rd century).
22. Flavius Theodosius the Great (347-395).
Emperor of the eastern Roman Empire (379-392) and then sole emperor of both Rome and Constantinople (392-395), Theodosius ruthlessly suppressed paganism as well as what he viewed to be heresy (for example, Arianism). At his direction the Council of Nicaea (325) established a universal norm for Christian orthodoxy and a second general Council at Constantinople (381) was held to clarify finer points of theology.
23. Chariot Racing.
Chariot racing was a popular form of spectator sport early in the First Millennium, involving small, two-wheeled vehicles drawn by two-, four-, or six-horse teams. The Circus Maximus was one of the largest sports arenas ever built; its maximum seating capacity of possibly 250,000 has exceeded that of any stadium built subsequently.
6th to 10th Centuries 24. Justinian 1(483-565).
The last Byzantine emperor to rule in the West, Justinian (527-565) is noted for carrying out extensive administrative reorganization. All the same his rule was marked by great political unrest. Justinian built the great church of Hagia Sophia and sponsored the codification of Roman laws known as the "Codex Justinianus" (534).
25. Buddhist Rock-Cut Cave Temples and Monasteries near the Village of Ajanta, India (c490).
This area harbors 30 caves excavated between the 1st century BC and the 7th century AD. The fresco-type paintings found therein depict Buddhist divinities and homilies. These works are among the most notable in all Indian art for their joyfulness and brilliance.
26. Germanic Barbarians in Rome (476 AD).
Romulus Augustulus, a mere boy and the last emperor of the West Roman Empire (Rome proper), was deposed by Odoacer, the leader of Germanic tribes operating in Italy. Odoacer did not assume the title of emperor for himself, but simply allowed it to lapse.
27. Venice (Venezia).
The first historical records relating to Venice date back to the 5th and 6th centuries AD. Within the confines of the Venetian Lagoon are 118 islands upon which the traditional city center is situated. Venice is home to more than 150 canals and 400 bridges.
28. Mayan Pyramids (800).
Mayan pyramids, some as high as 200 feet, were erected to honor their gods and rulers. The tops of the pyramids were made flat so that the rulers could sit atop them and survey their realms.
29. Figurine of a Mayan Priest (600-900).
Priests of the highest hierarchical position in the Mayan realm were charged with serving the cult of the national deities, while other priests engaged in divination or healing the sick.
30. Armenian Alphabet and Saint Mesrob.
Saint Mesrob and Saint Sahag invented the Armenian alphabet in 405 AD. On the left is Saint Mesrob, on the right is an example of Armenian script.
31. Miniature from Astrological Tractate with References to Islamic Astronomy.
Between 750 and 833 the Abbasids (the dynasty of caliphs, or rulers of the Arab realm, descended from Abbas, the uncle of Mohammed) encouraged the development of trade and industry as well as the arts and sciences. European science would only reach a par with Arabic learning towards the end of the 15th century.
32. Bodhisattva (600).
An Indian Buddhist known in Chinese as Kuan-yin and in Japanese as Kannon, Bodhisattva ("Buddha-to-be"), possibly the most popular of all Buddhist holy men, beloved throughout the Buddhist world for his infinite compassion and mercy. Bodhisattva resolved to postpone his own Buddhahood until he has helped every being on earth achieve emancipation.
33. Representation of Buddha from the Sui Dynasty of China.
The Sui dynasty (581-618) reunified China, and Buddhism enjoyed a golden age as a state religion.
34. Miniatures from the Koran and Illustrations of Events from the Life of the Prophet Mohammed (570-632).
The Koran depicts the life of Mohammed and the history of the Arabs and has been handed down to our age in its complete and original form since the time of Prophet himself. On the left is a stele with an inscription of a prayer from the Koran, on the Medallion at the right is inscribed the name of Mohammed, interwoven throughout are events from the life of the Prophet.
35. The Dome of the Rock (687).
The first masterpiece of Islamic architecture, the Dome was built half a century after the death of the Prophet Mohammed. The Rock (inside the Dome) marks the site from where the Prophet made his "Miraaj" or "Night Journey" into the heavens and back to Mecca.
36. Pope Leo I, Saint (c400-461).
Leo I, Pope of Rome (440-461), personally appeared to Attila the Hun and persuaded him not to attack Rome. Three years later he persuaded the Vandals, another Germanic people, not to sack Rome when they occupied it.
37. Pope Gregory I, Saint (c540-604).
Pope Gregory I laid the foundation for the theological, moral, and economic authority of the papacy. Gregory's ideals became transmogrified into the European worldview of the Middle Ages. It was Gregory who sent St. Augustine to Britain to initiate that country's conversion to Christianity. Gregory also modified elements of the celebration of the Mass, which gave rise to the Gregorian chant.
38. The Vikings.
Fearless seafarers from Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the Vikings pursued vigorous exploration and conquest throughout Europe and the North Atlantic. The period AD 800-1050 is widely known as the Viking Age.
39. Rurik (c830 — c879) and Oleg (c838 —c 912).
These two Viking adventurers are shrouded in legend and mystery. However, it has been reasonably well established that Rurik founded the Russian city-state of Novgorod and gave rise to a dynasty of Russian princes and tsars that lasted until 1598. Rurik's kinsman Oleg the Wise, on the other hand, is believed to have been instrumental in the founding of the grand principality of Kiev, the cradle of nationhood of the peoples of East Slavdom- Russians, Ukrainians and Byelorussians.
40. Introduction of Christianity to Kiev by Prince Vladimir, Saint.
In 988 Vladimir, Grand Prince of Kiev, married the sister of the Byzantine emperor and began the conversion of the Eastern Slavic peoples in his realm to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. In 1988, Russians, Ukrainians and Byelorussians of the then Soviet Union celebrated one thousand years of Christianity in their nations.
41. Eriksson, Leif.
Leif, son of Eric the Red, was born in Iceland in about 960. Leif was reputedly the first European to set foot in the Americas when in 1000 he was blown off course and ended up apparently somewhere on the coast of North America.
42. Theodoric the Great (c454-526).
Theodoric was king of the Ostrogoths and conqueror of Italy. He defeated Odoacer, conqueror of Rome and subsequently murdered him. He besieged and took Ravenna (493), and made Italy into an Ostrogothic kingdom in 493. As a ruler in his own right, however, Theodoric displayed moderation and fairness.
43. Battle of Pressburg (miniature of 924).
In 881 the Magyars, the ancestors of the present-day Hungarians, began incursions into Western Europe. This led to a clash by the Magyars near Vienna. By 906 the Magyars had destroyed Great Moravia, and in 907 at the Battle of Pressburg near modern-day Bratislava, Slovakia, the Magyars defeated a large Bavarian army that had tried to drive them back from the lands they occupied.
44. Henry I, The Fowler (876-936).
German king and founder of the Saxon dynasty (918-1024), Henry was called "the Fowler" since that was what he was doing when he learned he had become king. He strengthened the East Frankish, or German army, encouraged the growth of towns, brought Lotharingia (Lorraine) back under German control (925), and secured German borders against Magyar incursions.
45. Greek Fire.
This substance was an incendiary preparation that ignited on contact with seawater. First was introduced by the Byzantine Greeks against the Arabs at the siege of Constantinople in 673, it had a decisive tactical and strategic impact in the defense of the Byzantine Empire.
46. Carolingian Miniscule Script.
This clear and easy-to-use script was invented by Alcun of York between 781 and 790 for use by English monks at the Abbey of St. Martin's at Tours, France. The use of this miniscule led to the introduction of lower and upper case letters, a development that in turn led to the division of written texts into sentences and paragraphs.
47. Charles Martel (c688-741).
Known in English as "Charles the Hammer," Charles Martel was Mayor of the Palace of the Frankish Kingdom when the Ommayad Caliphate army attempted to invade Europe by way of the Phyrenees in 731. At Poitiers in 732, Martel's heavily armored cavalry withstood the onslaught of the Caliph's cavalry and Arab incursions into Europe. Charles lent his name to the dynasty founded by his son Pepin, who in turn was the father of Charlemagne- the Carolingian Dynasty.
48. Charlemagne, Charles I the Great (742-814), king of the Franks (768-814), king of the Lombards (774-814), emperor (800-814). (He is Charles I of the Holy Roman Empire, as well as Charles I of France.)
As king of the Franks, Charlemagne conquered the Lombard kingdom in Italy, drove back the Saxons, and annexed Bavaria. Assuming the title of emperor in 800, Charlemagne ruled virtually all of the Christian countries of West Europe with the exception of the Kingdom of Asturias in Spain, southern Italy, and the British Isles.