Barys and Ivan Kazakou: Postscript

Barys and Ivan Kazakou: Postscript

The National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus Exhibition building

This exhibition is dedicated to the 85th anniversary of Barys Kazakou (1937–2008), a painter, a graphic artist and Honored Art Worker of Belarus. The exposition includes about 50 works from the collections of the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus and the Belarusian Union of Artists.

The exhibition displays not only finished canvases, but also sketches which for the most part have not been exhibited before. The exhibition is able to take place thanks to the gift received by the museum in 2018 from Iryna Rashkievich, the artist’s sister-in-law, who became the only heiress of the Kazakou family. She enriched the museum collection by dozens of works by Barys Kazakou. She ‘created’ a small collection of works by his son Ivan (1975–2003). This made it possible to present the creativities of both at this exhibition. Barys Kazakou is a mature master, and Ivan Kazakou is a young artist who was not destined to follow his creative career.

The works of Barys Kazakou displayed at the exhibition were created in 1959–2007, mostly in the 1970s–1990s. The artist is one of the most significant masters of his generation in Belarusian art. This was determined by both the content and the formal aspects of his work. Barys Kazakou was able to find unusual perspectives, ways of presentation, sense and emotional tension in the circle of themes, subjects and images traditional for the Soviet and post-Soviet art. The master was thoughtful, reflective and serious. He was seeking of the truth. Barys Kazakou wanted to make his voice heard in art. ‘Nature, what is created by God, has everything necessary to create a picture. The artist can only select what is necessary for his mind and heart’ (Barys Kazakou).

The circle of traditions in art, to which artists turned in search of creative ‘like-minded people’, noticeably expanded in the 1970s. Barys Kazakou was close to the masters of the Northern Renaissance, Andrew Wyeth, an American artist. These painters are united by the desire and ability to show the beauty and poetry of the world without its idealization, to see something essential and high in everyday life. So, Barys Kazakou found contrasts of light and shadow, rich colors, a decorative and symbolic sound of color to depict everyday life and not striking things. In addition, the artist carefully developed the technique of application of paint and production of painted surface. This was called by him ‘stereo painting’. As a result, his paintings are not only the figurative whole, but also a kind of thing, carefully finished and completed in all its components. Sometimes, his paintings surface looks like granulation or embossing. This makes textural and expressive effects as well as extra light and color effects. (‘A good picture is like a city that cannot be built at once, but the further and more carefully it is created, the more meaningful it is’).

The images of his canvases, the means of expression, the choice of themes and subjects testify that Barys Kazakou was mainly an artist of drama and tragedy. This is connected not only with his worldview (‘The materialization and reification of my soul are my works’), but also, indirectly, with his activity as a stage designer, with which his career began. The artist’s works combine admiration for the beauty of the world and the understanding of tragedy in life, which makes them different and more essential. A number of works by Barys Kazakou are featured by special musicality, which evokes some of Bach’s consonances. Bach was the top of music for the artist, so he created his portrait.

The sketches and paintings displayed at the exhibition, like ‘roots and crown’, are usually the capture of life impressions, moods through visual images, thoughtful and carefully finished works ‘for the public’. The sketches on display, made over the course of half a century, keep the range of the artist’s feelings, his lively interest in this or that motif, sometimes formally realized in the sketch.

A significant place in the artist’s work took the images of his wife Galiya Gabbasovna (1941–2015, nee Gafurova), a theater artist, and the images of his son Ivan. They appear both in portraits and as models for typed characters, for example, in one of the earliest paintings at the exhibition ‘Fruit of the Land’. This speaks about Barys Kazakou’s ideas and intentions embodied in art.

Ivan Kazakou chose the same career like his father. His early works are inspired by his father. It is natural when young artists copy their teachers’ works. It is traditional in the history of art. But, Ivan, as it seems, was different, and that is why his painting ‘Escape’ is symbolic. Only in the early 2000s, Ivan Kazakou became prone to free, but constructive painting that has monochrome features.


Barys Kazakou was born in Balakhna, Gorky (Nizhny Novgorod) Region on May 30, 1937. He entered the Gorky Art School in 1953. I. S. Myasnikov was his teacher. He graduated it with honors in 1958. He entered the Belarusian State Theater and Art Institute in 1958. He studied under famous artists and teachers Askar Maryks, Jauhien Chamadurau and Paviel Maslienikau. After defending his diploma (sketches for William Shakespeare’s play ‘Anthony and Cleopatra’), he was sent to the Minsk Theater for Young Spectators. He worked with its nice director Uladzimir Malankin. He designed 14 performances in the Youth Theater and 4 performances in the theaters of Mahilioŭ and Homiel in 1965–1968. He taught painting at the Department of Ceramics at the Belarusian State Art Institute in 1969–1973. He was admitted to the Union of Artists of the USSR in 1970. He created 20 portraits of famous scientists for the Institute of Soil Science and Agrochemistry in Minsk in 1980–1982. He had been a participant of republican and all-Union exhibitions, as well as of a number of foreign exhibitions since 1962. The artist’s five solo exhibitions took place in Minsk (1989, 1994, 1999, 2004 and 2010). His paintings ‘About the First Tractor Driver’ (2nd degree diploma at the ‘Young Guards of the Soviet Country’ Competition, 1978) and ‘Milk of 1942’ (silver medal of VDNKh of the USSR, 1981) were bought by the Tretyakov Gallery. The artist’s works are also in the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus, funds of the Belarusian Union of Artists, other public and private collections in Belarus, near and far abroad. He was awarded many certificates of honor, a diploma for the best scenography of the year (1967) and a medal of the Belarusian Union of Artists for merits in the fine arts (1999). He was awarded the title of Honored Art Worker of Belarus in 1991.


Ivan Kazakou was born in Minsk on January 14, 1975. He graduated from the Belarusian Academy of Arts in 2002. His diploma work is the series ‘Belarusian Landscape’.