...The real Leviathan of the collection is the giant "Anthem of People's Love" (1950-51), created by a brigade of young Ukrainian painters (Platon Biletsky and Igor Reznik) under the guidance of People's Artist of USSR, Academician of the Academy of Art of the USSR, Professor Oleksi Shovkunenko.
... After the death of Fedir Krichevsky, stained as it was with the attempt to escape from socialist reality, one of the top places in the academic hierarchy of age, mastery and popularity without doubt belonged to Oleksi Shovkunenko. Naturally, this four star general of painting lacked only one star: the coveted distinction of the Stalin Award. Unfortunate then that Shovkunenko had failed to glorify himself with the required great thematic canvases. He was deserving, but there were only portraits, landscapes and still lifes, and even these were tainted by that noticeable stylistic technique of the early century, impressionism.
Thus, according to the amusing recollection of one of the still living painters of this canvas:
"Under some unhappy star the thought was born to create as a team - headed by Oleksi Oleksievich - a canvas of grandiose dimensions. The subject was devised as such that it should be painted in the interior of the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre, filled with an applauding mass of people, and on the stage to depict approximately 20 persons whom we had never seen. We were to paint only from photos. Igor and I did not have a single doubt that we must paint to the best of our abilities. Then Oleksi Oleksievich, as during our classes in his studios, would with a touch of the brush create a miracle."
This important task to paint a monumental canvas for the Stalin Award (an agreement had already been reached with the jury that an award, of the second degree as befit his rank, would be bestowed on Shovkunenko) was not an undertaking close to the painter's heart: he was unable to work without live models, especially a work which required such a quantity of living mannequins.
Two years of heroic and uninterrupted labour did not lead to the desired end. When, under pressure from his eager co-painters, Shovkunenko decided to show the canvas to the board of the All-Union Exhibition, this giant, pseudo-Baroque iconostasis was rejected. Attempts to hurriedly repaint the central stage, rearranging the VIPs according to rank, led nowhere, though traces of the additional work remain evident on the canvas. The project was at last abandoned. The three painters complained about the quality of the jury; Shovkunenko, after so many unpleasant moments, sighed with relief...
- Boris Lobanovsky (1926-2002), leading Kiev art critic
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