Thematic album dedicated to the birth anniversary of Stepan Erzia

Аdapted from: Museum Collection

In November 2016, we are celebrating the anniversary of the prominent Russian artisan and sculptor - Stepan Nefedov better known under the creative pseudonym Stepan Erzia.

Stepan Erzia was born on October 27 (November 7), 1876 in the village Bayevo, Alatyr province, Simbirsk region in the peasant family. He started learning drawing in icon-painting workshops of Alatyr and Kazan. In the beginning of 1900s, young sculptor developed his brilliant inborn talent in the  Moscow school of painting, sculpture and architecture. During the period of 1907-1914, he studied and worked in various art studios and sculptural workshops of Europe.

It is interesting that Erzia – was an artistic pseudonym. It identified the artist as the representative of one of the numerous ethnic groups ("Erzia") among Mordovian nationality.

The spiritual connection with this ancient Mordovian ethnos became one of the strongest sources of inspiration for the artist. Being the experimental sculptor, Stepan Erzia used various materials in his works – plaster, marble, concrete, cement, and cast iron. In the early 1920s, he was carried away by wood sculpture, giving preference to rare subtropical species, such as quebracho, agarrobo, urunday. The original drawing of wood and the richest palette of shades allowed the artisan to embody the most impudent plans, and combination of different textures – the raw natural outgrowths with carefully polished surface, made his works extraordinary sensual and emotional. Stepan Erzia was endowed with bright identity and strong character. The lone artist, being ascetic in private life, he always was obsessed by creativity and sculpture was its main love. He travelled all over the world, lived in Europe, in Asia and in Latin America. Had been living for nearly a quarter of the century in Argentina, remaining the citizen of the USSR, and returned home only in 1950.

Despite his age – the artist was already seventy years old, he continued to work hard in his Moscow workshop. Being torn off the Motherland for a long time, he was eager to show his creative works to the new Soviet spectator. "I want to show as an Artist to people, the result of my 25 years' work", he wrote.

The collection of his works – 180 sculptures made from wood, plaster, bronze and marble, a gross weight of 175 tons was delivered to the Soviet Union in 1951. His personal exhibition was held in Salon on Kuznetski Bridge in 1954. It turned out to be a landmark event in Moscow cultural life.

The sculptor was the inexhaustible toiler, called sometimes "the Russian Rodin". He died at work in his studio in December 1959.

Interesting facts from Stepan Erzia biography are in the section Authors. And his remarkable works are presented in our new Thematic Album.