This early self-portrait depicts Zverev aged 24, a year after he enrolled at the Institute of the 1905 Revolution in Moscow from which he was summarily expelled for anarchic ‘formalist’ tendencies. His 1965 exhibition at the Motte Gallery in Geneva was one of the largest solo shows by an unofficial Soviet artist in the West. He was highly regarded by the legendary collector George Costakis, and Pablo Picasso, both of whom considered Zverev one of the most talented artists of the period.
LIFE Magazine famously published two paintings side by side to illustrate the contrasting contemporary cultures of the Soviet Union: Zverev’s self-portrait as an icon of underground avant-garde art versus an image of Lenin addressing crowds by the official Soviet artist, Vladimir Serov. Captioned 'The Art of Russia Which Nobody Sees', it infuriated Nikita Khrushchev.
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