While participating in international conference in Paris in 1998 I found previously unknown colour graphical portrait of Scriabin. The protrait was preserved in the small flat of childs of the portrait's author, painter V.D.Baranoff-Rossine. The flat is nearby Montmartre, in capital of France where the painter lived and worked upon his emigration from USSR in 1925 till the begining of war against Germans and his death in Osventzim prison camp in 1944. It is clear that individual with such fate was doomed to be "forgotten" on his Motherland for a long time. Now the painter is coming back from oblivion - firstly the short information on him accompanied by copies of his works was published in catalogues of famous exhibitions "Moscow-Paris" (1981), "Great utopy" (1993), in the "Unknown Russian avanguard" album (1992), followed by precise, extended information included in lexicons "Russian artists in exile" (1994), "Golden book of emigration" (1997), "Russian artists abroad" (1999). There one can get detailed data on the painter's places of living, avanguard styles he experimented with as painter and sculptor working in Russia and abroad.
But within last few years his name is recalled more frequently in other connection. It turns out that he was the first in Russia to begin actual practical experiments in light-music synthesis field. They were of opinion that he begun researching the field only in post-revolution years, because some evidence was found of his desperate speechs in favour of synthesis ideas in Fine Arts Academy lately in 1923, and also of his so-called "optophonic" concerts in 1924 in Moscow (in V.Meyerkhold and Bolshoi theaters). It is known that besides this he succeeded in getting patent on the device "optophone" in 1925. Several comments, not always positive, were found in those time newspapers ("Izvestia", "Zhisn Iskusstva" and so on). By the way, all these facts make it clear the reasons of his emigration from Russia, though it should be noted that his innovative light-music experiments run most often across the luck of understanding and indifference in France too. But here in Paris he was at least protected from those persecutions which undergone art revolutioners in post-revolution Russia in 30s.
It turned out that Baranoff-Rossine had "proclaimed" his ideas and experiments in "optophony" field for broad audience for the firtst time in Oslo as far back as 1916, when he had to stay and work in Scandinavia two years during WWI after his first, yet pre-revolutionary staying in Paris. Artist's childs, Tatyana and Dimitry Baranoff-Rossine, now living in Paris, prove the fact by reviews in those time newspapers. But 1916 is the date of the first light-music performance, so the question arises when and where first steps were made in this direction? French art critics from Paris "University-VII" are of opinion that all begun in 1912, during his first staying in Paris. But precise, concrete data how it happened,how and where the idea arose are absent. The data are not available neither from the art critics nor from artist's childs I talked with both at international symposium and at their home and have been communicating up today via Internet. But it is possible it will be the abovementioned portrait of Scriabin that help coming nearer to the answer to still unanswered questions. The matter is that the portrait hung not alone but adjacent to the sketchy graphic picture, being of the same dimensions, depicting our another great composer - Rakhmaninov. There need be no doubt that it is Rakhmaninov, because there is pencil signature on the portrait. The portrait of Scriabin also features corresponding identifying signature. But at the moment it became clear that so to say the discoveries don't end, because I noticed suddenly that signatures were made by different persons. It turned out that the pictures were signed not by artist but by the composers themselves (I do remember Scriabin's attacking handwriting since my youth, since my first visit to museum of Scriabin!). So the first conclusion is that painter seems to picture the musicians not by memory, not from photoes, but from life, i.e. at live meeting! The second conclusion is that one found not merely unknown portraits of great Russian musicians, but also their autographs! And the final, third, conclusion is that major sensation is the content of the inscriptions made by composers above the signatures. While Rakhmaninov limited himself to trivial and jokeful "To painter from his model", leaving probably the portrait on agreement to artist, the text on the second portrait will make to ponder, to get excited both experts in Scriabin and experts in light-muisc history. The text was to all appearance merely disregarded by both painter's childs and other possible spectators. The inscription reads: "Scriabin. To musician of colours"!...
Captions to the pictures
|Fig.2. "Optophon" with open cover (top view)|
What made pioneer of "light symphony" idea (or , taking higher, Messiah, teurg, preparing universal synthetic "Mistery") to literaly confess the fact that he was not unique, though being "pioneer"? It turns out a ground have already arose for such fixed documentaly, with signature, confession to the moment of appearing of the inscription. It is unclear when and where the ground arose - in the talk? while familiarizing with "optophon"? or merely after viewing the artist's paintings? The protrait is not dated. In return Rakhmaninov turned out to be punctual and provided the date: 11 of February, 1911 (to all appearances, the meeting took place during rehersals between his concerts in St.Petersburg, according to biographical "church calendar"). The equal dimensions of the portraits, paper quality and painting techniques urge on the assumption that may be Scriabin also came across the painter then, in February 1911 ( "Chronology of life and creativity of Scriabin" says that he, alas, was not in St.Petersburg at that time). It turns out that new problems wait both experts in Scriabin and us, experts in light-music history because one have to research trajectories and chronology of composers travels around Russia and Europe, to trace after all of the artists possible crossing in time and space. For the present, no Baranoff-Rossine "traces" have been found, according to results of preliminary "reconnaissance", neither in Scriabin Museum, nor in Bakhrushin museum of art of theater, nor in Bolshoi Theater museum. One have to dig deeper and, I hope , the help will suddenly come from readers of Leonardo. But the major conclusion the finding leads to is already clear: the opinion that Scriabin was in strong self-isolation from possible contacts with like-minded persons (as well as another existing assumption about total abscence of such persons) turns fortunately out to be the myth. And the history of light-music is already supplemented by the very fact of the significant meeting. And the Scriabin Museum posses facsimile laser xerox copy of the composer's portrait, made by his "co-religionist" from "prometheus" tribe, who brought fire of new art to music.
Published in the journal "Scriabin Society of America, vinter 2000-2001, vol.5, N1.