PORTRAIT OF GALINA ULANOVA AS JULIET

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"Portrait of Galina Ulanova"

Author Rinat Kuramshin

The author of the "Portrait of G.S. Ulanova " is Rinat Kuramshin, Russian and British artist, an Honorary Member of the Russian Academy of Arts. The artist has created a series of portraits of prominent personalities, including his contemporaries, whose names have forever entered the history of the Russian and world culture.
Among Rinat Kuramshin’s works there is a portrait of Galina Ulanova as Juliet. The portrait was created in the late 80’s and early 90’s, ХХ century, when Galina Sergeevna was already at a fairly respectable age and was teaching at the Bolshoi Theater. Working on the portrait, the artist has drawn a lot of sketches, created several variants of the future portrait. Among the initial versions, there are drawings in which the age of the ballerina corresponds to the time of posing.  But in the process of work, the artist came up with the idea of depicting the ballerina in an earlier period of her work, when she starred as Juliet at the Bolshoi and Kirovsky (Mariinsky) Theaters, the Covent-Garden Royal theater in the "Romeo and Juliet" ballet. The artist shared his creative idea with the ballerina and showed her his sketches. Galina Sergeevna liked the idea of the future portrait.

 

In the portrait of G.Ulanova as Juliet, the artist tried to convey not only a resemblance to the model, but also to capture the ballerina in her typical creative atmosphere, to show her in one of the images she had created, which became the standard of world choreographic and theatrical-musical art. The portrait painted by Rinat Kuramshin is at the same time a depiction of Galina Ulanova as a Shakespeare tragedy character and a specific symbol of the ballet of the Soviet epoch –  a canvas with an embodied episode of the famous "Romeo and Juliet" to the music by S.Prokofiev and choreography by

L.Lavrovsky.

Shakespeare’s Juliet is the most bright and memorable role in G. Ulanova’s creative career, where the ballerina’s choreographic and dramatic talent was fully revealed. According to many theater critics, Ulanova made her own unique interpretation of the main character of Shakespeare's tragedy.  The ballet “Romeo and Juliet” was staged at the height of Ulanova's creativity  and coincided with the period of such a trend in musical theater as "dramatic ballet". Choreographers, striving to master new subjects, turned to the classics of world literature.  In ballet performances, for a more complete disclosure of the inner world of the characters, psychological concepts began to be present which are typical of acting in a dramatic theater.


The aesthetics of the "dramatic ballet" brought up artists capable of expressing the deep movements of the human spirit through plasticity and dance. Outstanding Soviet choreographers, composers and ballet dancers began to pay great attention to the creation of multifaceted ballet images endowed with complex characters, revealing  experience and relationships of the characters. Such images made it possible to more clearly reveal the ideological concept of the work, emphasize the nature of the events, and strengthen the contradictions inherent in the dramatic essence of the performance.  Galina Ulanova was an artist in whose work the principles of a stage dancer-actor were especially clearly manifested.  In the play "Romeo and Juliet" the genre of Soviet dramatic ballet reached its peak.


The plastic talent and natural grace of G.Ulanova, the immortal play by W. Shakespeare, the genius music b S. Prokofiev, the talented choreography by L.Lavrovsky, as well as the unsurpassed level of the Soviet and Russian ballet school, allowed to create one of the heights of theatrical and musical art of the 20th century - the ballet "Romeo and Juliet". Ulanova played the role of Juliet throughout her career. Today, this role (party) is considered the standard of classical ballet art, and aspiring ballet dancers from all over the world to learn from it.   

Galina Ulanova and Yuri Zhdanov

A scene from a ballet movie

"Romeo and Juliet"

Galina Ulanova and Yuri Zhdanov

Galina Ulanova as Juliet

The worldwide fame of the prima ballerina, the greatness of Shakespeare's tragedy, the prehistory of the famous performance imposed a certain responsibility on the artist when creating the portrait of G. Ulanova.  In his search for a compositional and stylistic solution to the portrait, R. Kuramshin was largely based on art of the Renaissance.  The artist has skillfully conveyed the characteristic features of Ulanova: a pale, sophisticated face, high cheekbones, thin long eyebrows, and a slightly compressed mouth.  The eyes of Juliet (Ulanova) look somewhere into the distance ... and at the same time into herself, as if anticipating a tragic denouement. Ulanova is wearing a white Renaissance dress, her blonde hair is crowned with a cap embroidered with pearls. Ulanova is depicted against the background of decorations in the form of Gothic arches.  In the background there is the architectural landscape of the 14th century city of Verona. The face of Juliet (Ulanova), calm and serene, expresses a wide range of emotions.  A young and gentle creature, which is just beginning to realize its feminine essence, together with the feeling of the first love that floods over her, faces the cruel realities of this world, traditions and foundations that hinder her striving for simple earthly happiness - to love and be loved.  Juliet's desire to be with her beloved Romeo gives her determination. She is ready to go against the barriers erected before the young people by the long feud standing between the Capulet and Montague families.  The inevitably tragic nature of the events leads to a terrible ending - the death of Romeo and Juliet. If earthly happiness is impossible for them, then may great love unite them in heaven. The impossibility of harmony between the public and the personal - such is the drama. 

A scene from a ballet movie

"Romeo and Juliet"

Galina Ulanova and Yuri Zhdanov

Bolshoi Theater

Galina Ulanova as Juliet

The portrait of Galina Ulanova by Rinat Kuramshin has been exhibited at exhibitions and events in Russia, Great Britain, and France.  In the period 2019 - 2020 the "Portrait of G.S. Ulanova" was presented at the International cultural and educational project "THEATER - MUSIC – FINE ART" within the frames of the Year of Theater in Russia and the Year of Music, Russia - Great Britain.  The project's activities were aimed at popularizing Russian and British theatrical and musical art. The project was highly appreciated by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, the British Embassy in Russia, the Russian Academy of Arts, and other Russian and British organizations. 


When creating an exhibition of G.S. Ulanova at the "THEATER - MUSIC – FINE ART" project, the organizers paid great attention to the study of archival documents, photo and video materials, publications about the life and work of the ballerina, the study of the memories of Galina Ulanova herself and her contemporaries. The organizers presented materials about G. Ulanova's performances at the Royal Theater, Covent Garden, during the Bolshoi Theater's first foreign tours in 1956.  The stand with the portrait of G.S. Ulanova and information about her life and work attracted the attention of the audience of the exhibition "THEATER - MUSIC – FINE ART".  Museum communities of Great Britain and Russia, art critics, historians of theatrical and musical art, British collectors showed interest in the portrait.  It was obvious that even today British and Russian ballet lovers remember and admire G. Ulanova's talent.   At the events of the project, people recalled the triumphant success that Galina Ulanova had during her performances in London in 1956 in the Royal Theater, Covent Garden.  As the English critic Arnold Haskell wrote: “She is not just a ballerina reigning on stage. She is a true Juliet, whose fate we are experiencing".

Roostrudnichestvo in London

Galina Ulanova

Covent Garden Theatre. London

The historical and cultural significance and high artistic qualities of the "Portrait of G. Ulanova" undoubtedly make it a unique exhibit, which is one of the outstanding works of portrait art of the 20th century.  It is interesting that the artist himself considered the portrait to be an unfinished work, sincerely believing that he could and should have made Ulanova's portrait better and more perfect.  In his work, he was going to add something else, to correct and refine.  It is not known what the portrait would have been in the final author's version if Galina Sergeevna herself had not intervened in the creative process.  Glancing once again at the work, and seeing the artist's passionate desire to correct something, she said: "No, no, leave it as it is…. So true!".  The refined aesthetics of a ballet dancer, the innate sense of beauty, the ability to see perfection in other types of art, probably gave G. Ulanova the right to intervene in the course of the work, and take part in the approval of the final version of the portrait with her opinion.  Rinat Kuramshin decided to leave off the work in the status that the ballerina liked. As a result, we can definitely say that this portrait has become not only one of the best images of the great ballerina, but is a rare piece of art, in the creation of which Galina Ulanova herself was involved.