The precise convergence of three dynamic forces-culture, environment and talent-combined to produce one of the most collected figurative painters on the American art scene today. Raised by an artistically gifted family near the Caspian Sea in southern Russia, Andre Kohn's childhood was marked by the natural splendor of mountains and sea, and by an unfettered access to all the creative arts.
His mother was a symphony violinist and his father a noted linguist, writer and sculptor. Both were educators trained in psychology who gave their only child unrestricted opportunity to explore the depths of art and his own obvious talent. Paintings, sculpture and books filled the family's tiny, one-bedroom home. It was a childhood without material possessions, but a childhood which taught him that the creative arts are the only true wealth. Kohn's parents also encouraged their son to draw on any surface-including the wallpaper in their home-which they simply re-papered when he grew old enough to favor sketchbooks. His memory of childhood is that "music and art were everywhere.
" While always innovative in drawing and painting, Kohn's professional art education began at age 15 when he was chosen to apprentice in the studios of Moscow's most esteemed Impressionist and Social Realist artists. At that time, Impressionism in Russia was nearing the end of a harmonic and prolific century-a prodigious period in Russian art that literally changed the world. Kohn's childhood and art education corresponded with an eruption of cultural progress in all the arts, including ballet, literature, music and painting. He was principally influenced by such artists as He followed the apprenticeships with a classical art education at the University of Moscow where he studied with members of the last great generation of Russian Impressionists. With his talent already in evidence, he quickly earned an invitation from the Artist's Union of Bulgaria (Europe) to stage a prestigious one-man show in one of their country's major exhibition halls. Still in his first year of college, Kohn was the only student so honored for the year.
He fondly remembers the majesty of the University. "The experience was totally unique," he has said. "The atmosphere was one of huge columns, marble floors and masterworks on the walls. Legends of the Russian art world walked the halls and discussed your work. It was a privilege to be there, and it laid the foundation for my entire career." However, fate soon dramatically redirected the young artist's life and art. His father, a colonel in the Russian Army, was the first candidate to participate in the post-Cold War officer exchange program at the U.S. Air War College in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1993, while Kohn was in America visiting his parents, his father announced his intention to defect to the United States. Suddenly, the young artist realized he would never again be permitted to return to his homeland.
It took little time for American art audiences and media to discover the mature, fresh figurative painting style of the young Russian. His first one-man show in America created instant interest in his work and helped introduce Kohn to audiences in his adopted country.
Kohn remains a preeminent leader of Figurative Impressionism which seeks to capture the complexity as well as the simplicity and directness of the human form. "I'm seeking my own unique, poetic interpretation of the moment," he says. "I'm striving to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.
" Despite Kohn's unrepeatable pallet, personally developed style and unique interpretations of form, his education is enduring. From his home in Arizona, Kohn travels the world for inspiration, periodically returning to France to continue his formal, classical studies.
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