Before this film not much was known about Vladimir Dvorkin. Although he was a prolific master painter and painted his whole life and has a large body of work, very few people know his name. The image below is from the Israel Museum Information Center for Israeli Art website. In a google search this is the only post that can be found about Vladimir Dvorkin and it barely even identifies him. This documentary examines the unknown painter's life, his artistic and political past in Russia, his journey of immigration to Israel, what happened to his art, and why nobody knows who he is despite his large body of work and skill. This film will change the way people see (or have not seen) Vladimir Dvorkin. It is our hope that the picture on this museum website will be filled. It is our hope that this film will give him a face.
Life in Russia
Vladimir Dvorkin was born on March 25th, 1937, in Dneprodzhinsk (now Kamianske), Ukraine. Despite being a talented artist, Dvorkin followed his father’s wishes and obtained an engineering degree from Tula Mechanical Institute. A prerequisite of attending the academy was completing basic military course, which Dvorkin refused to do. As punishment, the institute forced him into three years of military service. In 1962, Dvorkin moved to Ramenskoye where he worked as an engineer in the groundbreaking precision instrument aeronautics facility, though he was quickly promoted to the head of aesthetics due to his artistic ability. He began modelling buildings and designing interiors, most notably Ramenskoye’s cultural centre and also the city’s museum. In 1964, Dvorkin enrolled at Stroganov Moscow State Academy of Arts and Industry, one of the oldest institutes for art and design in Russia, whose alumni include Vrubel, Korovin, Falk, Kuprin, and Kuzmin.
Portrait of Vladimir's wife Natasha. they were married in 1964
The Bronnitsy Jewelry company is still one of the biggest and most successful jewelry manufacturers in Russia. On the company's website they trace their history back to the 14th century when The artisans of the village of Bronniche (as the present city of Bronnitsy was called in medieval documents) and the neighboring village of Sinkovo were famous for the manufacture of armor - defensive chain mail and plate armor. Their products were on the warriors of Dmitry Donskoy. The way to the Kulikov field went through these edges. And the soldiers of Ivan the Terrible, who passed the Bronnichs and Kolomna during the Kazan campaigns, were protected by chain mail of local masters.
Their production two times was awarded with the Grand Prix at World Fairs of the EXPO – in Montreal and Brussels that also speaks about high art of bronnitsky jewelers. And also author's works of the artists at various times working at the enterprise, are in collections of dozens of museums, among which and such as State Historical, Museums of the Moscow Kremlin and the All-Russia museum of arts and crafts.Works of bronnitsky masters with big success represented domestic art in Russia at art exhibitions and the abroad – in Italy, France, the USA, the Czech Republic, Japan.
In 1973, Dvorkin became head of the art department of the jewellery corporation in Bronnitsy. He was the author of many new and exclusive designs, some of which were compared to the work of Faberge and were recognized as the best in the former Soviet Union. They were featured in jewellery exhibitions in France, Italy, and Germany. At the time, a Soviet designer’s work exhibited outside of the USSR was almost unheard of.
The company mentions Vladimir Dvorkin by name in its historical timeline as one of the "virtuoso" artists in its history:
Portrait of Vladimir's mother
Taube Moiseevna Dvorkin
"Only a section of exclusive and author's jewelry was preserved, which, according to the drawings of the plant's artists, were made by the most experienced jewelers - virtuosos, whose names were known to specialists and collectors of the entire Soviet Union. The creative potential and level of work of this division, which was called the "Department of the Chief Artist of the BYUZ", Bronnizky Jewelry Plant , is evidenced by the fact that four of the 32 members of the jewelers section of the Moscow branch of the Union of Artists of the RSFSR worked in it. Decorations by A.G. Golikova, T.M. Belkina, V.M. Dvorkin and Yu.P. Savelyev can be seen today in many leading Russian museums: in the Moscow Kremlin Museums, in the State Historical Museum, in the All-Russian Museum of Decorative and Applied and Folk Art and others."
Dvorkin often had special orders from notable persons including famous opera singers, fashion designers, and figure skaters. Here we see Dvorkin at the Jewelry meeting with the soloist of the Bolshoi Theatre Alexandr Voroshilo and famous Russian singer Lev Leshenko
Dvorkin designed and installed five giant mosaic murals built into the walls of the Museum and Cultural Centre in Ramenskoye.
Life in Russian Prison
With anti-semitism running rampant, Dvorkin faced significant abuse, discrimination and persecution in his home country. In 1983 he was falsely accused and wrongly convicted of stealing gold from his workplace and was sent to prison where he spent 7 years incarcerated in various different locations under extremely harsh conditions.
Official prison documents addressed to Roman's Grandmother from the head office of the prison, outlining the rules for contacting Vladimir while he was incarcerated. Which rules included that he was only allowed to receive two parcels a year from her, both under 1kg, and they could not include any dangerous goods, including weapons, utensils, optics, and most notably - NO PAINTS OR BRUSHES. As artistic suppression was of utmost importance to prison officials....
Conditions at Butyrka Prison in Moscow
A glimpse at life inside Kopeysk Prison - Siberia
Letters from Prison
Asya Lapshin reads her father's letters to Roman in Russian.
Now, if you had made the request, with a modern, humane approach… or… for this you need to have some real courage! Why don’t you review my case again by your own initiative? It would be in the spirit of the times and, it seems to me, not only would it not hurt you, but it would only let your other colleagues “be reminded” whether everything was right in their work? Maybe this could help someone else? Even if it’s only a few people, it’s all relevant! In general, you understand what that would mean. I’m sure you understand everything and understood everything, but it turned out not everything was in your power. If you remember, I expressed my sympathy to you then. And you? You express it now! After the hand made execution! Even the tongue refuses to call it by its own name! And yet what can come back to you? You are an experienced lawyer, you cannot help but pay attention to the fact that I am the only one from the group, who even accidentally, was not caught with stolen gold. Why don’t you now reconsider the case (you never know what you can bring back to it, even doubt) not to mention that the ribbon chain is not stolen, but was exchanged for the standard venetian one. This is clearly indicated by them being the same identical weight to the hundredths. You (or maybe not you?) excluded from the protocol the study that was conducted at the court hearing on this subject. And you (In front of everyone!) exclaimed then “Very well, Dvorkin, you did not steal it! But the ribbon chain we calculated to be 25 rubles more expensive than the Venetian one…” and yet you accused me anyway, based on practically nothing. Why was the inexpensive metal product considered to be from a museum? Why had an expert not been called to make a conclusive statement on the chain
To his lawyer....
"… I would not have burdened him. Say hello to him for me. My sweet darlings, we will just have to tolerate this a little longer! And once again I’ll tell you all that the scariest and most difficult things are now behind me. Now it’s normal work and even a separate room for it, it’s so familiar, probably the same for all artists, the same as in your RPZ, the same as my former artists - the designers at BYUZ. In terms of the food, it is incomparably better. They just gave me a hair cut, so I have become even more handsome. Now as to not delay the letter, I will finish. I will further write a little bit about everything. Everyone, write to me in detail about the little things even if they may seem inconsequential to you. I rode by Ramenskoye on the morning of October 16th at about 8 o’clock. We were in Kolomna. Perhaps Asenka was driving by in the same direction. How are you daughter? How is everything in your female world? How do you feel? How are your studies going? Have you sent your husband to the army? How is my little Maximushka? My son, write to me yourself, I really liked your handwriting. How are things at school? At gymnastics?' - Vladimir
"… Asya and her husband, on Wednesday Maxim, on Thursday Natasha, etc etc. I am interested and care about everything, literally everything. Natashanka my dear, the main thing is still the case. I still cannot calm down and accept the verdict, and I will write to the supervisory authority or in other words to the Presidium of the Supreme Court. The decision that I was given does not give me peace. They obviously can’t figure it out. Therefore I am asking you once more - study my appeal, the comments made in the court records, the determination of court cassation, draw your own conclusions, write a qualified complaint, and it is better that you hand deliver it yourself (get a receipt) at The Presidium of the Supreme Court. The chief assured me that my battle (i.e my non-recognition of guilt) will not ultimately affect my parole exemption. Little wifey! (Hell, the fact that I have a wifey!) you will get a call from Victor Plekhanov, he should be released from Krasnaya Presnya on November 5th. He will tell you specific details about my case, he is aware however, that if I’d known that my letter would reach you before his release…". - Vladimir Dvorkin
To his wife.....
Sketches from Prison
"Most likely, this is not my mood - but my thoughts on how everything in life is colourful." - Vladimir Dvorkin
Immigration to Israel
Vladimir Dvorkin paints a portrait on Nahalat Binyamin Street
After serving 7 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Vladimir Dvorkin, escaping further antisemitism in Russia, immigrated with his family to Israel in 1991. It was then, while painting portraits in the streets of Tel Aviv in order to feed his family, that he met Israeli artist Oz Almog. Vladimir was offered a job that would last 20 years, where he mastered the art of portraits for exhibits conceived and masterminded by Almog. Dvorkin would be given just enough money to provide for his growing family (now with grandchildren). It was a life changing opportunity with one condition - he could not tell anybody that he had painted any of these pictures. From 1991 to 2011, Dvorkin would create the majority of his surviving work, including more than 2000 pieces he painted for exhibition by Oz Almog.
Portrait of Roman and his sister Helen Lapshin circa. 1994
Portrait of Roman Lapshin
While Dvorkin worked day and night to produce the thousands of portraits he painted for Oz Almog, he still managed to find time to paint these portraits and many others of the growing family he was sacrificing his name to support.
Portrait of Roman's mother Asya Lapshin
Portrait of Roman and his mother leaving Israel to immigrate to Canada
Portrait of Oleg, Roman, Asya and Helen Lapshin
While Roman and his family moved to Canada when he was only 2, he and his grandfather remained very close. Here Roman is visiting his grandparents in Israel when he was 7, not too long before his grandfather passed away.
Vladimir Dvorkin continued painting until he could no longer hold a paintbrush, and passed away from lung cancer at the age of 74 on May 14th, 2011.
This is a portrait Vladimir Dvorkin drew of himself standing with his head bowed, literally in the shadow of Oz Almog, poignantly capturing the shame and dejection he must have felt from so many years of toiling for Almog without credit or recognition.
This is the first public exhibition of Vladimir Dvorkin's artwork under his own name.