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Nathan Altman - biography

Nathan Isaevich Altman (Russian Натан Исаевич Альтман; December 22 [O.S. December 10] 1889 – December 12, 1970) was a Russian avant-garde artist, Cubist painter, stage designer and book illustrator.

Early life

He was born in Vinnytsia, Russian Empire (now in Ukraine). From 1902 to 1907 he studied painting and sculpture at the Art College in Odessa. In 1906 he had his first exhibition in Odessa.


In 1910 he went to Paris, where he stayed for one year. He studied at the Free Russian Academy in Paris, working in the studio of Wladimir Baranoff-Rossine, and had contact with Marc Chagall, Alexander Archipenko, and David Shterenberg. In 1910 he became a member of the group Soyuz Molodyozhi (Union of Youth).

In 1912 Altman moved to Saint Petersburg. His famous Portrait of Anna Akhmatova, conceived in Cubist style, was painted in 1914. From 1915 to 1917 Nathan Altman was the teacher at Mikhail Bernstein's private art school. After 1916 he started to work as a stage designer.

In 1918 he was the member of the Board for Artistic Matters within the Department of Fine Arts of the People's Commissariat of Enlightenment together with Malevich, Baranoff-Rossine and Shevchenko. In the same year he had an exhibition with the group Jewish Society for the Furthering of the Arts in Moscow, together with Wladimir Baranoff-Rossine, El Lissitzky and the others. In this same year he installed a temporary work of architectural sculpture in Palace Square to commemorate the 1st anniversary of the October Revolution. The canvas was subsequently cut up and used for soldiers' foot bindings.

In 1920 he became a member of the Institute for Artistic Culture (INKHUK), together with Kasimir Malevich, Vladimir Tatlin and the others. In the same year, he participated in the exhibition From Impressionism to Cubism in the Museum of Painterly Culture in Petrograd.(now Saint Petersburg). In 1921 he moved to Moscow. From 1921 to 1922 he was director of the Museum of Painterly Culture in Petrograd. From 1920 to 1928 he worked on stage designs for the Habimah Theatre and the Jewish State Theatre in Moscow. In 1923 a volume of his Jewish graphic art, Evrejskaja grafika Natana Al'tmana: Tekst Maksa Osborna [Max Osborn], was published in Berlin. In 1925 he participated in Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Moderns (Art Deco) in Paris together with Aleksandra Ekster, Vadim Meller, Rudolf Frentz, Sonia Delaunay-Terk and David Shterenberg. His first solo exhibition in Leningrad was in 1926.

Altman moved to Paris in 1928. In 1936 he returned to Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg). He worked mainly for the theatre, as a book illustrator and an author of essays about art.


Nathan Altman died in Leningrad aged 81.

Article author: Uri Daigin
Article tags: Biography
The article is about these people:   Nathan Altman

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