When UNESCO invited Ilya Glazunov to create a large painting reflecting the contribution of the peoples of the USSR to world culture and civilization, it was a confirmation of the great painter’s international recognition. How, though, would he be able to resolve a task of such complexity – to reflect in one painting the scale of centuries-old accomplishments of more than one hundred peoples and nationalities inhabiting the territory of the former Russian empire, and later, the USSR, covering over one-sixth of the Earth’s expanse?
Each year, UNESCO celebrates anniversary dates commemorating outstanding personalities who have enriched world civilization. In presenting easily recognizable depictions of the great scholars and artistic and literary figures of various nationalities as well as the fruits of their creative genius, Glazunov has created an image filled with the might of his homeland over the course of history. His work was presented to UNESCO by the Soviet government, and the public’s response to the painting the world over has been enthusiastic. Today, it hangs in one of the chambers of the organization’s headquarters in Paris. International critics have noted the work’s unusual use of color, its daring compositional layout, and the genuinely innovative presentation of such a complex subject matter. French critics noted that UNESCO had invited only three artists of world renown – Miro, Picasso, and Glazunov.
In a speech during the painting’s ceremonial presentation, the general secretary stated: “We are certain that all who come to UNESCO – men and women young and old – will feel, standing before this work, the humanistic essence it contains, inspiring the development of creative potential in the name of justice, human happiness, and the world.”