Tverdokhlebov, Vladimir Sergeyevich
Vladimir Sergeyevich Tverdokhlebov was born May 18, 1937 in the Russian province of Krasnodar Krai. His family moved about often during his childhood, but he grew attached to the city of St. Petersburg during his studies at the Leningrad Vera Mukhina Higher School of Art and Design, or Mukhina, where he studied in the monumental art department. He first came to Kazakhstan as part of a group of Mukhina graduates who were sent to Almaty to help design the exhibits at the history museum that was then located inside the Ascension Cathedral.
Tverdokhlebov decided to settle in Almaty, where opportunities for work were numerous for a trained specialists. His first works were murals painted in the playrooms of kindergartens in Karatau (1969) and Almaty (1972; since destroyed). The 1970s brought the young artist comissions around Kazakhstan, including a relief and mosaic in Karkaralinsk (1973-74), a mosaic Taraz (1976) and works in Sairam.
Starting in 1979, Tverdokhlebov’s works were concentrated in the city of Almaty. At the Alma-Ata Textile Factory’s Palace of Culture, he worked with the artist Yuri Funkorineo to a large mosaic relief for the lobby and two large mosaic panels for the stairwells. This would be one of the earliest examples of “syncretic” monumental art, where the artists worked closely with the architects at an early stage to incorporate their designs more organically into the built forms of the structure.
Such would be the case at the new wing of the Academy of Science, known as the House of Scholars, that would be built in the early 1980s. Here, Tverdokhlebov’s work, and the work of his collaborators, can be found in every corner. The most accessible to the public, and hence most familiar and adored, is the so-called Zodiac Fountain in the park outside the Academy. Inside the House of Scholars, one can find a series of mosaics arranged by Tverdokhlebov, dedicated to famous Kazakh scientists; a large dalle de verre stained glass; and a massive pietra dura mosaic of V.I. Lenin.
After Kazakhstan’s independence, Tverdokhlebov set himself apart from many other monumentalists by continuing to receive work orders. He designed two more prominent Almaty mosaics, on the restaurant Thai (2001) and the restaurant Issyk (2004). He completed mosaics for a local church, and continued to produce art in media ranging from oil paintings to tapestries.
As one of the most prolific monumentalists, and the most prominent in contemporary Almaty, Tverdokhlebov has become an iconic figure of Kazakhstan’s monumental art. When turning 80 in 2018, he was honored with a solo exhibition at the Kasteev Museum of Art, reviewing a lifetime of major work.