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Victor Podgoursky

  • Victor Podgoursky spent more than twenty-five years in Shanghai, working as an artist, teacher and designer. As a long-standing member of the Shanghai Art Club, he acted as the resident art critic and an instructor in life drawing and painting for the members.
  • Victor
  • Podgoursky
  • Victor Podgursky; Виктор Степанович Подгурский

  • 01-09-1893
  • Tomsk (RU)
  • 1969
  • Tashkent (UZ)
  • ArtistDesignerTeacher
  • Victor Podgoursky spent more than twenty-five years in Shanghai, working as an artist, teacher and designer. As a long-standing member of the Shanghai Art Club, he acted as the resident art critic and an instructor in life drawing and painting for the members.

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  • Victor Podgoursky, photography (© Nikolay Kradin).
  • One of four sons of a Polish aristocrat exiled in Siberia, Victor Podgoursky grew up in Vladivostok. In 1914–1918, he studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, under the tutelage of renowned painters A. Arkhipov and A. Vasnetstov. Having arrived in Shanghai in 1920, Podgoursky initially worked as a newspaper cartoonist, teacher of painting and figure drawing, and proofreader for the Russian-language newspaper New Shanghai Life. In 1921, he became one of the founders of the First Russian School, where he continued to teach through the 1930s.

    In 1925, Podgoursky exhibited his paintings at several Shanghai shows, including an exhibition alongside eleven Chinese artists at the Palais Café. His first solo exhibition took place at the Alliance Française (French Club), on Avenue Joffre, in December 1926, where he was praised for his versatility. Three years later, Arthur Sowerby of The China Journal found Podgoursky's paintings "of high caliber" and a head above anything else exhibited in Shanghai; the critic was amazed that such a talented artist should price his pastels at $100 at the highest, and often as low as $50. Having joined the Shanghai Art Club in 1929, Podgoursky was its resident instructor in anatomy, life drawing and still life, and also a critic. The club admitted owing much to his presence, as "the guide and the philosopher of the art classes" and "an always attractive exhibitor at the annual displays."

    Podgoursky travelled extensively around China, studying ancient architecture and artistic traditions. Ten of his paintings were reproduced in the book Diamond Jubilee of the International Settlement of Shanghai (1940). In Shanghai, he completed several large design commissions. For the French Club (built in 1926), he designed the stained glass windows in the tearooms and large decorative panels in the card room. For the Sassoon House (1929), he created the frescoes and murals in the entrance hall, the tearoom and the bar. In 1928, Podgoursky’s mural was installed in the foyer of the Capitol Theatre, designed by C. H. Gonda.

    In February 1935, the artist travelled to Florence and Venice and supervised the assembly of the ceiling mosaic for the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation in Hong Kong. The vivid and complex mosaic covered 4,000 square feet and depicted 50 life-size human figures, as well as animals, machines, ships and other objects. The centrepiece, in the shape of an inverted half-cylinder, evoked the theme of "progress" and depicted the period from prehistoric to modern, "with emphasis on industry and transport, the occidental and oriental contrasted on opposing sectors." There were also images of the sun, Greek gods, the signs of the zodiac, Chinese gods of fortune and Japanese spirits.

    Podgoursky and his wife and son initially resided in Joffre Terrace, at 927 Avenue Joffre; later, he moved to 79 Route Pere Robert. In the 1930s and 1940s, Podgoursky’s studio was located at 6 Avenue Dubail, two doors down from another prominent émigré artist, Mikhail Kichigin. The two collaborated on the design of the monument to the poet Alexander Pushkin, built through the efforts of the Russian community and installed in 1937 in a quiet square off Route Pichon, in the French Concession. The architect Emmanuel Gran was also involved in the design.

    In 1947, Victor Podgoursky and his family returned to the USSR, where his son Valery was arrested and given a lengthy prison sentence. Podgoursky taught art at the Kazan Art School until 1956. Although his legacy was unrecognised until after his death, he had been influential as a mentor to his students, who credited him with introducing them to the work of Van Gogh, Gauguin and Matisse from his large collection of art books assembled during his exile in Shanghai.

    Word Count: 598

  • Street plan of the corner of Avenue Dubail and Avenue Joffre, where Podgoursky’s studio was located (© Institut d’Asie Orientale).
    Interior showing the card room of the French Club, postcard, collection of the author. The murals were made by Victor Podgoursky.
    Victor Podgoursky, Peking Street Scene, oil painting, 1938 (© Podgourski Family Club).
    Musicians, oil painting, photographed in Podgoursky’s studio, Shanghai, 1940 (© 2012 Mei-Fang Elrick and Tess Johnston, Historical Photographs of China,
    Victor Podgoursky's studio at 6 Avenue Dubail, 1940, Shanghai (© 2012 Mei-Fang Elrick and Tess Johnston, Historical Photographs of China,
  • Kerchelaeva, Nina. “Vernut is zabvenia (To return from oblivion).” Klub Directorov. 12 March 1999. "Victor Stepanovich Podgoursky." Accessed 1 January 2020.
    Lebedeva, Tatiana, “Na perekrestke kultur: Victor Podgoursky, hudozhnik I pedagog (At the crossroads of cultures: Victor Podgoursky, artist and educator)”. Art of East Europe, vol. 2, 2014.
    Knyazeva, Katya. "Victor Podgoursky. Building Russian Shanghai." Accessed 11 January 2020.

    Word Count: 69

  • Katya Knyazeva
  • Shanghai, China (1920–1947)

  • Joffre Terrace, 927 Avenue Joffre, French Concession (now Huaihai Lu, Xuhui) (residence in the 1920s); 79 Rue Pere Robert (residence); 6 Avenue Dubail (now 447–479 Huaihai Zhong Lu, Xuhui Qu) Shanghai

  • Shanghai
  • Katya Knyazeva. "Victor Podgoursky." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 08-05-2021.
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    Word Count: 47

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    Word Count: 50