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Vasily Zasipkin

  • Vasily Zasipkin was a prolific artist and and influential teacher, much loved in the diaspora. Having lost his studio and all his work in wartime Shanghai, he started over in Singapore.
  • Given name:
    Vasily
  • Last name:
    Zasipkin
  • Alternative names:

    Василий Андрианович Засыпкин

  • Date of Birth:
    25-12-1886
  • Place of Birth:
    Ufa (RU)
  • Date of Death:
    14-03-1941
  • Place of Death:
    Singapore (SG)
  • Profession:
    ArtistDesigner
  • Introduction:

    Vasily Zasipkin was a prolific artist and and influential teacher, much loved in the diaspora. Having lost his studio and all his work in wartime Shanghai, he started over in Singapore.

    Word Count: 31

  • Signature Image:
    Vladimir Tretchikoff, Portrait of Zasipkin, Projector, 5 May 1934. Vladimir Tretchikoff was a student of Zasipkin.
  • Content:

    Vasily Zasipkin graduated from the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. In 1917 he was drafted into the army and sent to Vladivostok, where he designed stage sets for the military theatre, the cabaret Bi Ba Bo and other venues. From there, he moved to Harbin and opened an art studio on Kitaiskaya Street. In 1920, he received an official commission from the Japanese government to paint a series of landscapes of Kamchatka and Manchuria. He organised an art studio, which had 52 students by the time of his departure from Harbin.

    In 1929, the artist moved to Shanghai and opened V. A. Zasipkin's Art Studio. In 1934, he moved the studio to Joffre Arcade in the French Concession, where many Russian stores and offices were located. Zasipkin thrived as a portrait artist: he created dozens of portraits of Shanghai's foreign elite, diplomats and municipal administrators. His oils and pastels were frequently seen at local exhibitions, although some newspaper critics condemned his works as "old stereotyped canvases," showing "meticulous study and sound technique," but "lacking virility and imagination" and infused with a "commercial, almost illustrative atmosphere."

    Zasipkin was an active member of the Ponedelink society, and his studies and illustrations were used in the inaugural issue of the eponymous magazine. Among the Russians, he was considered one of the best professionals, alongside Mikhail Kichigin and Victor Podgoursky. Both Vladimir Tretchikoff and Alexander Yaron were his students. Working alongside his Russian colleagues, Zasipkin contibuted twelve paintings of the Apostles under the dome of St. Nicholas Church, on Rue Corneille.

    In Zasipkin’s opinion, “the art of painting, as a science, not a pleasant diversion, is based on the same mathematics of knowledge as architecture, sculpture, music, etc.” His attention to detail and love of precision allowed him to get commissions in the architectural realm. Among his Shanghai works he counted the interior design of the Grand Theatre and Park Hotel, as well as a number of interiors for private homes and public buildings. He did architectural drawings of the buildings designed by L. E. Hudec, Shanghai’s preeminent architect. He also worked on advertising campaigns and designed stage sets for the productions of the Russian Light Opera, such as Lysistrata and the Dream of Wei Lien, staged at the Lyceum Theatre.

    Zasipkin’s sojourn in Shanghai was cut short by the Sino-Japanese War. As soon as he transferred his studio from the French Concession to the port area of Wayside, the Japanese air raids on the Chinese municipality, in August 1937, destroyed the studio and most of the artist’s work. In October that year, Zasipkin relocated to Singapore, where he opened the Apollo School of Art, at Amber Mansions on Orchard Road. He started offering classes in painting, modelling, drawing and sculpture for beginners and advanced students.

    Zasipkin’s arrival in Singapore filled the cultural gap felt at the time by the foreign community. In November 1937, he helped revive the long-obsolete Art Club, and it began to conduct meetings on Wednesdays, with life drawing sessions and lectures from visiting artists. Equally popular were the weekly "Zasipkin’s Russian Parties," with abundant pelmeni (meat dumplings), borscht and vodka. The artist's most important project in Singapore was the interior design of the Cathay Cinema café and roof garden, which opened in December 1939, after two years of construction. Zasipkin's design was praised for its simplicity and artistry. Around 1938, he, reportedly, received a commission for a cinema complex in Malacca.

    Zasipkin died of heart failure, at the age of 55, while teaching a class. He was buried at the Bidadari Cemetery. Zasipkin's Art Studio was taken over by his colleague Vadim Shilonosoff, also from Shanghai; the meetings of the Art Club also continued.

    Word Count: 613

  • Media:
    Vasily Zasipkin, Study, Ponedelnik (Monday), around 1930.
    Advertisement for V. A. Zasipkin’s Art Studio at 542 Avenue Joffre, Parus, 1937.
    Vasily Zasipkin, interior design for Cathay Café, drawing, Singapore, The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, 8 December 1939.
  • Bibliography (selected):

    Gorelik, Boris. Incredible Tretchikoff: Life of an artist and adventurer. Tafelberg, 2013.
    Khisamutdinov, Amir. Russian literary journals in China. Vladivostok, 2016
    Zasipkin, Vasily. “V. A. Zasipkin.” Parus, no. 8–9, Shanghai, 1932.

    Word Count: 27

  • Author:
    Katya Knyazeva
  • Exile:

    Harbin, China (1921–1929); Shanghai, China (1929–1938); Singapore (1938–1941)

  • Known addresses in Metromod cities:

    Joffre Arcade, 542 Avenue Joffre, French Concession (now Huaihai Lu, Xuhui Qu) (residence and studio) Shanghai

  • Metropolis:
    Shanghai
  • Katya Knyazeva. "Vasily Zasipkin." METROMOD Archive, 2021, https://archive.metromod.net/viewer.p/69/2952/object/5138-11320446, last modified: 08-05-2021.
  • Ivan Kounin
    JournalistPublisher
    Shanghai

    A self-driven journalist and a self-funded publisher, Ivan Kounin created several illustrated albums focused on the life of Shanghai’s international community, which highlighted the work of Russian artists.

    Word Count: 29

    Alexander A. Yaron
    DesignerJournalistArtistPhotographer
    Shanghai

    An autodidact and a versatile commercial artist, Alexander Yaron applied his talent in portraiture, photography, interior design, advertising, layout and illustration. His best known projects were illustrated art magazines and books produced as part of Adcraft Studios, in tandem with Ivan Kounin.

    Word Count: 42

    Ponedelnik
    Association
    Shanghai

    Ponedelink was the most influential and the longest-running art society in Shanghai. Committed to promoting awareness of Russian culture and to developing its members' taste and erudition, it published the finest art magazine of the diaspora.

    Word Count: 36

    Lyceum Theatre
    Building
    Shanghai

    The new Lyceum Theatre was designed in an eclectic style by British architects Davies & Brooke and opened on 5 February 1931.

    Word Count: 20

    Mikhail Kichigin
    ArtistDesignerTeacher
    Shanghai

    Mikhail Kichigin was Shanghai’s preeminent émigré artist in the 1930s and 1940s. He travelled extensively around China and Eastern Asia, exhibiting his work and conducting visual studies. A versatile professional and a respected art instructor, he influenced a number of young artists from the Russian diaspora.

    Word Count: 47

    Victor Podgoursky
    ArtistDesignerTeacher
    Shanghai

    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.

    Word Count: 43