Born on 1 February 1927 in Moscow, Boris Sveshnikov was an artist, graphic artist and book illustrator. In 1945 he was awarded a place at the Moscow Institute of Applied and Decorative Arts.
In 1946 he was arrested on charges of being a member of an anti-Soviet terrorist organisation. At the age of 19 and after a year in prison, Sveshnikov was forced into seven years in labour camp followed by a period of exile in Ukhta in the far north of the USSR. The heavy and debilitating work while at the camp was to permanently ruin the young man’s health. While in exile, he maintained contact with his friends Lev Kropivnitsky and Arkady Shteinberg.. In 1954 Sveshnikov was sent into further exile in Tarusa in the Kaluga region, where his friend Arkady Shteinberg had already settled.
Following Stalin's death and the 20th Communist Party Conference, Sveshnikov was reinstated as an artist in 1956. A year later he moved to Moscow. He moved in the same circles as Vladimir Nemukhin, Vyacheslav Kalinin, Dmitry Plavinsky and Aleksandr Kharitonov.
In 1958 Sveshnikov was accepted into the Artists’ Union of the USSR. He worked in Goslitizdat - the State Literary Publishing House and was an exceptional illustrator, providing the artwork for publications of Goethe's poetry, Hoffmann’s mystical stories, the fairy tales of Han Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, the plays of Maeterlinck, Paustovsky's prose and many other great works of literature.
Sveshnikov’s work included both painting and graphic art. His life’s main work was a huge series of labour camp drawings to which he later added another series entitled A Drawing Album. These are amongst the best graphic records chronicling the GULAG, which paradoxically combine a tragic sense of everyday camp life with a feeling of unbounded internal freedom.
Sveshnikov’s art creates a drama about the fate of men and women who are constantly experiencing the close proximity of death, for as he put it : "This is the beginning and the end of all creation".
Sveshnikov’s died in Moscow on 6 October 1998. His works are preserved in private and state collections in many countries throughout the world.
The Museum of Contemporary Russian Art
Jersey City, New York, USA
The ART4.RU Contemporary Art Museum, Moscow
The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Museum
The Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA.