Nikolay Nikolaevich Uvarov liked to call himself a prince: his ancestors in the line of his father belonged to the old princely family of Uvarov. His grandfather and great-grandfather were priests of the Orthodox Church, and his parents worked as teachers of Russian: his father at school, his mother at university. Uvarov’s maternal grandfather — Samsonov Alexander Matveevich — was a famous confectioner throughout Uzbekistan.
Nikolay Uvarov was born and spent the first five years of his life in the Uzbek SSR, in the city of Tashkent. The artist’s birth date is October 29, 1941. In the spring of 1946, when his son was not five years old, his mother went with him to her sister in post-war Riga, and Nikolay Uvarov stayed there forever. However, his entire life was drawn to his homeland, and he tried at least once a year to travel to Uzbekistan. By the way, his famous pilaf, which was later famous in the circle of friends and close artists, Uvarov learned to cook in his homeland.
Nicholas began painting in early childhood: already at the age of five he drew caricatures of the hated Hitler. In a mixed Russian-Latvian kindergarten group where the boy started going in Riga, he once made a series of illustrations to the Russian folk tale “Masha and the Bear”. The children and educator were delighted, and then the mother of the young artist enrolled her son in the drawing circle at the Riga Palace of Pioneers. A big plus was that children were given supplies — paper, paint, and also provided easels. It was here Nikolay Uvarov began to comprehend the basics of professional painting. The classes were conducted by the famous Latvian artist Auseklis Matisovich Bauškenieks, who gave his students the basics of classical art.
Two years later Uvarov began to attend a more serious educational and artistic institution — the visual studio of Tsentralny House of Culture of Trade Unions, managed by Eduard Yurkelis, the famous master of watercolours
And in comprehensive school No. 26, where Nikolay studied, he with a youthful hitch drew all sorts of friendly caricatures, “nightmarics”. The boy studied well, read a lot: every month his mother received a new volume of the 50-volume edition of the Big Soviet Encyclopedia, and Kolya literally absorbed the information. Loved also classics of literature, fiction.
Education and the beginning of his career
Uvarov graduated from school in 1958 immediately got a job: the skills gained during his school years were enough to become an artist Riga Porcelain Factory. Two years later Nikolay was drafted into the ranks of armed forces in rocket troops, service was held in Western Belarus, on the Pinsk marshes. In the part where Uvarov served, there was a good library, and the young man re-read all the books found there devoted to the history of painting. Also he continued to paint: both “for himself” and “for the cause” — decorated stands, newspapers, etc.
Demobilized in 1963, Uvarov decided to get higher education in his chosen profession of artist, and in in particular — illustrator of books. He dreamed of becoming a student of the Moscow Printing Institute, but in the first year he couldn’t pass the competition of 18 people for a place, and the next year the competition was held, but instead he took his daughter to this place famous writer. During the period of preparation and unsuccessful admission, Nikolai worked as an apprentice to the designer of the art design bureau. And in 1965 he entered the first course of the Faculty of Easel Graphics at the Latvian State Academy of Arts. Uvarov remembered with great warmth and respect his mentors — Alexander Stankevich, teacher of applied graphics; Peteris Upitis, master of book graphics; classes of painting with Leo Swemps — all these people contributed to the formation of personality and professionalism of the artist Nikolay Uvarov. In his spare time, the student worked: drew posters, wrote slogans for Latvian factories and factories.
In 1971, a young specialist with a newly obtained diploma came to work as an artist-designer at the Technical Aesthetics Bureau of Riga Electromechanical Plant (REZ P/O) “Radiotechnics”). And immediately went on a business trip to Moscow for the International Electrotechnical Exhibition in Sokolniki — to decorate the pavilion of the USSR.
still studying at the academy, Uvarov began to understand the narrowness and limitations of the concept of “Soviet artist”. He saw that there is a pipeline for training artisans who in the future are obliged to fulfill orders according to clear rules and requirements. This approach to painting did not suit the creative personality of Nikolai Uvarov. Because of this, he became happy with his boss and, without wishing to become obedient and disenfranchised “cog”, left from a prestigious position.
In 1971 Nikolay Nikolaevich came to work as a drawing teacher in the secondary school №37 of Riga. There was more space for creativity, and the young teacher gradually developed the original method of teaching children painting. At the heart of this technique is the development of imagination and creative thinking. Uvarov used all these achievements in the further teaching activity. However, not everything was smooth at this job: the Directorate did not want to allocate a separate class for drawing lessons, and Uvarov had to run through floors and offices with folders and accessories for classes.
Four years later, he left for Jurmala and started working there at school No.5. Here he was allocated a room, which he designed according to his tastes and preferences, ordered transformers and cubical chairs, various equipment. As a result, students could independently change the architecture of the room, guided by the topic of the lesson.
After completing his school teaching career, Uvarov took up private teaching, and his lessons began to be in great demand. Many students of Uvarov were able to enter prestigious world art universities and achieved brilliant results in the profession. The mentor taught his wards not the craft, but the philosophy of the artist’s creativity, showed how through the image of any ordinary subject can express a certain philosophical subtext.
In 1988, Nikolai Uvarov created the Balto-Slavic Society, later transformed into the Baltic International Academy. And here he used all his pedagogical findings and developments, in particular – on the development of creative thinking and imagination. Since 1998, he has even conducted a special course on this topic at the Design Department at BRI — Baltic Russian Institute.
In July 1977 Uvarov received a call from the editorial staff of the Latvian newspaper “Sovetskaya Youth” and was invited to the position of chief artist. The editor-in-chief of the newspaper Anatoly Kamenev set the task: the appearance of each issue should be interesting! And Uvarov began to implement a system of illustrations for each rubric. The work was very intense, but it was worth it: the newspaper was highly appreciated in the CPSU Central Committee, and editor Kamenev was invited to raise him to Moscow. The new chief of Uvarov Andrey Vasilyonok was not so creative and absolutely not generous on fees.
And again Uvarov had to quit — it happened in 1980. A new work was immediately turned up, and a new period began in the biography of the artist, which he jokingly referred to as “medical”: for eight years Nikolai Nikolaevich worked at the Riga Medical Institute in the position of Senior Artist in Editorial and Publishing Department: produced methodological manuals, pamphlets, books. In 1988, Uvarov was dismissed from this position and became involved in creative activities as a “free artist”.
worked in various techniques and styles: graphics, engraving, oil, watercolor, mascara, pencil, etc. very many images of Central Asia, sketches of urban architecture and nature, cartoons, famous “debelins” as a variety of cartoons that ridicule negative phenomena in society.
A separate block should highlight the formative work of Uvarov: drawings illustrating the Akkadian epic “Gilgamesh”, which later published a separate edition; work on a cycle of illustrations to 38 chapters of the “Old Testament” (1975); illustrations for books, for example, the children’s book “The Horrible Folklore of Soviet Children” by Andrei Usachov and Eduard Uspensky and much more.
Nikolay Uvarov’s own creative find was the technique of writing oil on sandpaper. One of the most famous such paintings is “Dandelions”.
Another experimental and innovative technique of the artist was watercolor freshly brewed black coffee: in the last years of life every morning Uvarov started not with breakfast, but with the writing of three such watercolors.
Ideas and inspiration for his work Uvarov drew not only from nature and the surrounding life, but also from literature — e.g. , from works by Rabelais, Ray Bradbury, and other writers.
In 1992 at the age of 51, Nikolay Uvarov married. His wife’s name is Anna, she graduated from Riga Choreographic School, and then from Lunacharsky GITIS with a specialty of “theatre critic”. And in 1995, the 54-year-old artist had a son. The boy was named Alexander.
For the last ten years of his life, Nikolai Nikolaevich suffered from a foot vessel disease. Over time, the illness worsened so much that he could not even leave the house. Pupils and friends of the artist became regular guests in his house. Nikolay Uvarov died on January 20, 2019. He was buried in Riga.