Symeon Vassilyevich Volchkov (1919-2003) was a brilliant personality in the field of Arts and Literature in Cyprus and left an indelible mark on the island’s artistic life. Of Russian origin, born in the Ukraine, the artist finally settled in Cyprus and lived on the island for the last fifteen years of his life, where he was a prominent, acclaimed painter. He developed a deep bond with the island, which he visited for the first time in 1968, after his daughter Lara married the well-known Cypriot architect Marcos Bargilly. A true child of nature, endowed with abundant artistic talent, his first solo exhibition of painting was held in Famagusta in the year 1969, after a half-year sojourn in Cyprus. This exhibition, the fruit of much hard work, marked the beginning of the artist’s deep cultural ties with this great island.
The artist had always revered the Greek spirit, which he first saw embodied in his muse, his beloved wife Ekaterina – the child of Greek parents but born in Russia, and of incomparable beauty - and later in the Cypriot landscape where every stone exudes the island’s rich Hellenic history, a history which testifies to Cyprus’s close cultural ties with Greece but also with Russia.
As a philhellene and lover of Cyprus, the artist felt called to celebrate with his life’s work the intercultural relations between the two countries, Cyprus and Russia. As a painter, combining the creative elements of both cultures, he was able to penetrate the mystery of the brilliant colours of Cyprus, bathed in Mediterranean light, and give a masterly touch to the Cypriot landscape in his poetically romantic oil paintings. This can be observed in the large and highly representative series of paintings entitled “Cyprus Epic”, to which he devoted the late years of his creative life and which were crowned with great success and brought him even wider recognition.
Symeon Volchkov was a graduate of the Higher Naval Academy when he met Ekaterina in Sevastopol. He decided to sacrifice his dream of becoming a captain, to follow her to Moscow, where she was studying. A few months later, in 1939, they were married and became inseparable until fate called him to leave his happy family life and his twelve-month-old son, Vladimir, and go to war. He served as an officer until 1944 when, heavily wounded, he returned home before the war ended.
He always remained a lover of the sea – a love which he expressed from then on as a painter, in his seascapes, rather than as a navigator, having left the naval academy of Sevastopol to be with his beloved Ekaterina, albeit being already a graduate student and almost a captain. Beside seascapes he showed great talent for portrait painting from a very young age. He won the first prize at the Russian festival of young talent when he presented a portrait of Alexander Pushkin.
After the war he began working, while studying painting and fine arts at the Textile Institute in Moscow. In 1945 his second child was born – his daughter Lara, who in her teenage years became the next muse for his painting. Today there are about ten portraits of her in his collection. From 1952 Symeon Volchkov worked as a professional painter at the Artistic Foundation of the Russian Federation where he painted by commission, not only original work but also commissioned replicas of some of the masterpieces from the Tretyakov Gallery. To make a living he also worked later at the Department of Monumental Art, a job which consumed his time and greatly restricted his creative progress. A new chapter in his creative life dawned with his first trip to Cyprus in 1968, and finally he and his adored wife Ekaterina left permanently for Cyprus to live close to their daughter and her family.
In Cyprus, having left behind everyday worries, his creative talent flourished. He became a Cypriot citizen and soon began to publish his poetry collections there. His hard work and great talent brought him the recognition afforded to a renowned painter, his paintings always earning excellent reviews as well as wide admiration from the public. The large series of paintings under the title “Cyprus Epic” is dedicated to Cyprus. The artist loved the natural beauty of the island as much as he loved the nature of his Russian motherland. Being a master of seascapes, he has left us numerous masterful impressions of the sea, which not only reveal his talent but also immortalize the historic landscape of the island in a particularly romantic way.
As a permanent resident on the island from 1988, Symeon Volchkov was a member of EKATE (the Cyprus Chamber of Fine Arts) and the Pancyprian Writers Association. For thirty three years, from 1968 to the end of his life, he dedicated himself to the theme of Cyprus. The result of the artist’s labours was presented in solo exhibitions in Cyprus and Greece. As a member of EKATE and a true ambassador of Russian culture – a "patriarch of the Russian School of Realistic Painting" – as some representatives from the Russian Embassy called him – he participated in various group exhibitions of EKATE, but also in group exhibitions of Cypriot graduates at the various Fine Arts academies of Russia. In Cyprus his works can be found in the House of Representatives, the Presidential Palace, the Archbishop's Palace, the Art Gallery of Makarios III Foundation, the Museum of Contemporary Cypriot Art, the Russian and the Greek Embassy and in private collections.
The Artist’s Bequest
This is the work I have named “Cyprus Epic” which represents the most significant chapter of my work as a painter. It has been my dearest child, and I applied myself to it day and night with love, with awe, with self-denial even, subject at times to the fear of never seeing it completed, never seeing it released into the world.
I praise God for giving me the joy of loving and being loved, and for honouring me by selecting me to be a priest at His temple of Beauty.
I praise God for uniting me through the sacred bond of marriage with my beloved Katerina, a true Hellene, born in Russia, with beauty and grace which resemble the classical statues of Ancient Greece. May the memory of my beloved Muse, my source of inspiration, live for ever!
Oh, rejoice, my angel, my light!
Oh, rejoice in her soul, most faithful of all!
I praise God for the destiny that led me, eternal lover of Beauty, to live on the sacred ground of Cyprus, this Promised Land which I have walked from east to west and from north to south, as a pilgrim who adored Hellenism.
With the true and timeless tools which I believe only realistic art provides, I have attempted to perpetuate the natural beauty of Cypriot landscapes; landscapes that mirror the greatness of this martyred Island’s rich history as a propylaeum to Hellenism.
I dedicate my paintings – this work entitled “Cyprus Epic” – to the people of Cyprus. When, still young, I first set foot on the island and was baptised in the crystal clear waters of Famagusta, the people of Cyprus embraced my work with love and enthusiasm. And so my hope is that they will preserve my work, and that it will be known also by future generations, both in Cyprus and in my far homeland Russia, which I have missed so much yet never had the chance to see again.