Semirechye Portraits Exhibition Opens in Almaty

ALMATY – Pavel Marikovsky’s impressions of the nature of Semirechye, which he explored, described and popularised in numerous books, are now on display in 38 canvases in Almaty.

Marikovsky wasn’t a professional artist and only started to create in his later years. The world-famous entomologist, doctor of biological sciences, veteran officer of the Great Patriotic War and member of the Union of Kazakh writers was one of the last encyclopaedists, gifted to write clearly and compellingly about the natural word and its inhabitants.

He was one of the most beloved popular exponents of science known in the former Soviet Union and several generations of biologists and ecologists were raised on his books. Marikovsky was unusual, from his unique patronymic, Iustinovich (his father also had an interesting name, Iustin Evmenievich), to his way of life: he was ascetic and eschewed most material goods. Marikovsky lived in another world, where “celestial science” was everything and he pursued it out of passionate interest, not for academic titles.

“He was an assiduous explorer of Kazakh land and deservedly became the first scientist of the post-Soviet area to be awarded a Polar Star gold medal from the World Geographical Community for his contribution to world science,” said writer and member of the Union of Journalists of Kazakhstan Rimma Artemyeva during the opening ceremony of the exhibition here. “His heritage consists of about 90 books. The first book, ‘Useful Birds of the Far East,’ was written when Pavel Iustinovich was only 17 years old, almost 80 years ago. And the last one, ‘Times of Year: From Spring to Spring,’ was published last fall. He also published 150 scientific and 250 popular articles. His books were published not only in different cities of the USSR but also abroad.

“Pavel Iustinovich dedicated his life to exploration. He also discovered poison spiders. Once, he showed me an album about these unpleasant creatures, published in Prague. He investigated insect and animal behaviour in seismic zones and created the first biological testing laboratory, not far from Almaty, for his research.” Marikovsky was the owner of the biggest collection of petroglyphs of Kazakhstan in the world. Thanks to his will, the territory of Altyn Emel was given national park status. He was looking for answers about the meaning of life and man’s existence. He was on the side of nature; he worked and created in order to protect it.

Pavel Marikovsky expressed his powerful energy on canvas, creating paintings that linger in the memory. In his little apartment, not typical of a scientist of his stature, his paintings hung in rows above his bed.

Nature was the main theme of his art. With no art education, he did his own book illustrations. Tengri-Umay Art Gallery Director Vladimir Filatov called him a Renaissance man, like Leonardo da Vinci.

“He saw nature through the prism of his heart, his knowledge, his passion, and it seems that he knew that he was working for the future of the mankind. I think that the understanding of his mission and his absolute modesty and full absorption into the investigated subject were not only a revelation for me, but also have a great meaning,” said Filatov.

Three solo exhibitions by Marikovsky have been organised in Almaty at different times. Overall, about 400 canvases were created by this extraordinary scientist. Talking about his gift, Pavel Marikovsky himself said “My religion is to be in compliance with nature, work and talent … Remember what Ilyia Repin said to his worshipper: ‘I’m not as talented as I am hardworking.’ I believe in work. And nature was also a source of work for me.”

Marikovsky passed away in November 2008, four years before his 100th birthday. He is buried in a rural cemetery near Almaty.