Rabin, Oscar

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RABIN, OSCAR (1928–), Russian painter. Rabin, both of whose parents were doctors, was born in Moscow and studied music before turning to art. He is an extraordinary case of an artist refused recognition in the Soviet Union, who nevertheless became known as an outstanding painter outside his native country. Since he was not a member of the Artists' Union he was not officially recognized as an artist or allowed to exhibit and had to work as an exhibition designer from his home in a suburb of Moscow. He first gained a reputation outside the U.S.S.R. when his work was seen in London at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1964 in a mixed show of Soviet painters, and later the same gallery mounted his first ever one-man exhibition. Rabin's work was Expressionistic in character, having much in common with Soutine and Rouault, using dark somber colors and heavy outlines–almost in the manner of stained glass. He painted his native Moscow in street scenes and often depicted Western cities he has never visited. On the day of President Kennedy's assassination, Nov. 22, 1963, he painted a canvas to commemorate the event. Rabin was a prolific painter and despite official lack of recognition his work was popular both in the Soviet Union and among foreign visitors.

Both Rabin's status as a leader of young, dissident Soviet painters and his connections with foreign journalists and diplomats came to the fore in the remarkable effort to hold a "free" exhibition in September 1974. The exhibition was organized by Rabin and his son, together with a group of unorthodox artists. Their first effort was literally destroyed by the police, but as a result of international publicity the authorities relented and allowed some 60 painters to exhibit their work in an informal display at Moscow's Izmailovo Park.

In July 1978 the Soviet authorities canceled his Soviet citizenship "in view of his systematic activity incompatible with the status of Soviet citizen." He continued to work in Paris

[Charles Samuel Spencer]