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Anna Akhmatova – Russian poet

Anna Akhmatova - Russian poet

Anna Akhmatova – Russian poet

Anna Akhmatova was a Russian poet, translator and literary critic. She is one of the most significant figures of Russian literature of XX century. In 1965 Akhmatova was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. She is the best-known member of the Acmeist movement.
Her fate was tragic. Her first husband, Nikolai Gumilev, was shot in 1921. Nikolai Punin, third husband, was arrested three times and died in the camp in 1953. Her only son, Lev Gumilyov, spent in detention more than 10 years. She reflected her woe in one of her most important work – the poem Requiem. This lyrical masterpiece is dedicated to the victims of Josef Stalin’s terror.
Anna Andreyevna Gorenko was born on June 23, 1889 in Odessa. Her father was a retired naval officer, who moved the family to St. Petersburg when Anna was a young girl. She studied at the Tsarskoe Selo Women’s Gymnasium. At the age of 11 Anna wrote her first poem and decided to become a poet. However, Anna’s father thought it was a waste of time and prohibited to use her real surname. Anna chose a pen-name – Akhmatova – maiden name of her grandmother.

She studied law in Kiev, then literature in St. Petersburg.
In 1910 Anna married poet Nikolai Gumilev. They divorced eight years later in 1918. In 1921 Gumilev was executed as a counterrevolutionary.

Akhmatova with her husband and son, Lev Gumilev

Akhmatova with her husband and son, Lev Gumilev

In 1911 Akhmatova visited Paris where she met Amedeo Modigliani. The artist painted sixteen portraits of her.
In 1912, Akhmatova published her first collection of poetry, Evening, and gave birth to her son Lev. Also in 1912, Gumilev founded Acmeist. The group advocated simplicity, clarity, and precision over the vagueness and otherworldliness of the Symbolists.
In 1965 she was awarded an honorary degree in Oxford, England.
Anna Akhmatova died of a heart attack on March 5, 1966 in Domodedovo, Moscow region

Anna Akhmatova and Amedeo Modigliani

1911. This picture Akhmatova was keeping throughout her life

1911. This picture Akhmatova was keeping throughout her life

Anna Akhmatova carefully concealed this love story, and only at the end of her life she slightly lifted the veil over her warm feelings to Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920).
In 1906 Modigliani moved to Paris to take lessons from the famous French painters. He was unknown and the very poor. The Russian girl liked elegant, aristocratic, sensitive Amedeo.
She recalled that in their first meeting Modigliani was wearing yellow trousers and bright jacket. He looked ridiculous, but he behaved so gracefully and seemed handsome and elegant.
In that year Modigliani was barely twenty-six years old. Akhmatova was twenty. A month before the meeting, in the spring of 1910, she became engaged to poet Nikolai Gumilev, and the lovers went to Paris.
Modigliani met Akhmatova in the heart of the French capital. They said that the poet was so beautiful that everyone in the streets gazed at her and admired her charm. The artist asked permission to paint her portrait. She agreed. Thus began the story of a passionate but short-lived love.
After returning to St. Petersburg Akhmatova continued to write poetry and her husband, Nikolai Gumilev, in early September left for Africa, promising to return only the following spring.
The young wife was very lonely. And as if reading her mind, handsome Parisian suddenly sent a passionate letter in which he confessed that he could not forget her and dreamed of a new meeting. The letters became frequent, and in each of them Modigliani confessed his love. However, friends who visited Paris told Akhmatova that Modigliani addicted to wine and drugs. The artist was oppressed by poverty and hopelessness.
In March 1911 Gumilev returned from Africa. Almost immediately the couple had a big quarrel. Offended Akhmatova suddenly went to France, where she spent three months.
Amedeo was quite different. Thin, pale, haggard from sleepless nights he was among his favorite nudes. However, for her passionate Italian remained the most handsome in the world. He, as before, burned her with mysterious, piercing eyes.

Akhmatova and Modigliani at the unfinished portrait, the artist Natalia Tretyakova

Akhmatova and Modigliani at the unfinished portrait, the artist Natalia Tretyakova

Modigliani gave Akhmatova unforgettable days that remained with her for life. Years later she said that the artist was so poor that he could not invite her anywhere. They had to sit on a bench in the Luxembourg Gardens.
In the tiny, cluttered room Akhmatova posed for the artist. According to the poet, Modigliani painted more than a dozen of her portraits, which were burned in the fire. However, until now, some critics believe that Akhmatova hid them. Perhaps she feared that portraits could tell the truth about their relationship…
Many years later, two portraits of a nude woman were found among the artist’s drawings and the model looked like the famous Russian poet. These pictures confirmed the love of Modigliani and Akhmatova. They could be together, but fate separated them forever. But that year the lovers didn’t think of eternal separation. They were together. He – lonely and poor Italian artist, she – married Russian woman.
When Akhmatova, leaving Paris, said goodbye to the artist, he gave her his pictures as always signed with a short word: “Modi”, which means “cursed” in French. Amedeo persistently asked to hang them in her room. But she hid Italian drawings in a safe place. And only one picture hung over her bed until the last days.
Poetess claimed that there was no poem devoted to Modigliani. Now we can only guess was it true or false.
In 1914, Modigliani met a wealthy Englishwoman Beatrice Hastings, who was five years older than him and was very fond of the artist. Their affair was stormy and short-lived. Two years later Beatrice left him.
A year later, the artist became interested in 20-year-old Jeanne Hebuterne. They began to live together, and in autumn 1918, Jeanne gave birth to Modigliani’s daughter. The artist was happy. He had a family and the long-awaited peace.
At the end of 1919, Modigliani caught a bad cold and died a month later. His pregnant wife could not survive the death of her beloved man. She jumped out of the window the next day because she wanted to die with Amedeo.
Akhmatova learned about Modigliani’s death by chance. In January 1920 she saw a small obituary in an old European art magazine.
As an adult, Modigliani’s daughter, wrote a book about his father. She described his life and dozens of novels with a variety of women. But there isn’t a single word about Akhmatova in it. Perhaps the Italian artist, as well as the poet, did not wish to disclose their mutual, seemingly extraordinary love.
In 1922, the world recognized the great artist Modigliani. Today, his paintings are sold at auctions for fifteen million or more.
In the early 1960s, after a three-day visit to Paris (after more than fifty years) Akhmatova decided to write memories of the Italian artist and their short but very bright novel.
The poet died March 5, 1966, near Moscow and was buried in Komarovo, near St. Petersburg.
At the beginning of the 1990s there was an exhibition of works by the Italian artist in Italy. The visitors saw twelve pictures of a beautiful, young, dark-haired girl. These were the portraits of the great Russian poetess Anna Akhmatova.

Anna Akhmatova – Russian poet