321. Urban Oblomovsky

‘And on the Seventh Day God ended His work which He had made’
New York, 1959–75
Size: 20 × 16cm

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Oblomovsky arrived in New York as a refugee from Ukraine in 1940. His aristocratic and Orthodox father married a Catholic, who insisted he be called ‘Urban’, in honour of Pope Urban II. This Pope, who had initiated the First Crusade, was greatly admired by his mother. Oblomovsky was highly educated and artistic, and cut a strange figure amongst the artistic bohemia of New York, to which he gravitated. He chose to dress in Tsarist military uniforms, a trunk of which had accompanied him, and treated those around him as intellectual inferiors, which they undoubtedly were. He wasn’t interested in sleeping with other artists’ wives, preferred drinking vodka to paint-stripper, maintained that caviar was better than a hamburger, and therefore didn’t fit in easily with the artistic environment of New York at that time. His closest friend was Nat Nate, who threw himself off the Staten Island ferry. He told David Sylvester, in an interview he insisted should remain unpublished for a century, that until the rest of the world caught up with him, Pollock was rubbish with his limp drippings, and the rest of them were just con-men, promoted by other con-men. He alone was pure, so much so that he destroyed everything until he engaged himself on his one defining work of art, on which he worked for 16 years. He never considered it finished, but in 1975 he became entranced by a beautiful young blonde, also originally from the Ukraine, to whom his energies were thereafter devoted. This was the cause of his separation from his wife of 30 years, Ludmilla Oblomovskaya, the famous male impersonator, who told. Fortunes were lost on Wall Street. Here, for the first time, this forgotten master’s masterpiece is revealed.