Anton Ovsianikov has been interested in the Wild West since childhood, with his first exposure being through the books of James Fenimore Cooper and the illustrations of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha. He also was drawn to O. Henry’s stories of the ranches and cowboys because of the author’s unique humor. “It made me dream about Indians,” says the artist. “When I grew up and began to paint, I loved to paint Indians, cowboys and anything to do with their lives. And, of course, as a child I collected tin figures of Indians.”
Western movies were rather rare when the artist was growing up, but the ones he saw made a lasting impression. “The Magnificent Seven, for example, I saw about 30 times,” he says. “In my mind I still can see [the] saloon, horses, guns, wild rides and strong men riding and fighting.”
He adds, “I think that unlike many of my peers, who were looking only at the actors, I was always interested in paraphernalia. In the saddles, in cups they drink their morning coffees from, in the ropes they swing so masterfully, in their small Bibles they always carried and type of guns they shoot so accurately from. I think I still have this love for those ‘wild times’ with its simple, almost ascetic culture, with every object so much needed and so much representing the way they lived.”
When preparing for his still life paintings, the artist will think of the possessions that the people of those times owned. “I think about this or that hero of the movie I saw, and what he would have put together at this moment in his life, after that scene or before that action,” he says. “I am not sure I have exact objects they used in movies, but I would imagine what this person would do with the objects I have in my possession. Or, sometimes, I would imagine how I would prepare my own stuff before riding together with this or that character.”
Saddles and Spurs, oil on canvas, 23½ x 33½”
Breakfast on the Farm, oil on canvas, 19½ x 27½”
Cowboy’s Bible, oil on canvas, 157⁄10 x 237⁄10"