Dmitry Nalbandyan, a distinguished painter and portraitist, achieved acclaim as the People’s Artist of the USSR (1969), Hero of Socialist Labour (1976), and a recipient of the Lenin and Stalin prizes (1946–1951). The artist of Armenian origin, Nalbandyan, was born in Tbilisi, and his artistic journey began in 1924 when he enrolled in the Tbilisi Academy of Art under the tutelage of Eugene Lanceray and Yeghishe Tatevosyan. The beginning of Nalbandyan’s artistic career happened to be during the 1930s, the time when active restructuring in the artistic sphere began and Social Realism started to gain momentum. Nalbandyan has worked in the field of graphics; he has painted portraits, still-lifes, and landscapes, as well as created paintings on historical themes. Graduating in 1929, he commenced his career as a multiplicator at the Odesa film studio while simultaneously contributing caricatures to Georgian magazines. Relocating to Moscow in 1931, he continued his work as a multiplicator at Gorky Film Studio.
Nalbandyan gained prominence as the foremost solemn portraitist of the Soviet era, crafting portraits of elite party members, including Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, and Leonid Brezhnev. His pivotal debut diploma painting, Young Stalin with his mother in Gori, marked the beginning of his notable portraiture career. Termed “the first brush of Politbureau” in artistic circles, his portraits were lauded for their “pictorial simplicity and honesty.” Beyond portraiture, Nalbandyan ventured into landscapes and still life.
During the wartime period, Nalbandyan immersed himself in Armenian artistry, connecting with a local painting group and fostering a deep appreciation for his Armenian heritage. Actively participating in exhibitions and contributing to the cultural and social life of the Republic, he discovered the captivating beauty of sunny Armenia, influencing a significant shift in his work towards Armenian motifs, including the fields of Ararat, Lake Sevan, the valleys of Byurakan and Ashtarak, and ancient Armenian architectural monuments.
One notable work within his oeuvre is the late 1960s portrait of his mother, Aikanush Karapetovna, housed in the Leonid Shishkin Gallery. The 1960s and 1980s witnessed a transformative phase in Nalbandyan’s creative output, transitioning from political glorification to a more impressionistic style reminiscent of K. Korovin. Embracing Armenian themes, his works from this period include paintings such as Armenia, Ararat, Fall, Constructing Erevan, and others.
Dmitry Nalbandyan’s legacy endures in prestigious institutions such as the Tretyakov National Gallery of Moscow, the Modern History of Russia, and national museums. Furthermore, his works find a home in private collections both in Russia and abroad. Notably, his self-portrait is housed in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.