Mikhailov, Nikolai Ivanovich

Михайлов, Николай Иванович

Born 1898 Simbirsk, Russian Empire; died 1940, location unknown, USSR

Nikolai Mikhailov (known by his alias N. Diomidi) was born into a military family. He studied at the Kazan Art School from 1912 to 1918. In 1919 during the Russian Civil War, he fled Kazan with the retreating White Army and made his way to China where he worked as an artist in the Russian Theater at Harbin.

In 1923, Mikhailov returned to Russia and settled in a Moscow suburb. In 1932 he was accepted into the Artists Union of the USSR and he also became a member of the Associated Artists of the Revolution (AKhR). Mikhailov had only a modestly successful artistic career as a painter and poster artist. His name is documented on posters published by the AKhR during the late 1920s to early 1930s.

Political trouble came to Nikolai Mikhailov in 1935 after he exhibited a painting depicting the funeral of the assassinated Communist leader Sergei Kirov. The Directorate of the Artists Union received an “anonymous letter” indicating the image of death was seen in the background of Mikhailov’s painting. A special commission was convened to analyze the painting (noted poster artist Dmitry Moor was among its members) and a conclusion was made that Mikhailov knowingly painted the image of death in the work that depicted not just Kirov but also Josef Stalin.

The artist was then summoned before an expanded Directorate where he reportedly denied the accusations and claimed the painting was a sketch. When questions about his past emerged (such as fleeing Soviet Russia with the White Army) as well as a mention about his mysticism interests-- for the artist, all hope for mercy was dashed.

Directorate members expelled Mikhailov from the union and sent his case to the NKVD or, secret police. Mikhailov was arrested and sent to a labor camp. In 1937, his case was reviewed by Soviet authorities and it was decided he be sentenced to death. Details of his death are unclear. At least one source mentions he was released from the camp in 1939 but died from a stroke the following year.

Sources & Citations

Mercer and Middlesex Auction catalogs June 5, 2011 and June 30, 2012
Galeev, I., Ulemnova, O. L., Tatarstan. (2005). ARKHUMAS--kazanskii avangard 20kh: Gosudarstvennyi muzei izobrazitelʹnykh iskusstv Respubliki Tatarstan, g. Kazanʹ, Galereia "Art-Divazh", g. Moskva, 28 aprelia-6 iiunia 2005. Moskva: Skorpion. (Birth and death information on Mikhailov)
tramvaiiskusstv.ru (Mikhailov bio)