When asked to comment onnNelson’s view that Washington is beingndeified, Thomas was more direct,nreplying sharply, “That’s his view.”nBut not only his: in fijneral orations fornHarold Washington, Jesse Jackson likenednhim to Jesus, as did ErnestnByfield, Washington’s chief of staff:nsubsequently, Alderman Streeter describednhis former leader as “godlike.”nAnd the artist? “Of course I knewnthat the painting was likely to provokensome anger and controversy. . . . But Inhad no idea it would go beyond thenprivate bounds of the school. When Insaw all that stuff happen — the media,nthe aldermen, the police, the commotion,nthe bomb threats — I have tonadmit my stomach was turning over.”nNot long before the Nelson episode,nanother Chicago area art exhibit hadnfeatured obscene portrayals of the HolynFamily. As offensive as the paintingsnwere to the Christian majority in thencity, nothing could be done aboutnthem. But there are some religions youncan’t make fun of, as David Nelsonnlearned, the hard way.nSteve Marlin writes from Chicago.nThe OthernPasternaknby Andrei NavrozovnSir Ernst Gombrich, for one, is glad tonhear the news. The eminent art historiannstands in the modestly furnishedndrawing room of his Hampstead house,nleafing through his copy of LeonidnPasternak’s memoirs, recently publishednin England. The book’s publication hadnattracted the attention of the SmithsoniannInstitution, and the first retrospectivenof the painter’s work in the UnitednStates is being organized under its auspices.nI had just spent several days innOxford with the artist’s family; my briefcasenbulging with books, papers, andnnotes I was able to bring back with mento London, I call on Dr. Gombrich innthe hope that he might help me organizensome of my own inchoatenthoughts. The suburban stillness of thisnvine-covered house is conducive to introspection.n”Beautiful,” he says, notnlooking up from the illustrated volume,n”a good painter.”nI tell Dr. Gombrich that the Smith­nsonian newsletter detailing the plans fornthe traveling ej^hibition, which will originatenin Washington, DC and span thenartist’s career with some 60 works in allnmedia, describes Leonid Pasternak as “anRussian Impressionist.” He winces,nglancing at the wall opposite; two tinynDutch landscapes return his glance.n”Impressionist? No,” he says quickly,nadding pensively, as an afterthought:n”But then—who is?”nAs Mrs. Gombrich enters the roomnwith some tea for us, he continues:n”Historians of art, like most historians,nhave never recovered from reading allnthat Pliny. They see in history the barenforms of innovation and revolution, ofnprogress and discovery, all in a kind ofnsterile continuum. When they see thenwork of a painter, they need to understandnhis part in the process; they ask,n’What did he invent?’ They cannot say,nfor instance, that this Russan paintern’invented’ or ‘perfected’ what they callnImpressionism, but they can say that henintroduced it into Russia, like the steamnengine or the telephone, and so we havena new label, ‘Russian Impressionist,’ andntheir work is done.” It is getting late,nand we say our goodbyes. Sir Ernstnwishes me luck with my article.nOn a luminous afternoon in thenspring of 1893, members of The Wanderers,na group of painters which dominatednfin de siecle Russian art, werenbusy hanging their regular exhibition atnthe Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture,nand Architecture. Amid the noisenthat usually accompanies such lastminutenpreparations — the mutteringnof workmen, the prying-open of crates,nthe voices of the artists themselves — anman in his early 30’s was lookingnintently at one of the pictures alreadynin place. Shyly, he gave his “Debutante”none last look and was about tonleave, when suddenly there was commotionnat the entrance. A hush fellnover the workmen and artists alike, andnthe motley crowd — as if visited by thenInspector General in the final scene ofnGogol’s play — was perfectly still. Thenvisitor entered, and as he began lookingnat the hanging pictures it seemed to thenyoung man that his eyes “drilled holesnin the air.” The young man’s excitement,nlike the feeling of awe that hadnhushed his older colleagues momentsnearlier, was understandable, for thenvisitor was in fact the inspector generalnof Russian culture, emerging with itnnnfrom the twilight of the 19th centurynand entering a borderless spiritualnsphere which many of us inhabit to thisnvery day. The visitor was LevnNikolayevich Tolstoy, and there henstood, slightly apart from the crowd ofnonlookers, before one of the pictures.n”This,” said one of the exhibition’snorganizers, “is ‘The Debutante’ by Pasternak,na young painter of ours …”nHe had not finished the sentence beforenCount Tolstoy interrupted: “Yes,nyes. I know the name.” Years later,nPasternak would remember in hisnmemoirs:nI gasped like a condemned mannwho suddenly learns of hisnpardon. Overwhelmed byndelight and embarrassment, Inhardly knew where to putnmyself “In that case, allow mento introduce you to the painternhimself. He is here,” saidnSavitsky; immediately the circlenof people opened and I foundnmyself in front of Tolstoy, whonlooked charming and radiant. Instood there helpless withnconfusion, and I remember thenwarmth and tenderness of hisnlarge fatherly hand as it shooknmine. He said somethingnagreeable to me, but I was sonexcited by the thought thatnTolstoy was giving me hisnattention, and I felt so ashamednand awkward, especially in frontnof my elder colleagues, that Incould not make out hisnindividual words. It wasnsomething to do with the factnthat he knew my Letter FromnHome and my drawings.nSpeaking objectively, there was goodnreason for Tolstoy to have heard ofnLeonid Pasternak. Born in 1862, in thenport city of Odessa, he had attended thenMunich Royal Academy of Arts beforencoming to Moscow in 1889 where henmarried the young but already famousnconcert pianist Rosalia Kafman; thatnsame year, a painting of his, entitledn”Letter From Home” and chosen to benincluded in The Wanderers’ annualnexhibition, was purchased by Tretyakovnfor his private collection, a collection sonimportant that, after 1917, it would benpreserved intact at the State TretyakovnGallery in Moscow. For a 27-year-oldnOCTOBER 1988/51n