on that canvas—the Empire couch,nthe pearly landscape, and especiallynthe tiny bearded man wearing a bowlernhat who stands by his easel painting anself-portrait—make one smile an inwardnand disarmed smile. The work isnfar from finished, but the figure isnalready vying with the nudes of Rubensnand Ingres. But just as soon as itsnbeauty has spoken, another voicenchimes in. “You nice girl, dear,” thentiny bearded man with the black bowlernseems to be telling her, “but younneed husband.”nIgor Galanin was born in Moscownin 1937, the legendary year markingnthe height of StaHn’s terror, to a Jewishnmother and a father whose roots, recordednin the Velvet Books of Russiannnobility, can be traced back to thenMongol invasion of the 13th century.n(“All that money to put them throughnHotchkiss,” the artist says proudly ofnhis two children, now in their first yearnat Yale, “and still they look Tatar!”)nThe seven centuries of recorded historynon his father’s side make him viewnthe Protestant aristocracy of his adoptedncountry with gentle skepticism; hisnmother’s practicahty and wisdom, andnhis own experience of survival as annartist under the Soviet regime, helpnhim keep a realistic distance betweennhis world and the world of his patrons.nHe considers himself a “quintessentialnbourgeois, like Balzac,” and of coursenthat descriphon, like so much aboutnthis man, is itself a paradox.nIn 1972, when the opportunity henterms “divine” presented itself, Galanin,nwith his wife and two children,nthen five years old, left his nativenMoscow. While waiting for U.S. entrynvisas in Italy, a standard procedure fornall Iron-Curtain refugees, Galanin,nwho had achieved prominence in Russianonly as an illustrator of children’snbooks and theater designer, had hisnfirst show at the Paesi Nuovi gallery innRome. The Americans who boughtnout the show brought word of the artistnhome, and within a year after hisnarrival a second show was arrangednin — of all places—Fishers Island,nNew York, whose 18-page telephonendirectory listed, in 1983, four DunPonts, five Fergusons, five Gaillards,ntwo Lords, four Russells, a Whitney—nJohn Hay Whitney, to be precise—nwith a Symington, a Phelps, and anBoocock nestling cozily in between.nThis show, too, was a success—asnwere others, in Boston, that paved thenway for Galanin to meet Joachim JeannAberbach, whom he calls “the poet ofnart dealers,” and to his first “real”nexhibihon in 1978 at Aberbach FinenArt in New York. The paintings in thatnshow were sold in a matter of days;nbetween 1978 and 1983 came fivenmore such shows. This year is nonexception; Igor Galanin’s seventh onemannshow at Aberbach Fine Artnopened in March.nFor those who buy them, and fornmany who just come to look, Galanin’snpaintings are a revelation. Theynseem at once to distill history, ofnwhich the history of art is but a fragment,nand mock it—but lovingly, tenderly,nas a parent might the accomplishmentsnof a child. Independent-mindedn(“seditiously inclined,”,nas Galanin puts it) collectors find thisnrefreshing, and addictive. By contrast,nmany professional art critics haventaken this “whimsy” as an affront,nalmost an insult directed at them andnat their calling. But obviously a mannwho speaks of Michelangelo andnSchnabel with equal irreverence—nand of Ingres and Bailey with similarnadmiration—is unruffled by what criticsnthink. Besides, he has his defendersnin the press gallery as well. TheodorenWolff, writing in the Christian SciencenMonitor of a 1982 series of Galaninnpaintings, commented:nThey were not, after all,nintended to make a great dealnof logical sense, only to delight,namuse, intrigue, and enchant.nAnd neither were they intendednto reflect a concern for the greatnformal or theoretical questionsnof the day. They are too happynand carefree for that—nalthough they do have justnenough melancholy to makenthem look “moderri,” and justnenough enigma to makenthem feel at home in the agenthat produced Rousseau’s “ThenSleeping Gypsy” and thenstrange and fantastic goings-onnin the canvases of de Chirico,nErnst, Dali, and Magritte.nThat put Galanin in pretty good company.nGalanin’s often deliberately preposterousnpronouncements—on subjectsnnn”Woman With Rabbit” by Igor Galanin.nranging from American politics (“Inwant a triumvirate for President:n[North Carolina Senator] Jesse Helms,n[New York Mayor] Ed Koch, andn[Harper’s Editor] Lewis Lapham”) tonhigher education (“I am against it”) toncontemporary poetry (“Lynch Merrill,”nthe motto on a T-shirt he contemplatesnordering, is aimed at poetnJames Merrill, scion of the famousnbanking family)—have amused and,non occasion, antagonized his reviewersnand potential patrons alike. The wisernamong them have kept in mind thatnfor a Russian of Galanin’s milieu, “thenTongue,” in Catherine the Great’snphrase, “is there to whip the Air.”nOnly in one’s work, balancing the realnand the imaginary, the serious and thenwhimsical, the eternal and the transitory,nmust the artist find that uniquenequilibrium for which he is ultimatelynanswerable. Galanin’s heterodox opinionsncontain more than mere grains ofntruth; but, more important, he knowsnthat in the end he will not be judgednby them. Leading an impeccablynbourgeois life-style, saying things thatnraise bourgeois eyebrows, paintingnpictures — of Victorian comfort, ofnaristocratic games, of “life as I wish Incould live it”—he insists he is not ann”enigma.” What is he, then? “A freenman.”nAndrei Navrozov is editor of The YalenLiterary Magazine and a contributingneditor to Chronicles.nJULY 1986/51n