Anatole Kasskoff ( Saint Petersburg , Russia , 1904- Bogotá , Colombia , 1978), was a French designer and painter of Russian origin. He arrived in Colombia in January 1946, invited by the Colombian government to collaborate in the execution of the design and decoration works of the meeting rooms of the 9th Pan American Conference in 1948. Later, Kasskoff remained in Bogotá where he had an important career as designer first, and additionally as a painter.
Anatole Kassskoff Tirtoff was born in Saint Petersburg on December 30, 1904 into an aristocratic family with a military tradition. His parents were Maria Tirtoff and Mitrophan Kasskoff, Admiral of the Tsar's Navy, Nicholas II at the time. He was the fifth of six children. His early childhood was spent in this city, demonstrating his talent for drawing from an early age. While still a child he painted his first watercolors and drew the characters in his favorite children's adventure books.
In 1912 the family moved to Sevastopol , as the father was promoted to Admiral and was appointed to the naval base of this port city, the most important Russian naval enclave in the Black Sea. A few years later he would be the Chief of the General Staff of the Imperial Navy in this city, in recognition of his naval victories against the Turkish and German navies in the Black Sea, during the First World War (1914-1917). In Sevastopol Anatole continued his work as a watercolorist, painting urban scenes and seascapes of the city. Due to the forced and difficult transfers of the family as a result of the communist revolution of 1917, the sketchbooks and watercolors of the little and young Kasskoff could not be preserved.
The impact of the Bolshevik revolution and the subsequent civil war , as well as the execution of his father in early December 1917, in compliance with an order from a revolutionary committee in Sevastopol, convinced the family that he was in mortal danger. . Considered part of the so-called White Russians , opposed to the revolution, the family first moved to a rural area near Sevastopol, and then to Odessa in 1918, where it remained for some time, until, again pressured by the Bolshevik advance, took the path of exile. They first took refuge in Constantinople , staying there for about three years, and finally settled in Paris.at the beginning of 1923, being part of the important group of white Russians exiled in France .
Paris: formative years
In Paris, the young Kasskoff studies and graduates from the renowned National School of Decorative Arts. Simultaneously with his studies, he continued to develop his vocation as a painter, gaining fame as a watercolorist. His paintings from this period are not alien to the predominant tendencies of the painting of the generation between the wars, which leads him to experiment with fovism and abstraction, but his watercolors have a traditional character. Even today it is possible to find in some Swiss and French galleries watercolors of this time accessible through the Internet. [ 1 ] [ 2 ] [ 3 ] [ 4 ][ 5 ] [ 6 ] [ 7 ] [ 8 ] [ 9 ] [ 10 ] [ 11 ] [ 10 ] While still very young he married in Paris with Lydia Ostimovich, also Russian by birth and French by adoption.
Professional practice: the Maison Jules Leleu
At the end of his studies, Kasskoff joined as Chief Designer to one of the most important design and decoration studios in France at the time, the Maison Jules Leleu , [ 12 ] and there he developed a long and important work. The Maison Leleu represents at this moment the most refined and characteristic aesthetics of French " art deco ". Kasskoff's work includes the design of furniture, tapestries and murals. At the 1937 Exposition Nationale des Arts et Techniques in Paris, the designer received an Honorable Mention [ 13 ] and the Maisson Leleu, for whom he worked as chief designer, receives the first prize. [ 13 ]
The government of France entrusts the Maison Leleu with the design and decoration of several rooms of the League of Nations building -Société des Nations- in Geneva, and Kasskoff is appointed to design one of the most important rooms in the building: the Salon Privé du Conseil. Kasskoff creates a monumental mural in etched glass, with motifs alluding to peace, as well as the design of the furniture and rugs for this room. [ 14 ] [ 15 ]Some of the tables in this room have drawings by the designer with the same motifs on the mural. This entire complex, currently known as the "French room" or the "Leleu room" has been preserved intact, can be admired online, is part of the French heritage and is open to public visits at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. [ 16 ] [ 15 ]
It is possible to find furniture classified as Leleu-Kaskoff in antique dealers specialized in "art deco". [ 17 ]
Bogotá, 1946-1948: the 9th Pan American Conference
The Colombian government had promised to host the 9th Pan American Conference in 1948, an international commitment whose realization implied an enormous effort for the country in several aspects: definition of Colombian positions in the different international treaties that the Conference would adopt, prior negotiation of these international instruments, and organization of the Conference which would be attended by about 1,000 people. In addition, it was necessary to adapt and decorate the rooms where the different commissions would meet and ensure proper accommodation and attention to the participants. For government entities involved in the thematic aspects of the event, such as BogotáAt the time, it was a huge task. Previously, it had been determined that the appropriate place to hold the Conference sessions would be the National Capitol building, the seat of the Congress of the Republic. Likewise, it had been decided to invite the Maison Leleu to collaborate in the adaptation and decoration of the rooms where the deliberations would take place. Leleu recommended Anatole Kasskoff to carry out this work, as he had previously done for the “Private Council Room” of the League of Nations building in Geneva .
The post-war context in France affected the activity of the most recognized designers, due to the decrease in large state and private projects. Kasskoff accepts Jules Leleu's recommendationHe traveled to Colombia and arrived in Bogotá accompanied by his wife at the beginning of 1946. He began work immediately, collaborating with the company of Mr. Boris Sokoloff, also a Frenchman of Russian origin, and an important furniture manufacturer established in Colombia years ago. The designs and furnishings for the conference rooms were made in a “modern” style, as opposed to the traditional and classic style of French or English inspiration that prevailed in Colombia among the wealthy classes, and were completed in a timely manner for the inauguration of the Conference. They also remodeled the Private House of the Presidency of the Republic, located in the Palacio de San Carlos, currently headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the so-called private house bar at that time, Kasskoff painted a mural alluding to the different geographical regions of the country, which is preserved today. [ 18 ]
In full development of the negotiations, the serious popular disturbances of April 9, 1948 broke out in Bogotá , of exacerbated violence, caused by the murder of the important liberal politician Jorge Eliécer Gaitán , when he left his lawyer's office, located in the center of Bogotá. , not far from the National Capitol where the Conference met. The facilities of the latter were attacked and looted by the protesters, partially destroying the furniture recently released for the occasion, which makes it difficult to find graphic records of these designs. [ 19 ]
Kasskoff's designs for the furniture and environments of the Conference, manufactured in large part by Boris Sokoloff, are considered an important contribution in the trajectory of design in Colombia, since they represented, together with the contributions of new Colombian figures, an update of the design in the country, by expanding the culture and taste for modernity in terms of furniture and decoration.
Bogotá 1949-1978. Foundation of the studio "Anatole Kasskoff Decorador"
Kasskoff decided to stay in Bogotá and in 1949 he founded a design and decoration studio, oriented by a global conception of interior design, within a modernist aesthetic , which could be called post art deco. He only worked for specific assignments and commissions. Undoubtedly, his work is part of innovative international trends that prioritize simple and refined lines, and that could be considered as a distant background of minimalist decoration and design .
In the absence of schools of design in the strict sense and of professional designers, Kasskoff hired architectural draftsmen who worked in his studio under his dedicated direction and whom he directed toward the design of furniture and rugs. Something similar happens with the large group of artisans who were entrusted with the manufacture of furniture and rugs, who were directly and constantly supervised by the designer. Also in this field of training, Kasskoff is recognized for a significant pedagogical work. After the death of his first wife, the designer married Edda González Llorente in Bogotá in 1957.
The Kasskoff studio soon established itself as a place of prestige, high quality, refinement, handmade furniture and exclusive designs for the clients who come to it, who have a taste for modern aesthetics and who wanted to decorate their offices and homes. with a fresh approach. The list of clients is quite wide and includes government institutions, banks, important companies and numerous private clients, Colombian and foreign, whom he decorated all the environments of their houses, also built under new architectural parameters, since in parallel, talented architects Colombians had taken the step towards different versions of modernity. Other clients commissioned the designer to decorate a single room or individual furniture.
Despite the fact that both his experience and his personal taste felt a great affinity and preference for modern design, far from exuberance and strong colors, Kasskoff also accepted commissions for the realization of classic furniture, whose design he also knew, although he did not offer possibilities for innovation and creativity within your personal vision of design. His projects were developed mainly in Bogotá, and occasionally in Medellín , Cali and Manizalez .
Along with his important work as a designer, Kasskoff always maintained his vocation as a painter and watercolorist, which he developed between figuration and abstraction. The Colombian tropics left a clear mark on his work as a painter made in the country, not only in the handling of light and color, but also in the choice of subjects such as the landscape of different tropical areas of Colombia and its various groups of population. [ 21 ] [ 22 ]
A wide and representative set of Kasskoff furniture and environment designs and plans can be found in the Leopoldo Rother Museum of the Faculty of Architecture and Design of the National University of Colombia , Bogotá, and there they are consulted by design professors and students. representatives of the furniture industry and the general public.
Kasskoff passed away in Bogotá on August 30, 1978, leaving a mark and a significant heritage for the development of furniture design in Colombia.
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