This honors thesis analyzes the artwork of Odesan Jewish painter Yefim Ladyzhensky by incorporating information from his unpublished essay collection to contextualize selections from his body of artwork. Ladyzhensky was born in 1911 in Odesa, Russian Empire, and died in 1982 in Israel. He began his artistic career as a set designer, and branched into easel painting in the 1960s, later emigrating to Jerusalem. My project focuses on two major painting series of his, Odessa of My Youth, a collection of over two hundred paintings of childhood scenes, and Red Cavalry, based on Isaac Babel’s short story cycle of the same name. After emigrating to Israel in 1978, he dictated twelve essays musing on his artwork and childhood to his daughter. Some selections have been translated and published, but the majority of the essays remain untranslated and inaccessible to English speakers interested in the subject. Incorporating these insights from the artist himself, it is clear that his artwork and writings not only are a valuable primary source on the history of Odesa, but also emerge from and conversate with the “Odesa text,” primarily the work of writer Isaac Babel. The “Odesa text” is understood as a common urban discourse appearing in work by writers and thinkers such as Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh, Sholem Aleichem, Isaac Babel, Eduard Bagritsky, and Valentin Kataev. It posits Odesa as a sort of anti-St. Petersburg, a sunny, diverse, criminal, dangerous, and importantly Jewish urban space. I argue that Ladyzhensky’s paintings and drawings are a visual continuation of the literary “Odesa text.” This connection appears not only in Red Cavalry, which is a direct adaptation of Babel’s story cycle, but also in Ladyzhensky’s Odessa of My Youth.
Voorhees, Beatrice, "Out of Odesa: Yefim Ladyzhensky and the "Odesa text" of Jewish-Soviet Culture" (2023). Slavic Studies Honors Papers. 7.
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The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.