Ivan Gregorewitch Olinsky left his native Russia and immigrated to the United States at the age of thirteen. Only two years later, the promising artist enrolled in classes at the prestigious National Academy of Design. Soon after, he studied art at the famed Art Students League, where esteemed painters such as William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri were known to teach. Olinksy soon followed other American artists in traveling to Europe, but returned after three years abroad. Eventually, the artist established a professional affiliation with the Old Lyme Art Colony in 1922, summering in the region throughout his life. In his latter years, Olinsky served as a teacher at his alma maters, the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League.
During the early 1900s, Olinsky served as an assistant to the stained glass artist and muralist, John LaFarge. Although evidence of this training can be seen in the vivid, jewel like colors used in portraits such as, Young Woman with Lilies, the majority of his work demonstrates knowledge of the techniques used by the famous nineteenth-century painter, James Abbott McNeil Whistler. Olinsky’s oeuvre reflects a “Whistlerian” inspiration in his choice subject – portraits of women – and the style in which most of these examples are painted. Even still, his fractured brushstrokes and his overall design express individuality in the quiet, contemplative mood they impart to his models. Works such as Portrait of a Woman reveal the artist’s unique ability to present not only the sitter, but her inner thoughts as well.
Olinsky’s talent in portraiture earned the artist numerable accolades during his lifetime including membership in the National Academy of Design, The National Society of Mural Painters, the Lotos Club and the Salmagundi Club. A retrospective of the artist’s work was organized in 1995 and traveled to The Florence Griswold Museum and the William Benton Museum at the University of Connecticut. Currently, Olinsky’s paintings can be seen at museums nation-wide including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Montclair Museum of Art, Norfolk Art Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Falk, Peter Hastings, ed.. Who Was Who in American Art 1564-1975: 400 Years of
Artists in America. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1999.
Raynor, Vivien. “Art; Portraits and Wall Drawings,” New York Times, 6 August, 1995.
Zellman, Michael David. 300 Years of American Art. Secaucus: Wellfleet Press, 1987.
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