26.07.1898, Melitopol, Ukraine – 05.07.1980, Moscow
Painter, graphic artist, stage designer
Tyshler’s father was a joiner and cabinet-maker, and his mother, who was Jewish, was from the Caucasus. He was their eighth child. After revealing his artistic abilities very early on, he studied at the Kiev Art School from 1912 to 1917. After leaving, he attended the studio-school of Alexandra Ekster. Tyshler served in the Red Army during the Civil War – in what he described as ‘the artistic section’, painting posters and slogans. His memories of this period formed the basis of his series of pictures and drawings with the overall title 'Makhnovshchina' (1920–30). From 1918 he was a member of the Kultur Lige, the international organisation that was an alternative to Zionism, and which spoke out in defence of Yiddish-language culture. He took part in the first exhibition of Jewish art in 1920.
Tyshler was in Moscow from 1921. He studied for a time with Vladimir Favorsky, but became disenchanted with his teacher. Apparently Favorsky’s strict system was foreign to his romantic nature. In 1921 he organised the Elektroorganizm group of artists and projectionists, along with Solomon Nikritin, Alexander Labas, Kliment Redko and Sergey Luchishkin. At the group’s exhibitions Tyshler showed geometric abstractions from his series 'Colour and Form in Space'. In 1925 the projectionists joined the Society of Easel Painters which tried, before all arts groups were banned in 1932, to oppose the Socialist Realism that was being forced on them from above.
When compared to other artists of his generation, Tyshler’s life went well. At the end of the 1920s his works were included in almost all important exhibitions of Soviet art abroad, and he was exhibited at the 16th and 17th Biennales in Venice (1928, 1930). Even though he was subject to attacks by official critics from the mid-1930s and for a certain time could not exhibit his paintings, he worked actively in the theatre, and it was not simply an enforced way of life. Tyshler loved the theatre, and for him it was an organic form of artistic utterance. In the 1930s he worked as the principal designer for Romen, the world’s first Gypsy theatre, and from 1941 to 1949 he was the principal designer of GOSET, the State Jewish Theatre. For many years he was a friend of the great Jewish actor Samuil Mikhoels. Known for his productions of Shakespeare in the theatres of Moscow and Leningrad, all in all Tyshler designed more than 100 shows. He was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1946 for his design for the show Freylekhs (Festive) at the Jewish Theatre.
Throughout all this time Tyshler remained above all a painter and graphic artist. He was a romanticist, a lyricist, a visionary and a story-teller; his cycles include 'Showman', 'Fairy-tale City', 'Masquerade', 'Clowns', 'Festival' and 'Puppet Theatre'. Despite all the obstacles put up by the authorities, Tyshler had more than fifty exhibitions. His successful solo exhibition at the Pushkin Museum in 1966 was something almost without precedent for a living artist. V.G.