(Editorial Note: Much of the success of this site is owed to advice of Jim Horan. When I came up with the idea for the site Penny Meyer and Greg DiFranco highly recommended I call Jim. I did, and Jim was gracious with his time and recommendations. At the Kulmbach Show 2015, he would periodically recommend I interview this person or that. On one occasion he said, “You really need to do an interview with Oleg.”)
I visited with Oleg at the Show and he consented to an interview. It was no small challenge because important events in life can deter us. They are called priorities. They are not interruptions to life, they are life. I am so glad that Oleg had some time to send the photos below and to answer a few questions I sent his way.
I was born in 1955 in the city of Leningrad now Sankt-Peterburg. The city was regarded as a cultural capital of Soviet Russia with its numerous world class museums, universities, concert halls and of course architecture. I think this is the main basis of my life interests, education and profession.
Toy soldiers were always in my life but my dream and love belonged to little flat figures that I had a chance to see at Artillery Museum. There are several dioramas about famous battles and sieges of Russian military history and my friend and I spent hours observing them in every tiny detail.
In 1968 an historical club was organized by Roman Sot – chief librarian of the Artillery Museum. Suddenly I was in the circle of very interesting information: that there are in Leningrad private collectors of flat figures, that it is possible to make copies of figures, that there are people who want and and are able to introduce me to the world of flats.
Yes, there were no possibilities to buy figures, all foreign contacts were highly restricted especially for 7 grade kid. Two main collectors of the old generation were Lushkovski and Lubimov, both their collections ( around 40 thousands figures) are now in Souvarov Memorial Museum, S-Petersburg.
Through the historical club I became acquainted with young boys who had same interests in military history and figures. Most of them later became museum professionals, university professors, teachers of history and of course figure collectors. We were copying original figures in gypsum, casting them on our kitchens, learning painting techniques, collecting information about armies and uniforms. So, my first figures took shape around 1969. I still have some Heinrichsen Lansknechts from that time. In 1971 I saw first figure (the knight with a captured lady on a horse back) from the famous Gottstein’s Burgundian series. This was a cultural shock for me, historical flat figures absolutely captivated my mind. This was the first figure I bought on my first Kulmbach in 1993.
I received education of an architect but a new stage started in 1988 when I enter State Hermitage Museum as an exhibit designer. I spent fifteen years in this wonderful institution, participated in more than 300 exhibitions and realized around 40 of my own projects. Meanwhile huge changes happened in my country, we received a freedom to write and travel abroad. From my travels I brought not only figures but good friendship with famous people in the world of flats like Alfred and Roland Umhey (Lampertheim), Ervin Ortmann, Jim Horan (New York), Gianpaolo Bistulfi, Erica Ochel , Wolfgang Weiss etc. I remember Maryline Neurohr painting her first figures in the mid 90’s. My German friends helped me to go to Kulmbach bourse, while my Polish friends helped me to visit Vienna and participate in the meetings of “1683” club.
In 1988 my hobby activities received a new spin. Two young man Vladimir Nuzdin and Alexander Mitelev created a whole catalogue of self made flat figures for the traveling exhibition. I decided to help them with drawings and this idea later transformed into a long collaboration between Alexander and me. It was time to do my own figures. I engraved three of them but 12 hours for a figure was too long for me I like painting more than engraving. So, I was making drawings and Alexander was engraving and thus we made about 80 different figures. Some series were made especially for dioramas in Souvarov Memorial Museum and for State Hermitage museum gift shop. In the beginning of 90’s I received my first order for figure painting. From this date I was loaded with orders from collectors from France, Germany, Russia,USA. Italy etc.
In 2004 I moved to Canada and was lucky to find a job in Royal Ontario Museum as a senior Preparator. Our department is busy with packing and unpacking of artifacts, designing and making mounts for them, exhibit installation and maintenance. Our great advantage and interest is to have a chance to handle real historical artifacts: Roman bronzes , pottery and sculptures, personal belongings of Indian chiefs like Tecumseh, historical costumes, medieval ivories etc.
So, what is the result of 45 years of my hobby life? A collection of about 15,000 figures, mainly made by famous and my favorite engravers like Ludwig Frank, Sixtus Maier the younger, Otto Thieme, Johannes Frauendorf, Diego Vasques, Daniel Lepeletier. Books and catologues of major manufacturers of Flats like Heinrichsen, Ochel, Mignot, Cortum, Retter, Wunsh and many others. Information about famous editors and figure designers like Otto Gottstein, Raoul Gerard Osterreich, Lucien Rousselot, Ludvig Madlener. With the age of computers and Internet I as well as all collectors have a great advantage of searching through Internet sites and personal pages, downloading and sharing images of newly painted figures, discussing and sharing all kind of information related to our hobby.
What I like? Old 28 mm figures of Heinrichsen and Allgeyer for their great sense of style and elegance. Historical flats of 1920 -1960 for the high quality of design and engraving. Having in mind names of creators, designers, engravers, manufacturers, collectors’ clubs and the amount and variety of figures produced, this time could be called the Golden Age of Flat Figures.
Works of modern producers and engravers like Alexander Baden, Wolfgang Bock, Wolfgang Friederich.
What I don’t like? Large figures after Pin Up drawings or famous portrait and historical paintings. I found vulgar the idea itself. Moreover most of designs and engravings are poor, the whole impression sounds like an amateur caricature to the famous pieces of Art
Here is the collection of figures Oleg recently painted. He writes:
The figures were engraved by Joahannes Frauendorf in 1930’s, molds are now in possession of Wuensh family. Frauendorf lived in Saxony and was the farther of DDR flat figure club one of the most active now. Few years ago they bought part of famous Gottstein’s molds. Figures are depicting cavalry clash at Mars la Tour in 1870.