Sergey Dmitrievich Merkurov (7 November 1881 - 8 June 1952) was a prominent Soviet sculptor-monumentalist of GreekArmenian descent. He was a People's Artist of the USSR, an academic at the Soviet Academy of Arts, and director of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts from 1944 to 1949. Merkurov was considered the greatest Soviet master of post-mortem masks. He was the author of the three biggest monuments of Joseph Stalin.
He was the cousin of George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, an Armenian-Greek mystic and spiritual teacher.
Sergey Merkurov was born in Alexandrapol (modern Gyumri, Armenia). He left the Kiev Polytechnic Institute after a political scandal
and moved to Switzerland, where he became a student of Adolf Mayer.
He attended art college in Germany (1902-05) and then entered the Auguste Rodin studio in Paris.
Merkurov returned to the Russian Empire in 1907 as he was called by the Armenian Apostolic Church authorities to execute a post-mortem mask of Catholicos Mkrtich Khrimian. It was his first work of this kind. Then he lived in Tbilisi, Yalta, Moscow, and made post-mortem (death) masks of Leo Tolstoy, Hovhannes Tumanyan, Vladimir Lenin and his wife, Maxim Gorky, Vladimir Mayakovsky and other famous persons. The technique itself is not an easy process. The author pours plaster on the body's face and puts a thread in the middle of it. Then, another material like bronze or plaster is poured inside the mask and this is how an actual-size face of the deceased results.
Merkurov was an outstanding representative of academic modern style, employing the themes of death and stone blocks. As a philosopher of the arts, Merkurov also used motifs of thought (Monument of Dostoevsky, 1911-1913; The figureportrait of Thought, 1918).
During his Moscow lectures Ouspensky was approached by two men, Vladimir Pohl and Sergei Dmitrievich Mercourov. They told him of an occult group to which they belonged, and which, oddly enough, was led by the “certain Hindu”—actually a Caucasian Greek—responsible for the ballet scenario “The Struggle of the Magicians,” the notice for which Ouspensky had come across a few months earlier.
They spoke of the work the group was engaged in, and of “Gurdjieff’s”—the Greek’s—aims. To Ouspensky it seemed heady, confused, and extremely doubtful material. Mercourov, however, was persistent, and it was more than likely out of the desire to quiet his entreaties than out of any real interest that Ouspensky finally broke down and agreed to meet the mysterious Mr. Gurdjieff.
Merkurov was known as a free-thinker and an extraordinary person. He was a member of the Masonic "United Workers' Brotherhood", the Association of Painters of Revolutionary Russia and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
For Joseph Stalin's 70th birthday, Merkurov made a special gift, a costly granite monument called "Death of the Leader". Stalin refused to accept it and a difficult period in the sculptor's life began.
Merkurov was honored with burial at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow. In 1953 hisNotes of a Sculptor was published.