Pavel Leonov was born in Orel, Russia, south of Moscow near the Ukrainian border. At the age of 16 he fled to a hostel in Ukraine from an abusive father who he describes as a “brutal alcoholic.” He tried to succeed on his own and worked in factories, building tractors. At night, he taught himself to draw from a manual. Between 1936 and 1955 he spent much time in and out of labor camps partly because he was young and impetuous and partly because he had an innate sense of justice and an inquiring mind. Neither of these gifts were appreciated by the Soviet regimes.
Most of Leonov’s work is architectural in nature. The canvases are often laid out in a grid with elements of nature outlining a center for the many village scenes he portrays. They form compositions similar in feeling to a woven Persian rug. “His works are structured not as a single visual space but as a hierarchy of horizontal and vertical segments.” Although Leonov’s work has been shown internationally, his own people consider him a fool. This is of no consequence to the man who continues to dream of life as a joyful, wonderful experience.