August 7, 2021
Grigori Stepanyants was a Russian artist, who was born in Odessa in 1937 and emigrated to the United States in 1976. He lived and painted in New York City for a time, then moved to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, where he had friends who owned an art framing business. I was living in Hilton Head at the time, and one day I wandered into the store to have some paintings framed. I noticed three small, beautifully painted portraits on the wall and could see immediately that they were portraits of the three guys who worked in the store. I was really impressed by the captured likenesses, and I inquired about the artist.
Grigori, I was informed, had had extensive academic training in the Russian classic painting tradition. He studied for five years at the Odessa Arts Institute, followed by six years at the Surikov Moscow Institute of the Arts. Graduating in 1970, he was named one of the top five art students in the Soviet Union. I started to wonder if there was any way I could possibly afford a portrait painted by Grigori of my son and myself. I was a single parent at that time; Timothy and I were a team. We had (and have) a very close relationship, and I thought a portrait of the two of us would be a wonderful way to celebrate that. I didn't really think I would be able to afford a portrait painted by such a prominent artist but, after inquiring, I discovered that maybe I could. Grigori was still struggling to establish himself as a painter in the U.S. and was willing to work with me as far as payment went. I had to pay $1000 down; another $1,500 would be due on completion of the portrait. I was kind of hoping Grigori would paint the portrait very slowly so that I would have time to rustle up the balance which would eventually be due. Little did I know that it would be a case of Be Careful What You Wish For.
Next: Having My Portrait Painted, Part Two.