World-renowned artist arrives at Cumberland

Jared Felkins • Aug 14, 2018 at 6:23 PM

Students will arrive at Cumberland University for the new school year next week, but ahead of them world-renowned artist Igor Babailov will spend some time on campus to capture the sights on canvas. 

On Tuesday, Babailov could be found on the front lawn as he painted a portrait of Memorial Hall. 

“When I’m finished, it will become the possession of Cumberland University for future generations to view and enjoy,” Babailov said.

Babailov, who completed his first portrait before he was 5 years old, has painted portraits on many world leaders such as George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, Vladimir Putin, Gen. David Petreaus, Rudy Guliani, Nelson Mandela, Prince Andrew, actor James Gandolfini, Reggie Jackson, George Washington, Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis and several more.

Many of those people have sat for him. Others, such as Washington, were created from what research he had done on Washington’s likeness. He based his painting on a sculpture of Washington. It is a different perspective than the portrait found on the $1 bill. 

Babailov’s visit to Cumberland will culminate in a free lecture Sept. 6 at 2 p.m. in the Vise Library on campus, which will be open to the public. 

“Cumberland is honored to have world-renowned artist, Maestro Igor Babailov, on our campus,” said Cumberland president Paul Stumb. “Babailov has done portraits of the Pope, several presidents and many government officials and we are proud that he will also be painting our beautiful Memorial Hall. He will be on campus over the next few weeks and will lead a lecture in the Vise Library on Sept. 6 that is open to the public.”

Deemed living master by the Art Renewal Center and recipient of national and international awards and honors, his commissioned portraits of world leaders, celebrities and distinguished individuals are in official public, private, corporate and museum collections.

Through the years, Babaliov has painted more than 2,000 portraits. 

“A lot of artists will take a photo and paint a likeness,” Babailov said. “But fine art portraits are more than that. Quite often I try to incorporate a story behind the printing. When they look at a painting 200 years from now, you will be able to tell who that person was and all the details. To me, it’s a story more than just a visual image.”

Besides a portraitist, Babailov’s work also includes large-scale mural size works such as the historical painting of the Columbus Voyage to the Americas, entitled “For God, Gold and Glory,” which is permanently featured in the Peruvian Encyclopedia. His multi-figured composition, “BELIEVE,” the official historic portrait of Pope John Paul II, now a saint, was commissioned in commemoration of the World Youth Days. It is in the Collection of the Vatican Museum and by the personal decree of the late Pope, it is displayed in Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer home. 

Babailov began his formal training in art education at 9 years old. He competed against thousands of other artists to attend a top art school in his native Russia and was selected as the winner.

“Igor is a world-renowned artist and portrait painter,” Stumb said. “Many people are fortunate enough to have portraits painted by Igor. He comes from a very artistic family. His father was an artist and painter. His father was also a poet. His mother was an award-winning teacher of biology and chemistry. He comes from a background of academics and very well-educated people.”

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