Known all over the world for his bright and imaginative palette knife art, Leonid Afremov has come a long way that started in a picturesque Belarusian town called Vitebsk, the birthplace of Marc Chagall whose works greatly influenced his own painting manner. He was born 12 July 1955 in a traditional Jewish family and was brought up to respect the heritage of his nation. His artistic talent manifested back in school where he attended all possible classes encouraged by his parents.
After graduating in 1973, Afremov entered the arts and graphics department of the Vitebsk Education Institute. During this period, the young artist discovered the exciting world of Impressionism, particularly Marc Chagall and Amedeo Modigliani. Fascinated with their style, he made his first serious attempts at painting some of which were displayed at college exhibitions and even sold to local buyers. This was also the time he fell in love with his future wife, Inessa Kagan. They married in 1976 and in 1977 their first son Dmitry was born.
The following year, Afremov graduated with honors and got a job of a liquor label designer. At the same time, he was taking private lessons from local painter Barowski and doing freelance work for various establishments. In 1984, the family celebrated the birth of their second son Boris. Things seemed to be looking up. However, the artist couldn’t win wide recognition because of his Jewish origin. Local art associations refused to accept him despite his obvious talent. His early paintings were sold privately, many of them simply given away for free. Constant discrimination, together with the Chernobyl catastrophe, urged the family to emigrate to Israeli in 1990 hoping to build a better life in their historic homeland.
In Israeli, Afremov found a job in a gallery shop where he was first introduced to the palette knife, although he mainly worked with watercolors and acrylics struggling to keep up with demand. But because he was a Russian immigrant, he kept being discriminated in his native country just like he used to be back in Vitebsk. Local galleries and exhibitions offered very low prices for his works or refused to display them at all. In 1994, his teenage son Dmitry went around the neighborhood selling the artist’s paintings from door to door. That allowed the family to make a little more money. Soon enough, he raised enough funds to open his own gallery, but it wasn’t very popular and was repeatedly vandalized by locals. In the late 1990s, Afremov switched to oils and a palette knife. His first significant work was a series of jazz musician portraits painted in his signature style we know and love today.
In 2001, after another act of vandalism, the Afremov family moved to the U.S., a decision that opened another chapter in their life. New York galleries were eager to display and sell Leonid’s paintings, but he again found himself limited to a narrow selection of popular themes. In 2004, his son Boris introduced the artist to eBay which allowed him to contract customers directly and avoid gallery commissions. Afremov quickly became famous all over the internet. And even though his health condition forced the family to move to Boca Raton where the artist currently resides and works, the official internet store opened in 2007 by his songs allows him to keep in touch with his audience and successfully share his art with everyone willing to enjoy it.