Gregori Furman was born in White Russia on May 3rd, 1938. His parents, Michael and Chana, lived at the time in Gomel, a small town not far from Moscow.
Michael served as a blacksmith in the Russian army during WWII. When he returned home after the war, he brought back a pencil he had found in Berlin and carried with him to battle and back – a gift for his 7-year-old son. (This was before his talent was discovered.)
From the moment he touched this new “toy”, Gregori found that he had a natural affinity for drawing. He drew his first picture in school; it was a modest drawing of an apple, very much like the one his mother would pack for lunch every day. Very much alike, actually: When Gregori’s teacher reviewed all the children’s art, she suddenly stopped and stared at his drawing in amazement. “This apple looks like it can be picked right off the paper and eaten”, she told him. “You will grow up to be a world-renowned artist!.”
Gregori’s love for art only grew from there. When asked what drives him to art, he said money and fame meant nothing to him; all he ever wanted was to light up the world with beautiful art that touches other people.
At age 12, Gregori was encouraged by his art teacher Victor to attend the city’s formal art studio and hone his craft under the tutelage of the area’s greatest artists. He studied there until the early 1950s, during which time he visited countless museums in Moscow and Saint Petersburg to discover the works of Repin and Rembrandt.
The day Gregori turned 13, his grandfather Eliezer approached him with a shot of whiskey. He told him that he was now a grown man, and went on to draw and explain the concept of the Magen David, the 6-pointed Jewish star. Eliezer warned Gregori to never forget it, and to keep it a secret in his heart. In KGB Russia, Eliezer was right to fear...
Gregori soon learned to live the same way, hiding his Jewish identity for the following two decades. It was only through a succession of miraculous events that, at the age of 30, he met a good Jewish girl and married her in secret.
At the time, Russia’s people were poor and no one had any spare change to buy art. Gregori and his wife were living meager put peaceful lives, until the KGB learned of his remarkable talent. They forced him to move to Moscow. Once there, they made him stand in the freezing cold for days on end, painting Stalin’s likeness on prominent Kremlin buildings. Gregori loved the art, but his bitterness for communism was brewing.
In the late 1980s, while traveling between Turkey and Russia for work, an admirer of his art offered Gregori a passport and visa to immigrate to Vienna. Gregori saw this as an opportunity to finally forsake his cursed motherland and to build a new life for his family.
He later came to America and settled in New Jersey. He lives there today, though still in fear of the KGB and their frightening reach. Gregori draws and paints in a secret studio, and lives without a cellphone or the Internet out of fear that they will track him down…
The one thing that keeps him going is his undying love for art. Inspired by his favorite artists, Rembrandt, Surika and Repin, Gregori’s stylistic leanings follow those of realism and impressionism. Above all, though, he still believes the same as he did all those years ago in Russia: Money, fame and art genres don’t matter. As long as his soul is visible in his work, he considers his art beautiful.