Artist to 'fix' work that Putin criticised

A distinguished Russian artist has promised to change a painting he completed 36 years ago after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told him a sword depicted in the work of art was too short.

Mr Putin visited the studio of Ilya Glazunov on Wednesday as part of the artist's 79th birthday celebrations, but when he saw the 1973 painting Oleg with Igor, he couldn't resist casting his refined art critic's judgement on the work.

"The sword is a bit too short, it looks like a pocket knife in his hands," Mr Putin reportedly told the artist. "It looks like it's only good for slicing sausage." The artist agreed and promised to rectify the mistake, remarking that Mr Putin has a good eye for detail. "I don't miss a single detail," the Prime Minister agreed.

Mr Putin may feel qualified to pass judgement on the works of others after a piece he painted for a charity auction fetched 37 million roubles (£750,000) in January. The painting was of a window looking out to a wintry night. The auction's organisers said Mr Putin had "little difficulty" in putting it together.

When looking at another of Glazunov's paintings this week, Mr Putin asked why the artist had drawn Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky together. When told the work was painted from a historical perspective and that Trotsky had indeed played a big role in Russian history, Mr Putin didn't look convinced.

It is not the first time that he has offered his opinion on the arts. After visiting a production of Woe from Wit, a popular Russian play by Alexander Griboyedov, Mr Putin gathered the director and actors and complained that they had made the main character look too weak by having him cry.

It's not just Russians who should be wary of Mr Putin's perfect eyes and ears, either. He told Andrew Lloyd Webber at a recent meeting that he was a big fan of his musical, before accusing the British composer of stealing melodies from Sergei Prokofiev.