Thursday, May 31, 2012

Isaak Israelovitch Brodsky

Isaak Israelovitch Brodsky (1884-1939) was a Russian painter who bridged the pre-Soviet and Soviet eras. Mentored by Ilya Repin, one of the great 19th century Russian painters, Brodsky went on to be one of the seminal figures in the Socialist Realism school.

 Alley in the Park (1930)

 At the Coffin of the Leader (1925)

 Demonstration (1930)

 Fairy Tale (1911)
[a pre-Soviet era painting]

 Golden Autumn (1913)

Fallen Leaves (1915)

 Self-Portrait with Daughter (1911)

  Speech by Lenin at a Rally of Workers (1929)

 Mikhail Frunze (1929)
[who was Frunze?]

 Street Scene in Winter (1919-20)

The Execution of the Twenty-Six Baku Commissars (1929)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


In the new Soviet state, education of new generations of citizens was of supreme importance, so it's not surprising that there are many paintings of schooling from Soviet artists. Most of these are overtly political, but there are some surprising exceptions.

 Alexander Haskelevich Kerzhner: In the First Class

 Gleb Barabanshchikov: Tenth Graders

 Grigory Gavrilenko: Learning from the Excellent

 Ivan Kozlov: A Beginner's Entrance (1950)

 Vasili Efanov: Graduation Day, Red Square

The following two unusual paintings depict students in difficulty, a surprising departure from the relentlessly optimistic tone of the preceding paintings. One imagines that these are from the post-Stalin era, though the second one is from the year before Stalin's death.
Viktor Tsvetkov: Unsolved (1969)

Fedor Reshetnikov: Low Marks Again (1952)
[more about this painting] [still more (scroll down a bit)]

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Great Patriotic War

The Soviets called World War II the "Great Patriotic War." Arguably the single most devastating episode in Russian/Soviet history, it cost 20 million Soviet lives. May 9th is Victory Day in Russia, celebrated to this day.

Naturally the Great Patriotic War received a lot of attention from Soviet artists. This is the first of several sets of these paintings, which include equal parts of sacrifice, determination, and triumphalism.

 A. Krasnov: For the Motherland (1958)

 Aleksandr Laktionov: A Letter From the Front (1947)

 Alexander Alexandrovich Deyneka: The Defense of Sebastopol (1942)

Regarding the following, an article in Passport Moscow (2007) has this to say:
One of the best pictures by Arkadi Plastov (1893-1972) is called ‘A Nazi Plane Has Flown Over’ (1942). The peaceful beauty of the Russian land, and the stillness and enchantment of autumn have been brutally violated by the enemy. A small dog is howling beside the body of a shepherd boy machine-gunned to death by the Nazi plane that has just flown over. The image throbs with pain and hatred for the enemy. Plastov’s painting was shown for the first time at the Great Patriotic War exhibition mounted in the halls of the Tretyakov Gallery in November 1942.
 Arkady Plastov: A Nazi Plane Flew By (1942)

 E. A. Korneev: The Siege of Leningrad (1951)

 F. Usypenko: Night Fight

 Fedor Ivanovich Deryazhnyi: Fascists are on the Run

The final painting here is one of my favorites. No triumphalism here - simply a vast sense of relief that it's all over. A brilliant, brilliant depiction.
Georgi Melikhov: Victory Day in Berlin (1960)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fedor Shapaev

 Country Doctor (1967)

 Not Far From the Motherland (1955)

Young Pioneer at the Door

The Collective Farm Electrician (ca. 1960)

I'm struck by the similarity of Shapaev's painting (above) and Norman Rockwell's treatment of the same subject (below). Yes, Shapaev's painting plays up the drama of the situation a little more, but still they're very similar. Both paintings are celebrations of progress and ordinary working people.

Norman Rockwell: The Lineman (1949)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Arkady Plastov, ctd

Here are some more by Arkady Plastov.

A Frontline Vet (1942)

 Picking Potatoes (1956)

 Spring (Old Village Bath) (1954)

 Summertime (1953-54)

 The Young Couple

 They are Going to the Elections

The following painting, Threshing on the Collective Farm, got Plastov in some trouble. 
Arkadii Plastov (the author of A Collective Farm Festival and twice a Stalin Prize laureate) was not as successful with this theme as his colleagues. His painting Threshing on the Collective Farm (1949) shows a similar scene from the life of collective farmers, but critics said that the land is shown as if it is exhausted and that the faces of the peasants are not happy enough and show tension. This would be more appropriate for the depiction of tsarist Russia, but not the socialist reality. ("Stalin as Art Critic and Art Patron," by Elena Postnikova)
 Threshing on the Collective Farm (1949)

 Tractor Drivers (1943)

Village in March

Monday, May 21, 2012

Alexei and Sergei Tkachev

Alexei (or Aleksei) and Sergei Tkachev were brothers who collaborated on their paintings. There's a good summary of their work here (you need to scroll down a ways to find them).

 Children (1960)

 Curious Onlookers (1962)

 In the Bath (1974)

 Laundresses (1956-57)

 On the Veranda (1987)


 The Postgirl in Winter (1951)

 Windy Day (1957)

Between Battles (1958-1960)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Arkady Plastov

Arkady Plastov (1893-1972) was a popular Soviet artist whose paintings of nature and village life are finding new appreciation.

 Birch Forest (1939)

 Collective-Farm Festival (1937)

 Elections to the Committee of Poor Peasants

Harvest (1945)

 Haymaking (1945)

 Mama (1964)

 Midday (1961)

Pay Day (1951)