Monday, August 13, 2012

Meeting Stalin

Vasili Efanov: An Unforgettable Meeting (1936-37)

Regarding this work of propagandistic art, Hungarian art historian Reuben Fowkes has this to say:
Vasili Efanov’s An Unforgettable Meeting (1936-7) dominates the first large hall of the exhibition space, subordinating the surrounding canvases with its aesthetic intensity and indubitable monumentality. Book reproductions of this work fail to convey the bright and uncanny light with which everything in the picture is bathed, or the intense melodrama of the moment depicted, in which a model collective farm girl gets her hand grasped by the benevolent father of the Soviet universe. Stalin and the pretty girl are surrounded by applauding Soviet dignitaries and a chorus of joyful peasant women, but although everyone is smiling, no one looks anyone else in the eye, nor dares to look directly at the magical coupling at the centre of things; all stare benignly into the middle distance, a metaphorical (and hallucinogenic) state used to suggest the dawning socialist future. Resplendent bunches of flowers on the walls and table embellish the areas of the tableau not already filled with smiling faces, creating the impression of unlimited happiness and abundance, and driving out any lurking shadows of doubt from this unforgettable orgy of Stalinist excess.


  1. I have come across reproductions of this extraordinary painting before.

    Interesting reading the Fowkes' quote -- which may be even more tendentious and propagandistic, if possible, than the painting. Why would anyone be looking each other in the eye when they are trying to see the exchange? It certainly appears that many are "daring to look directly at the magical coupling" but I have not seen the original. (I visited the Tretyakov Gallery a few years ago but did not see it.)

    I do notice a couple of men staring off in a different direction, which is perhaps odd-- they must be hallucinating, per Fowkes, about the "dawning socialist future".

    Well, he's an art historian and he's got to write something bombastic. (The link to the book above is dead.) I thought of acquiring the book for my library but it's $140 on Amazon so it will have to wait.

    Again, thank you for your fascinating blog on art.

    1. Well, remember Fowkes was from Hungary - a Soviet satellite state with some bad experiences of Russian "benevolence". So perhaps not surprising his take on the painting is political.