NADFAS Russian Art of the the Early Twentieth Century – Theodora Clarke

Much was lost after the Russian Revolution but I hadn’t realised that we had lost so much stunning art. Not that the paintings were destroyed but the  Russian artists fled and those that remained or emerged were forced to paint along the party line. And whilst that did result in a very stylised form of design art such as  this Soviet Constructavism ,


It also resulted in nauseating sycophant art such as this Social Realism. Whatever Stalin was he wasn’t an idiot he understood that art was a very persuasive way of spreading a message with ease and force, especially to a largely illiterate society.
What is easy to forget is that prior to the revolution Eastern Russia was very European, all thorough their art you can see echoes of Paris, Rome, Stockholm. As you travel into the heart of Russia you see more art that is simply Russian inspired, two schools of art both pulling in different directions and looking to different sources for their inspiration; all lost due to cultural hegemony.
Clarke briefly discussed the artistic movements and artists that many of us may have heard of; the “Jack of Knaves” Diagliev, Malevich, Kandinsky, the Ballet Russe, generally we know these artists because they left Russia fearing the Soviet approach to art, but then we moved on to discuss who had been forgotten or suppressed.
Artists like Repin and Serov clearly looked to Europe.

Ilya Repin 1873




Ilya Repin 1873


Valetin Serov 1887

Whereas artists such as Vrubel and Goncharova had a style of art more firmly rooted in a sense of Russia, its people, religion and fairy tales.

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Not all artists fled or were smothered, Pavel Filonov painted this portrait of Stalin that perfectly represented social Realism and yet behind the scenes he was painting wildly avant garde painting often showing great misery.
 Ultimately, an incredibly talented and exciting artistic nation was suffocated and as a country was the poorer for it.
Links – 

Soviet Constructivism
Social Realism

The Arts in Russia Under Stalin


The Russian Experiment in Art 1863-1922 (World of Art) 
by Camilla GrayMarian Burleigh-Motley 

The Russian Vision: The Art of Ilya Repin 
by David Jackson 

Russian and Soviet Views of Modern Western Art, 1890s to Mid-1930s (Documents of Twentieth-Century Art) 
by Ilia Dorontchenkov

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