1.6.7 Socialist Realism (1920s-1960s)

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QUICK LINKS:
Transport returns to normal, Yakovlev
Building New Factories, Deineka
Increase the Productivity of Labour, Pimenov
Death of a Commisar, Petrov-Vodkin
Lenin in Smolny, Brodsky
New Moscow, Pimenov

Stalin and Voroshilov in the Kremlin, Gerasimov
Letter from the Front, Laktionov
Soldier Liberator, Vuchetich
Bread, Yablonskaya
The Founding Ceremony of the Nation, Xiwen
We will fulfil the Party’s commission!, Berezovsky

A form of modern realism imposed in Russia by Stalin following his rise to power after the death of Lenin in 1924, and characterised in painting by rigorously optimistic pictures of Soviet life painted in a realist style.

More cynically the term Socialist Realism refers to paintings and sculptures that are superficilly realistic while carrying and conveying a socialist message, so it is political realism. Of course Russia had been engaged with realism through the Peredvizhniki and Abramtsevo Colony and were at the forefront of avant-garde developments.

This new movement evolved by sprinkling propaganda over the everyday conditions in the country and by developing cultural icons while presenting positive images of the political leadership. While this initially engaged capable artists, in becoming obligatory the system began to stifle experiment and eliminate truthful visual representations. Any political critique was dealt with severely.

Its exponents would argue that it sought to appeal to a mass audience, promoting an admiration of its citizens working to build the communist society. Its paintings depicted the working man as heroic, its sculptures were figurative monuments.

[Source: tate.org.uk/Wikimedia commons]

[1670-10]

While posters were a significant part of Socialist Realism, ultcult has placed this in a separate Russian Propaganda section.

Yakovlev’s work asserted the legitimacy and necessity of the existence of a landscape painting in Soviet painting, asserted the possibility of expressing in it the great idea of the socialist reorganization of the Soviet land, of pride in a young republic that had defended its existence in the fire of civil war and started peaceful work.

The artist painted a modest railway station at an early hour. The smoke of locomotives, the hurrying figures of people, all indicate that after years of inactivity, it revived.

Muscovite Boris Yakovlev became a Member of the Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia in 1922) and acted as one of its organisers, Later he became.a Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Arts (1958). This 1923 painting was addressing the industrialisation of the country.
[Source: painting-planet.com]
Image source: soviet-art.ru
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Transport is Improving1923Oil/CanvasLandscape
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Yakovlev, Boris 1890-1972, aged 82Russian painterSocialist Realism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1670-11]

State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow  

Image source: tretyakovgallery.ru
A unique figure in 20th-century Russian culture who played an active role at moments when this culture was going through dramatic changes, Alexander Deineka experimented with modernism in his young years, before later becoming one of the cornerstones of Socialist Realism.

Deyneka worked through the chnaging times, the 1920s, the 1930s and the 1940s-1960s. Reality set out for him (as for others) its cruel rules, but he was probably the only artist to have made such radical shifts in his work. As a reult he is regarded as one of the most important Russian modernist figurative painters of the early 20th century.
[Source: tretyakovgallerymagazine.com]
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Building New Workshops1926Oil/CanvasGenre painting
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Deyneka, Aleksandr Aleksandrovich1899-1969, aged 70Russian painterSocialist Realism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1670-12]

State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow21 x 20  
This picture of a steel factory in action, is also known as ‘Give Us the Heavy Industry’.

The work is hard; they are wearing leather to protect themselves as they struggle bare-chested towards a vast flame. The glare from the fire occupies a large corner of the canvas, but the men are clearly the subject of the work.
The five workers are stoic in facing the heat, as in the background others are shovelling coal.

Pimenov blends his early avant-garde influences with Socialist Realism. The city glimpsed through an open door is a nod to those who will benefit from this labour.
[Source: theartstory.org]


Image source: cpa.org.au
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Increase the Productivity of Labour1927Oil/CanvasGenre painting
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Pimenov, Yuri 1903-1977, aged 73Russian painterSocialist Realism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1670-13]

State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow  

Image source: rusmuseumvrm.ru
 This piece was commissioned by the Revvoyensoviet (Revolutionary Military Council) for an exhibition marking ten years of the RKKA (The Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army).

The mortally wounded commissar and a soldier supporting him are posed Pieta-like, and echoes sacrifice for humanity.
[Source: rusmuseumvrm.ru]
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Death of a Commisar1928Oil/CanvasHistory painting
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Petrov-Vodkin, Kuzma Sergeevich1878-1939, aged 60Russian painterSocialist Realism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1670-14]

State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow196 x 248  
Brodsky’s portrait of Lenin, one of the most iconic works of Socialist Realist art, depicts Lenin at the Smolny Institute, the headquarters of the revolutionary government in the months immediately following the October Revolution.

All the details of the scene are intended to contrast with the excessive opulence of Tsarist Russia, from the dustsheets thrown over the chairs in the makeshift office to Lenin’s humble attire and expression of calm concentration.

Standing at nearly three meters high, the canvas presents the leader as almost life-size, enhancing the quality of naturalistic accuracy which pervades the work. The rendering of the polished wood of the furniture, the texture of the fabrics, and the gleaming floor, show Brodsky’s technical talent – the piece is almost photographic in its accuracy.

This is considered as one of the most iconic works of Socialist Realism. The revolutionary central council located its HQ in the Smolny Institute for Young Noble Ladies in Petrograd. Lenin has no frills and is business-like.
[Source: theartstory.org]

Image source: musings-on-art.org
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Lenin in Smolny1930Oil/CanvasPortrait
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Brodsky, Isaak 1883-1939, aged 55Russian painterSocialist Realism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1670-15]

State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow0  

Image source: izi.travel
Yuri Pimenov’s 1937 painting places the viewer in the back of an open-top car cruising through central Moscow, a female driver at the wheel.

All around is progress: cars are everywhere, a tram moves towards new high-rise buildings, while an entrance to the new and much vaunted Moscow subway is visible to the side. Scattered across the scene like flecks of color, busy people hurry about their day.

Layers of symbolic imagery can be detected beneath the everyday surface of the image; the red flower propped on the windshield of the car, for example, indicates the artist’s support for the Soviet Government.

In spite of the strict enforcement of Socialist Realist principles by this point in Stalin’s regime, Pimenov’s work indicates the limited but inevitable extent to which stylistic experiment continued to be practiced by Russian artists.
[Source: theartstory.org]
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
New Moscow1937Oil/CanvasLandscape
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Pimenov, Yuri 1903-1977, aged 73Russian painterSocialist Realism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1670-16]

State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow   
This image of the two leaders near the Kremlin was much copied, with copies supplied to governement institutions. It was not just social realism, but part of a cult of personality that Stalin employed widely.

Gerasimov’s monumental double-portrait shows Joseph Stalin accompanied by his faithful ally Kliment Voroshilov, one of the original five Marshals of the Soviet Union. Both are depicted as models of concentrated attention. The pair mimic each other’s postures in a show of unity as they walk alongside a Kremlin tower. The men appear deep in conversation, their forward glances signifying a focus on the Soviet Union’s bright future. In the background, barely visible, the proletariat form a line outside a factory.
[Source: theartstory.org]

Image source: Wikimedia commons
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Stalin and Voroshilov in the Kremlin1938Oil/CanvasPortrait
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Gerasimov, Aleksandr 1881-1963, aged 81Russian painterSocialist Realism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1670-17]

State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow296 x 386  

Image source: en.opisanie-kartin.com
Laktionov’s most famous painting, which was awarded the Stalin Prize.

In this image we see a mother and her young children gathered in an open doorway, reading a letter from a father or brother at the front, brought home by a fellow soldier sent presumably on recovery leave. The happy group smile alongside the injured friend in uniform, the cheerful optimism of the scene complemented by the bright colors of the sky and the sunlight which drenches the village square, bathing the children’s faces in light. The piece pulsates with warmth, suggesting little of the anxiety and trauma which would presumably have accompanied such a meeting.

This actually happened to the artist, he had been evacuated and met and guided a wounded soldier to the destination of where the letter he carried was intended. The individuals used as models were his children, a friend and a neighbour. The message is that the letter from postpones the fears of death for the woman’s husband. On this sunny day there is happiness and hope for the future.
[Source: theartstory.com]
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Letter from the Front1947Oil/CanvasGenre painting
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Laktionov, Alexander 1910-1972, aged 61Russian painterSocialist Realism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1670-18]

State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow0  
This 30m high statue is at Treptoweer Park in Berlin. It is dedicated to the liberating Russian soldier, victory over Nazi Germany.

It is the last of a triptych of statues the other two are in Russia and commemorate the rear front, the defence of Stalingrad.
[Source: Wikimedia commons]

Image source: Wikimedia commons
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Soldier-Liberator1848-1949Oil/CanvasSculpture
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Vuchetich. Yevgeny 1908-1974, aged 65Russian sculptorSocialist Realism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1670-19]

Treptower Park Memorial, Berlin0  

Image source: en.opisanie-kartin.com
This work, also known as Grain, depicts a lively scene of activity on a collective farm or Kolkhoz.

A group of women smile and talk as they work the harvest, holding shovels, tying bags, and carrying grain; a central figure rolls up her sleeves, standing tall and proud with a beaming smile on her face.

Dominating the composition is a large pile of grain waiting to be transported, whose presence adds to a warm colour-palette suggesting optimism, dynamism, and vitality.
[Source: theartstory.com]
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Bread1949Oil/CanvasGenre painting
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Yablonskaya, Tatiana 1917-2005, aged 87Russian painterSocialist Realism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1670-20]

State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow  
This picture was commissioned after the Communists took control of China.

It commemorates Mao Zedong and other leaders founding the People’s Republic of China at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on 1st October 1949.

It is one of the most celebrated works of official Chinese art, of social realism. Entertainingly, it was regularly updated as the pictured leaders fell in and out of power.
[Source: theartstory.org]

Image source: Wikimedia commons
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
The Founding Ceremony of the Nation1953Oil/CanvasHistory painting
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Dong Xiwen 董希文1914-1973, aged 58Chinese painterSocialist Realism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1670-21]

National Museum of China, Beijing229 x 400  

Image source: Wikimedia commons
This poster exemplifies Socialist Realism – see others at 1.5.6.7 Russian Propaganda,
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
We will fulfil the Party’s commission!19570Poster
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Berezovsky, Igor 1942-2007, aged 64Russian painterSocialist Realism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):  
  

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