30 September 2012, 13:16

Socialist realism: The History of Russian art in 15 paintings. PART II

Socialist realism: The History of Russian art in 15 paintings. PART II

Through years the social realism was the only legitimate artistic style in the Soviet Union. After the perestroika in the mid 70s, the Soviet ways were wryly criticized, the paintings, which only recently were considered to be model, mocked and laughed at and their painters stigmatized as the “voice of the blood-thirsty regime.”

Socialist realism: The History of Russian art in 15 paintings. PART I

Letter From the Front by Alexander Laktionov, 1947

“I’ve painted everything from life. I’ve only broadened the doorway a little and transformed a monastery yard into a square of a small provincial town. Everything else has fitted all right. I was not squeamish about painting worn and rotten boards and a cracked wall. The work lasted two summer seasons, two sunny summers, such summers are a rare occurrence.”

Alexander Laktionov

During the preparation for the all-Union art exhibition in 1947, the painting was criticized. A representative of the Committee on the Arts said that “there should not be such floors in the Soviet reality”. As a result, the picture was hung in a narrow, dark passage. But very soon it occupied a fitting place in the hall, because that was the wish of the audience. The picture was an unbelievable success. When it was hanging in the corridor, it was so crowded there that guides complained it was impossible to lead a group past the painting by Laktionov. Three-quarters of all the entries in the visitors' book recognized the Letter From the Front - the best painting at the exhibition.

The Relay Race on the Ring B by Alexander Deineka, 1947

“The fact that I kept changing genres of creative work is not my fault (if it is a fault); this is the law of time, but probably I remained myself in essence. I know that tomorrow will give something new to me that will form the basis of my works, and I sincerely want this new to be deeply humane and beautiful. I understand painting, fine painting, but I prefer drawing form. While others know much about subtle nuances of tone and are absolutely indifferent to gross distortions of form, I am, on the contrary, very sensitive to subtle forms of rhythm and satisfied with simple color solutions.”

Alexander Deineka

State Reception in the Kremlin on May 24, 1945 by Dmitry Nalbandian

State Reception in the Kremlin on May 24, 1945 by Dmitry Nalbandian

Photo: the museum-workshop of people's artist of the USSR D. A. Nalbandian

“Stalin executed a few artists. At first they were summoned to the Kremlin in order to immortalize the leader and teacher. And obviously they failed to please the leader. Stalin wanted to be tall. And the hands should be the same length.

Artist Nalbandian outwitted everybody. On his portrait, Stalin with his hands folded somewhere on the stomach makes it straight towards the spectator. The view is taken from below.From this angle, even a midget seems a giant. Nalbandian followed Mayakovski’s advice: an artist should look at a model like a duck looks at a balcony. And from this duck’s position Nalbandian painted the portrait of Stalin. Stalin was greatly pleased. Reproductions of the portrait were hung in all institutions - even in hairdressing salons and in bathhouses.”

Dmitry Shostakovich, composer

Another Bad Mark (Opyat Dvoika) by Fyodor Reshetnikov, 1952

“Having decided to create a genre painting about school exams, he began to attend lessons at school. He would sit in the last row of desks and watch the kids. He wanted to show the joy of a pupil who got an excellent mark. Once a teacher called the best pupil to the blackboard, and he started stumbling and mumbling and as a result got a bad mark. His upset face touched Fyodor and gave him a new idea for his painting. One must say that kids considered him their own painter. My uncle preserved many school essays written on the basis of his paintings. The Bad Mark was painted in 1952 and it stirred so much interest that two years later the painting Reexamination appeared. It was a continuation of the same story with the same character.”

Eugeniy Reshetnikov, the artist’s nephew

Lyrical Housewarming by Yuri Pimenov, 1965

“An artist chooses that which he tries to make his art, an image of a complex and controversial world. One takes up a sad theme, the theme of human sorrow. In that case bright colors and paints would not be his soul's theme. Another artist is overwhelmed by feeling good about life, and a gloomy mood would leave him untouched. A third one would combine everything in a synthesis of reality. So long as real artists meet real life, such diversity and complexity will appear in art.”

Yuri Pimenov

Bread by Tatiana Yablonskaya, 1959

“While working on the painting Bread I primarily tried to show the bliss of life itself, to show the truth of life. I did not think about the self-sufficient picturesque in it. What else is needed besides a truthful depiction of life? I did not realize that in the painting Bread the artistic task was fulfilled. The combination of warm grains, blue skirts, white headscarves and blouses resulted in a vivid interaction. Besides that, shortly before the painting Bread, I worked on the painting Before the Start and simultaneously worked on the painting In the Park and by that time had not completely forgotten the artistic discoveries of the impressionists who I later rejected.”

Tatiana Yablonskaya

Still-life with Ash berry by Vladimir Stozharov, 1967

“Looking at Stozharov's paintings after a few years have passed, one realizes their special feature, which is a rare integrity. We usually call heritage whatever an artist leaves behind. What Stozharov created is a large live spring. Other artists will drink from that spring and draw not only a lesson in craftsmanship, but also a true and passionate love of his land and its history. The history of Vladimir Stozharov's painting is a live notion. It seems that the warmth of human hands warms the old objects in his still-life works. Nothing is down-to-earth in his works. Earthly things are always spiritual.”

Tair Salakhov, artist

“He never stood still. All this taking into account that externally it appeared as if he worked out his own language, manner and colors, nevertheless it only appears on the outside. If we look at his works closely, we will see that he perfected his art from one work to the next one, always enriching it.”

Alexey Gritsai, artist

The Builders of Bratsk by Victor Popkov, 1960

“I ask myself what to paint and how to paint it? And when I don't find an answer to that question I recall why I wanted to become an artist since early childhood. And many things become clear. It turns out that painter's job attracted you not by its remuneration, not by glory, not by all the 90% of life's routine around art, you simply loved the art itself and nothing else, you loved that sacred thing that is called beautiful, pure and non-obscured. And now I sometimes get scared. It seems to me that art passes by somewhere else, that the majority of our arguments and disagreements do not develop a new line of art, but some other line that up close looks like art, but in reality is a false line. And you see this most important thing only when years go by and we say: those years, those decades were a mistake.”

Victor Popkov

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