Russia Contemporary Arts

The first consequence of the revolution of October 1917 in Russia was also in art, as in literature and theater, the victory of the avant-garde currents, quite independently of their response to the triumphant ideology in the social and political field. These avant-garde currents were more or less direct derivatives of French Cubism and Italian Futurism. The needs of revolutionary propaganda made them accept at first almost without conflict, but the misunderstanding inherent in their evaluation was not long in coming, given their indisputably more individualistic than collective character. Their dominion was thus short-lived. Already in 1919 the affirmation of the need for new forms for art of the masses and of a new content of it heralded what was soon to be the watchword in the artistic field: the reproduction of living revolutionary reality, and not so much to preserve its memory in the future, but to educate the broader strata of the people to understand art through their own interests. In reality, the struggle between the various artistic groups that dominated the five-year period 1922-1927 was more than an ideological struggle, a struggle between the real artists, intent on preserving their personality, and those who could be called the “chroniclers” of the revolution. in the field of art, especially as regards painting and sculpture, the latter naturally more conservative, the former more capable of adapting to immediate needs. But this period corresponded to the period of the “Nep” in the social, political and economic field and it is easy to understand the relative freedom enjoyed by the artists. After this period with the beginning of the first “pyatiletka”, the watchword for art was also “social ordination”, that is, the reproduction of certain moments of everyday reality, as a propaganda tool, or “to deepen the political and ideological content “of art.

In particular, painting, as in another field literature, serves to feed the awareness of the need for the socialist reconstruction of the country and the sense of the avant-garde in art is shifting more and more from forms to content. And the famous exhibition “15 years of Soviet art”, held in 1934, clearly shows how in art – painting, sculpture, decorative arts – the so-called “struggle for quality” refers more to political – ideological quality than to that artistic. Its importance appears greater from the point of view of quantity, revealing how effectively more and more elements from the proletarian masses began to participate in the artistic movement, still crude in their elementarity and primitiveness, but rich in their own experiences and no longer in imitation.

Thus, already famous painters such as a Konchalovsky, a Petrov Vodkin, a Nesterov of the pre-revolutionary generation, a Dejneka and a Lebedev of the one that affirmed with the revolution, continue to have a first-rate place next to young people such as Bogorodskij, Samochvalov, Odincov, Rjažskij, and to the very young like Bubnov, Mankov, and many others.

It is due to the propaganda tendency of the early days of the revolution if, alongside painting, minor arts such as engraving developed so widely, at the beginning also linked to the cubistic, futuristic and supremacist avant-gardism, but proceeding rapidly on to their own paths thanks to original artists such as Gončarov, Kravčenko, Favorskij, in whom the technique undoubtedly has a greater importance than the content, especially when it comes to the illustration of the book. Soviet criticism itself recognizes, and not only for those mentioned above, but also for other artists such as Labass, Pimenov, Kuzmin, Milačevskij, etc., that, despite the attention they give to new subjects, they are above all concerned with problems of style and form.

A place in itself in Soviet pictorial art has the revolutionary propaganda manifesto, whose diffusion has no equivalent in any country in the world.

First-rate painters and designers have contributed to his artistic dignity, which has not always been preserved, with their technical means and the experience of color, blending the elements of realism with those of the most advanced experiments in the representation of ideological concepts and abstractions, obtaining often completely new effects, with no comparison in the past, given the lack of such a tradition. On the other hand, the sculpture and art of lacquerers must be considered much more closely linked to tradition, called Palecha from one of its centers of origin, Palecha, a town in the Vladimir-Suzdal ′ region, famous for its centuries-old icon industry.

The monumental character for which Soviet sculpture would like to distinguish itself, on the basis of its subjects, does not represent anything typically Soviet, since it basically results from the fusion of romantic and eclectic elements of European tradition, with the academicism of pre-revolutionary Russia. Less than in painting and in the minor arts the choice of subjects as a starting point in the search for new means of stylistic expression, which characterizes sculptors such as Bulakovskij, Kol′cov, Tavasseev, Korolev and above all Šadre Čajkov could influence the artists. The best fruits of Soviet sculpture are to be found more in the busts than in the monument.

As for the art of lacquers, which seemed destined to die in the early years of the revolution, with the struggle against religion, it has recovered by dedicating itself to profane subjects, in whose representation it has recently obtained significant successes with the illustration of the Song of the army of ‘Igor, of Ruslan and Ludmila of Pushkin, etc., with the painting of still lifes and with the so-called “styleless” drawings that were already cultivated, alongside icon painting, before the revolution.

As far as architecture is concerned, the problems of realization arose in Soviet Russia with a certain delay in comparison with the other arts, both because the propaganda element was excluded in it, and because the reconstructive work did not begin except when the revolutionary period in the strict sense was already over. Less contrast of ideological and practical issues, given the predominantly practical nature of architecture, but greater concern to free oneself from foreign influences, given the diversity, at least ideal, of conceptions of life. But it must immediately be said that if the liberation from what can be called “historical”, “classic” or “traditional” styles was almost complete, in the construction of the new, monumental or practical buildings, the link with Western renovators, such as Le Corbusier, Gropius and others, is also evident in more recent works. It can be said that, despite the numerous and often grandiose constructions of recent years, Soviet architecture is still in an experimental stage that can become definitive when its theoretical dynamism has become practical in the composition of cities as a whole or at least of individual ones. neighborhoods. His “rationalism” is basically still static, especially as regards the ornamental part and the interior organization of the buildings. On the contrary, in this regard it is worth noting a certain theoretical – and partially also practical – resistance to the superimposition of geometric shapes: cylinders, parallelepipeds and cubes, which still characterizes the avant-garde of

Russia Contemporary Arts