‘No generation had a fate like that in history.’ Anna Akhmatova
One hundred years after the October Revolution, the current RA exhibition is a celebration of the vibrant, varied work that emerged from this turbulent period. The showcase is a feast of information; colourful, full of vitality and historical importance.
Famous paintings by Vasily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich and Marc Chagall sit amongst less distinguished, but no less talented artists of the time. An enriching artistic tale covering the Russian Revolution and the brief alleviation of suppression that existed all too fleetingly between Tsarist and Stalinist rule.
From the whimsical to the realist, the variety, imagination and skill of these Russian works of art are riddled with political intrigue and the dreams of a new free world.
The epitome of romanticised Russia is captured by Chagall, with his dream-like Promenade. Celebrating the joy of his marriage in combination with the spirit of freedom and hope, this is a visual product of Chagall’s words: ‘She has flown over my pictures for many years, guiding my art.’
Pavel Filanov’s approach to his art is particularly effective, utilising ‘universal flowering’; a technique that depicts the flow of memory. Petrograd Proletariat, portrays a synthesis of social influences and combines constructivist style to develop a narrative. The result is a cacophony of shape and colour with heavily stylised figures in amongst the fray, providing an insight to the innermost workings of Filonov’s vision.
The exhibition is a journey from artists who embodied the revolution in their art. Indiscriminate of media; from the hope for a new world to the disillusionment ensuing from Stalin’s violent reign, to artistic nostalgia for an old, romanticised Russia, the period is captured in startling clarity. The exhibition is a reminder that, while the personal freedoms promised by revolutions may be short-lived or illusory, political upheaval invariably unleashes freedom of a different kind, in the form of artistic creativity and excellent art.
Vsevolod Meyerhof, Biomechanics, 1928
Alexander Deineka, Textile Workers, 1927
Boris Grigoriev, Commissar, 1921
Painting of Anatoly Lunacharsky, the first soviet Commissar in 1917 – An avant garde writer and art critic, responsible for increased literacy in Russia. He lost all influence when Joseph Stalin consolidated his power in the 1920s.
Marc Chagall, Promenade
Pavel Filonov, Formula of the Petrograd proletariat, 1920-21