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The art place in the period of Soviet socialism was formed on the basis of proletarian ideology and cultural movements; constructivism was considered to be the background movement influencing the formation and promotion of art in general at the beginning of 20th century. It should be noted that the art of constructivism was the outgrowth of Futurism art movement in Russia; the formation of major styles in painting and architecture was pressed by political reformations and programs. Russian Revolution, Civil War and Bolshevik movement appeared to an integral part of art cultural development in the period of Russian socialism. (Morris, 2004) Ideological and political discussions appeared to be centralized in art making sphere; such artists as Vladimir Tatlin and Alexander Rodchenko contributed to the art development in socialism service. (Taylor, 2007)
Art in Socialism Service
Revolution movements and Constructivists’ positions in socialism era influenced people’s view and perception of art industry. A number of street designs and public festivals were organized for the purpose of art involvement into political activities in Russian Republic.
The integral part of youth movements at the beginning of 20th century was considered to be the interaction of art and culture on the basis of spirituality, material and cognitive activities among the society. It is necessary to underline the fact that artists of that period tried to focus on non-traditional settings in order to demonstrate to the viewers some strange and unusual pictures of the epoch. (MacKenzie, 2008)
Under the influence of Futurists’ art paintings and architecture works were characterized by abstractionism and chaotic designs. Important factors impacting such changes appeared to be warlike propaganda and Bolshevik movement together with governmental policies.
The sphere of art was considered to be the method of social control as through its works people could reflect political intentions and atmosphere of the time. Political significance in artistic movements was of crucial importance; it should be stressed that artists and architects were in the center of governmental activities creating new buildings and making pictures filled with the motifs of political strategies.
According to Rodchenko and Stepanova, “Program of the first working group of Constructivists”, material structures and their communistic expression were among the main tasks of the time. The art nature was concentrated on the following major disciplines:
- Faktura – it was expediently used as the worked material in organic state;
- Tectonics – it reflected the communism properties and served the usage of industrial material;
- Construction – this discipline was perceived as constructivism central function. (Rodchenko & Stepanova)
Russian Constructivists used to reflect relationships between the formal and ideological through the performance of structuring process in art. It should be noted that such aspects as light, space, volume, color and line were central material for Constructivists’ practice.
One of the most outstanding representatives of Russian socialism is considered to be Vladimir Tatlin being a well known architect and painter. His style of panting differed from other artists by his individuality and uniqueness, characterizing the epoch of Constructivists’ movement.
The style of this painter can be recognized by its functionalism and creativity at the same time. The critics of his art said that people could not make buildings and be involved into the pure painting making; nevertheless he could do this. (Tatlin, 2006)
To understand his art nature it is necessary to analyze the examples of his masterpieces; one of the most outstanding paintings of the master is considered to be the picture “Matros” (Sailor), 1911. Taking into account the peculiarities of socialism art style it should be noted that Tatlin managed to reflect the principle motifs of his epoch. The usage of bright colors is aimed at underlining the natural lines and images of the person; thus, suntanned skin of the sailor is expressed through orange color with bright blue eyes being expressive and emotional showing the unconcealed surprise on the face of a person. One should stress that the background of the picture was illustrated through gloomy and dark tones in order to outline the role and place of the sailor. The notes of abstractionism are expressed through strange lines; this fact proves the influence of futurism movement on Tatlin’s individuality.
Tatlin is known for his tower being a king of bridge for the interests shared by Berlin and Moscow. Tatlin’s tower gave a start to wide promotion of construction art movement on the international level. This work reflected not only the features and material being characteristic for Russian socialism, but also transferred the mood of foreign designs of 20th century. (Tatlin Vladimir Evgraphovich, 2004)
The features of constructivist art were expressively shown through structural design and material; the usage of iron and wood, being combined with glass and steel elements, underlined the mixture of styles characterizing Russian nation and neighboring ones; besides, the functionalism of the work is expressed through the theme of internationalism promotion and mixture of political positions at the beginning of 20th century.
Alexander Rodchenko in Constructivism
One more outstanding representative of Russian socialism and constructivism is considered to be Alexander Rodchenko; he is known as a skillful master of Russian design and painting. It is important to stress that this painter was focused not only of graphics but also on photomontage. The style and manner of painting of this artist differed by his passion for abstractionism. (Bowlt, 2005)
His work “Dance”, 1915, is a bright illustration of Rodchenko’s style. It should be noted that this picture can be referred to one of his experiments which he liked to demonstrate in his art. The combination of colors and textures expressed by means of non-traditional lines and shapes can be compared to the “dance of the mood” characterizing the period of socialism. Close analysis of the painting allows seeing political interference with Rodchenko’s theme of painting. This work can be considered a vivid example of the whole socialism art serving the purpose of political interference and strategies. (Brown, 2008)
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The picture devoted to the theme “Lines” or “Linism” was aimed at illustration non-standard vision on the basis of usual standard lines characterizing constructivists’ art. His work underlined construction elements and reflected the colors of natural material. The motifs of abstractionism involved into Rodchenko’s work were combined with artistic constructivists’ positions. The artist managed to reflect unreal through real using standard norms and characteristics of Russian art at the beginning of 20th century. (Rodchenko’s Gallery)
The period of socialism in Russia was characterized by constructivists’ movement and its prints in art development. Such outstanding artists as Rodchenko and Tatlin reflected the elements of constructivism; they proved political interference with art promotion not only in Russia but on the international level. Revolutions and political programs were partially expressed through the works of art as the culture development could influence the masses changing their views and positions.
The analysis of the whole socialism epoch in the sphere of art showed that it was influenced by futurism features and a mixture of abstractionism. The elements of non-standard style served the purpose of socialism governmental policy.
Bowlt, J. 2005. Alexander Rodchenko Experiments for the Future… Museum of Modern Art, New York. p. 31.
Brown, J. 2008. Rodchenko’s Revolution: a socialist with true vision. The Independent Art. Web.
Morris, W. 2004. Art and Socialism. Kessinger Publishing. pp. 48.
MacKenzie, M. 2008. Tektology, Russian Constructivism, Man with a Movie Camera. Dept. of History in Art. Rodchenko’s Gallery. Web.
Rodchenko, A. and Stepanova, V. Program of the First Working Group of Constructivists in Harrison, Charles and Wood, Paul, Art in Theory, 1900-2000 : an Anthology of Changing Ideas. Oxford, U.K: Blackwell, pp.341-343.
Tatlin, Vladimir. 2006. The Work Ahead of Us in Lewer, Debbie (ed), Post-Impressionism to World War II, Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, p.35.
Tatlin Vladimir Evgraphovich. 2004. Web.
Taylor, M. 2007. After God. University of Chicago Press. pp. 464.