With an interest in Russian history, I was looking forward to this exhibition as it brought together works that covered the early days of the Revolution under Lenin’s rule, through to Stalin and his dictat that only Socialist Realism was permitted in the arts.
Rooms are organised chronologically, and as always the early rooms are the ones that capture your interest. I often get room fatigue and do wish there was at least a coffee machine part way through to take a breather and regroup.
First room is called ‘Salute the Leader’ and this one by Isaak Brodsky -Lenin and a Demonstration – is very powerful. Look at the way Brodsky places Lenin on front of the red curtain.
Taking this from traditional portrayals of rulers and leaders, the richness of the red contrasts with the people congregating in the square. You can compare it to Brodsky’s very different portrait of Stalin:
Cold and austere:Brodsky captures the iron nature of Stalin here.
But the best in this room is by Kliment Redko – Insurrection – this artist was critical of the new regime, how brave!
The diamond of fire burns through Russia. Redko was trained as an icon painter and this is apparent in this organisation of the canvas.
In Room 3, ‘Brave New World’ – loved this ‘New Planet’ by Konstantin Yuon.
Using allegory, Yuon portrayed the Revolution as caused through cosmic forces – a new planet was formed as a consequence!
The exhibition is vast and looks at the way artists and their work was used for propaganda, the way the Avant Garde artists were forced into Socialist Realism, when they had thought they would have the freedom to paint their own subjects and even describes the plight of the Peasant class during this period.