Socialist Realisms: Soviet Painting 1920-1970
Matthew Bown and Zelfira Tregulova
The development of Soviet realist painting over fifty years through a selection of works from Russia’s leading museums. Socialist Realism was and remains an exceptional phenomenon in twentieth century art. It bore the challenge of promoting realist figuration on a scale without parallel in the rest of the world, employing the talents of thousands of artists over decades and spreading over an immense and varied empire. By glorifying the social role of art, affirming the primary value of content as opposed to form and restoring the central role of traditional practices, socialist Realism was the declared opponent of the modern movement, and in fact represented the only completely alternative artistic system. Created by the great Russian artists (Deineka, Malevic, Adlivankin, Laktionov, Plastov, Brodskij, Korzhev) the works present a multiplicity of questions, themes and formal approaches to art spanning from the last phases of the civil war to the beginnings of the Brezhnev era, stopping at the early 1970s when trends in official Soviet art took on varied and inconsistent directions such that the cultural supremacy of the socialist-realist current faded definitively. A non-monolithic view emerges, in which the movement does not originate exclusively as the product of totalitarian control and political pressures but as an evolving organism that reflected internal issues and echoed the great historic events of the twentieth century.