Boris Mikailovich Kustodiev, Bolshevik, 1920, Oil on canvas, 101 x 140.5 cm State Tretyakov Gallery, Photo (c) State Tretyakov Gallery

The immediate aftermath of Russia’s February and October Revolutions in 1917 created a sense of boundless possibility in the country’s art scene. In search of a new style that would serve the proletariat, avant-garde artists like Kazimir Malevich and Wassily Kandinsky created bold, abstract paintings while Sergei Einstein revolutionized the new art of filmmaking and graphic designers elevated propaganda into an art form. The unparalleled moment of national creativity will be the subject of “Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932” at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, The Art Newspaper reports. It is a showcase of the substantial creative output of the first 15 years after the revolution.

The exhibition takes its inspiration from a 1932 exhibition put together by prominent critic Nikolai Punin in what was then Leningrad. Punin gathered a wide swath of different types of work from the first years of the revolution across 33 rooms of the State Russian Museum. The Royal Academy will recreate the original exhibition design of 30 works of Suprematist Kazimir Malevich, a pioneer in abstract art, arranging his work as he specified it should be hung back in 1932.


Marc Chagall, Promenade, 1917-18,Oil on canvas, 175.2 x 168.4 cm, State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Photo (c) 2016, State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg,(c) DACS 2016

“This far-ranging exhibition will—for the first time—survey the entire artistic landscape of post-Revolutionary Russia, encompassing Kandinsky’s boldly innovative compositions, the dynamic abstractions of Malevich and the Suprematists, and the emergence of Socialist Realism, which would come to define Communist art as the only style accepted by the regime,” according to the museum.

In 1932, Joseph Stalin mandated that artists’ unions give up control to the Communist Party, beginning his staunch hold over the U.S.S.R.’s creative output. He would soon debut policies that forbid any art outside of the socialist realist form, arresting or murdering artists who didn’t comply as enemies of the state. Punin was already being regularly arrested by the secret police by then, and in 1949, he would be sent to a prison camp and his work suppressed.


Wassily Kandinsky, Blue Crest, 1917,Oil on canvas, 133 x 104 cm, State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Photo (c) 2016, State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

The Royal Academy exhibition explores both the cutting-edge abstract art that Stalin repressed and the socialist realism that he championed, presenting the works together, some for the first time in the UK, to showcase what the museum calls “both the idealistic aspirations and the harsh reality of the Revolution and its aftermath.”


Kazimir Malevich, Peasants, c. 1930, Oil on canvas, 53 x 70 cm, State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Photo (c) 2016, State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg


Alexander Deineka, Textile Workers, 1927, Oil on canvas, 161.5 x 185 cm, State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Photo (c) 2016, State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg (c) DACS 2016


Isaak Brodsky, V.I.Lenin and Manifestation, 1919. Oil on canvas, 90 x 135 cm. The State Historical Museum. Photo (c) Provided with assistance from the State Museum and Exhibition Center ROSIZO

The exhibition will open next February.

[h/t The Art Newspaper]

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