Art Album. ALEXANDER DEYNEKA : Masters of Soviet Painting


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Title: ALEXANDER DEYNEKA : Masters of Soviet Painting
Author: Vladimir Sysoev
Publisher: Leningrad, AURORA ART PUBLISHERS (1971), 112 pages







Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Deyneka was a Soviet artist and sculptor and the founder of Social Realism. His monumental works shaped the face of Moscow in the 1930s-1950s – he decorated the Mayakovskaya and Novokuznetskaya metro stations, the Moscow University and the State Kremlin Palace.

Early years and education

Deyneka was born in Kursk into the family of a railroad depot worker. Following the family tradition he entered the Kursk railroad college, but at the same time attended classes at a small art studio. His teachers recognized his talent and urged him to keep up with art so in 1915 Deyneka went to the Ukrainian city of Kharkov to study art. Here he painted antique masks, statues and models. According to Deyneka, the school lacked a systematic approach to education and students were left to explore different styles on their own. At the time they were particularly taken by “isms” – impressionism, symbolism, cubism and futurism.

Following the 1917 October Revolution the school was closed and the students were sent home. Deyneka went back to Kursk where he helped support his family. He taught art at a women’s gymnasium, then worked as a photographer at the local Criminal Investigation Department. In 1919 Deyneka was called to serve in the Red Army where his artistic skills were put to use drawing posters for propaganda activities in towns and villages. Soon he was appointed head of his unit’s Art Department, in charge of organizing the production of posters.

He was such a success that after demobilization he was sent to perfect his skills in Soviet propaganda at the Moscow Higher Art and Technical Studios (VKhUTEMAS). He studied under V. Favosrky, a famous old school artist, whose students made up the carcass of 20th century art.

In 1924 Deyneka finished his education and went to work for various Soviet magazines, traveling extensively throughout the country. The sketches he made during his trips provided a wealth of material for his future works. That same year, along with a few other artists, he organized the artistic society OST. Its main goal was to create a new style in art, so-called Social Realism – art for the masses available in public places. The novelty of the new style was that it addressed themes that had never been used in art before – sports, aviation, factories, public transportation, mines, Soviet collective farming – everything that worked and moved and was symbolic of the new era. The new style demanded new techniques and here the young artists preferred graphic clarity to strict composition. They were greatly influenced by the masters of German expressionism.

Themes and pictures

Deyneka’s twenties coincided with the youth of the Soviet Union. People were taken with the utopian idea of building a new country. The young Bolsheviks were full of enthusiasm, and so was Deyneka. He was a tall, strong young man with huge hands – he looked more like a miner than an artist. Perhaps this is why factory workers were so willing to pose for him – they took him for one of their own.

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