Passport magazine: Russian lifestyle
Home Archive February 2011

About Us

From the Publisher

Contact Us

Current IssueArchive
Restaurant GuideRestaurant ReviewsInternational Food BlogsWine TastingsTravelMoscow EmbassiesAirlines to RussiaMoscow AirportsCustoms and VisasResidence permitMoscow Phone DirectoryMuseums and GalleriesWi-Fi Hot Spots in MoscowClubs!Community ListingsMoscow Downtown MapMoscow Metro MapRussian LinksInternational Links
Advertise with Us
Our Readers - a profileAdvertising RatesDistribution List
Click for Moscow, Russia Forecast
Our Partners
Knights of the Vine RUSSIA

Russia Art History

Russian Avant-Guard Art of the 1910-1930s
Olga Slobodkina-von Bromssen

Black lines Vasily kandinsky

n discussing the art of the 1930s. I am confronted with a dilemma: how can one write about the 1930s without the 1920s and the 1910s? One grew from the other. Another dilemma is not to let my reader get lost in the numerous directions and groups of that period, now called The Silver Age of Russian Arts and Literature, let alone the endless lists of names, which have been supplemented by new ones rediscovered after the fall of the Soviet Union, especially in the middle and at the end of the 1990s. Then I decided to make one big topic— Russian avant-guard art.

The way the arts developed in the 20th century was very contradictory. The avant-garde aimed for at a radical reorganization of the human mind by means of the arts. They planned an aesthetic revolution, which would disturb the spiritual sluggishness of society of that time. The strategy in the first three decades of the 20th century was anarchic and rebellious.

The avant-guard introduced the images of the street side of life: street poetry, the chaotic rhythms of the cities, nature that has both creative and destructive powers. Artists empathized with the anti-art principle, thus challenging not only traditional styles, but also accepted notions of art in general.

The range of artistic directions was enormous. The masters of post-impressionism, of fauvism and cubism became predominant in setting the scene. Futurism strengthened the international contacts of the avant-guard and introduced new principles of communications between the fine arts, literature, music, theatre, photography and cinematography.

From 1900-1910, new directions were born one after another and not only in Russia. Avant-guard was very international, its geographical range was huge: from Russia to the United States with Moscow, Berlin, New York and other centers, each of which wanted to be the trendsetter. Expressionism, Dadaism, surrealism with their sensitivity to the subconscious defined the irrational in avant-guard art. Constructivism, on the contrary, revealed its rational and structural nature.

During the wars and revolutions of the 1910s, politics and the avant-guard were actively inter-reacting. Left-wing forces tried to use the avant-guard for propaganda purposes. Later on the totalitarian regimes (first of all in Germany and in the USSR) successfully suppressed it by strict censorship, driving it underground. Under the political liberalism since the 1920s, avant-guard lost its former aura of resistance and made an an alliance with Art Nouveau, bringing it into contact with mass culture.

One of the brightest representatives of the avant-guard art, Vasily Kandinsky (1866-1944), is attributed with discovering a new art language of the 20th century. Not only due to the fact that he “discovered” abstract art, but because he managed to endow it with standards, explanation and exemplary quality.

Another star was Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935), the founder of suprematism, one of the few artists in Russia who worked in the style of cubism and futurism. He participated in the famous exhibitions of the art groups: “The Jack of Diamonds” (1910) and “The Donkey’s Tail” (1912).

Black square by Kazimir Malevich

Malevich was one of the pillars of the Russian and then of the Soviet avantguard. Unfortunately, Malevich seems to be only associated with The Black Square, although he was in fact quite a versatile artist. In the 1920s -1930s he created a peasant series, and not long before his death began to paint in the style of old masters as well as landscapes in the spirit of impressionism. During the Soviet period he was unjustly forgotten, although his creativity is one the most significant pages in the world art of the 20th century.

The works of the Russian avant-guard artists of the beginning of the 20th century was created by an artistic vision. At the same time, Malevich’s suprematism came as a natural stage in the development of Russian and world art. Malevich himself thought suprematism—which is based on combining the simplest geometric figures of contrasting colors on the surface of a canvas—was created in cubism. The Black Square (1913) became a manifesto of non-subject non-figurative art and the turning point for abstract art.

1919 saw the 10th State Exhibition called “Non-Subject Creativity and Suprematism” and in December 1919-January 1920, the 16th State Exhibition was staged with a retrospective “Kazimir Malevich. His journey from impressionism to suprematism.”.

The exhibitions showed conceptual frames of blank canvases and a series of paintings, White on the White and The White Square on the White. Malevich thought that the development of world art as such was crowned by the art of geometric abstraction. But there was a whole lot more in the avant-guard than Malevich.

 Copyright 2004-2012 +7 (495) 640 0508,,
website development – Telemark
OnLine M&A Russia Deal Book
Follow Us