Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID TAYLOR-GOOBY

IWOULD recommend the exhibition called "Revolution" now showing at the Royal Academy if you get a chance to see it.

It brings together many items of Russian art which were produced in the period 1917 to 1932, from the time of the Revolution up to Stalin's crackdown on artists (and everything else).

It is a great opportunity to see them. Two of the most attractive are by Kandinsky and Chagall, famous names, both of whom initially supported the Revolution, but later became disillusioned and moved abroad. But many of the others are interesting because of the messages and ideas they convey.

The exciting artistic experiments which happened just after the revolution, are really worth seeing, even if you don't understand them. (I am not sure I do). There were new ideas in abstraction and perspective. Malevich is probably the best known. He produced innovative and often disturbing works, such as his famous Black Square, but was rapidly reigned in during the 1920s. He was told to paint heroic peasants, but shows his feelings by making them look like automatons, cogs in a machine. He was later accused of being a foreign spy!

The propaganda pictures interest me. A portrait of Lenin struck me most. He sits relaxed in his study while an adulatory crowd cheers outside. All the time there are pictures of the masses, fighting, working and demonstrating. Later we see grinning peasants producing plenty while, in reality, people were starving.

All this was to mobilise support for the regime, but artists were being asked to depict things which were not true, rather than express themselves. I can understand why those who could left. So what, if anything, does this say to us? The Russian Revolution did not have Facebook or Twitter. Their equivalent of battlebuses were trains which travelled the country festooned with slogans. All the time people were mobilised to demonstrate in favour of the regime. At first they wanted to, and enjoyed the carnival atmosphere, but later they had to.

We have seen propaganda and untruths used in the recent American election, and in our own European Referendum. …

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