Russian Cultural Studies: An Introduction

By David Shepherd; Catriona Kelly | Go to book overview

7
Building a New Reality: The Visual Arts, 1921-1953

CATRIONA KELLY ROBIN MILNER-GULLAND


Avant-Gardists versus Realists

As the dust settled after Revolution and Civil War, it became clear to practitioners of the visual arts, design, and architecture that an uncertain future, but one replete with novel and exciting opportunities, had opened up before them. A few major cultural figures, who were abroad at the time of the Revolution, remained outside Russia ( Mikhail Larionovand Natal″ia Goncharova, as well as LU+0E9on Bakst, Sergei Diaghilev, and Igor″ Stravinsky, in France, Il″ia Repinin Finland). In the 1920s, they were joined in emigration by several 'World of Art' painters, such as Filipp Maliavin, Alexandre Benois(Benua), and Mstislav Dobuzhinskii. Others who left Russiain that decade were Wassily(Vasilii) Kandinskyand Marc Chagall-- who already had reputations in the West -- and some younger figures such as Pavel Mansurovand Naum Gabo, and the futurist David Burliuk. 1But most artists, whatever their politics -- including initially the five just mentioned -- threw themselves wholeheartedly into rebuilding the arts in the new revolutionary state. The old patrons had gone, but the new authorities seemed keen to encourage a cultural life appropriate to the radical character of their ideology. Quite how this would be realized in practice took many years -- till the mid-1930s -- to become evident; nobody doubted that the Party could or should have an artistic policy, but at first it took care not to favour any of the sharply competing tendencies exclusively.

Of course the detailed configuration of such tendencies, and the groups they spawned, was different in the 1920s from the situation in

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