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In the discussion thread: The Origins of Socialist Realism. [View all]

Response to CaliforniaPeggy (Reply #1)

Sat Apr 26, 2014, 06:13 PM

7. First let me say Peg, that this internet reproduction doesn't do the painting any justice.

Last edited Sat Apr 26, 2014, 06:47 PM - Edit history (1)

In real life, it's quite large, beautifully executed, stunningly so, and very, very, very funny, if anything about Josef Stalin can be truly funny.

I was at the Zimmerli today with my family, and the minute I came upon this painting I ran to get my son, who is an artist himself.

Stalin was, of course, one of the most brutal dictators of the 20th century, if not the most brutal dictator.

In what Khrushchev described as "the cult of personality," Stalin was often represented as the world's greatest genius, and one represented him otherwise under pain of death. Not only was he a "genius" but he was a genius about all things: science, economics, agriculture, military affairs and, of course, like others of his ilk and time, art.

Stalin decreed that all art had to be dedicated to showing the glory and power of the Soviet state, and one dared not do otherwise. Thus Soviet artists often ended up making paintings of tractors, weapons systems, Soviet monuments to the "Great Patriotic War," happy socialist workers working in factories in the grand Soviet nirvana, etc...etc...

This was called "Socialist Realism." Under the dictatorship of "Socialist Realism," Soviet artists were generally excluded from the wonderful art movements taking place all around the world, a tragedy when you consider the talent of Russian, and non-Russian Soviet artists, of which the Zimmerli has a wonderful sample.

Kumar and Miland, who worked together, were trained into this "Socialist Realism" tradition, having lived under Khrushchev's artistic thaw only briefly as young men, but they were aware of the greater art world beyond Soviet borders.

The painting, which was executed by the artists after they had escaped the Soviet Union - some of their works had been destroyed at a clandestine open air art show by Bulldozers in the 1960's and they had both been arrested under Brezhnev - makes wry reference to a Greek myth in which art was created by one of the muses by tracing the shadow of her beloved. The muse of course is well, a goddess, but it is hilarious to think of Stalin as "beloved." Stalin's body is bloated, as if he were suffering from edema, and his crippled arm is hidden behind the beautiful muse as she traces his shadow, his weak chin decidedly not god like, as he glares with his frightening steely sadistic gaze at its worst.

It's a remarkable painting I think.

The Zimmerli has a wonderful gallery of Soviet "subversive" art. There is a very remarkable painting by the Estonian artist Rein Tammik called "In the Studio." My family spent a long time discussing that painting today. Maybe I'll put it up here in the future.

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NNadir Apr 2014 OP
CaliforniaPeggy Apr 2014 #1
rug Apr 2014 #2
CaliforniaPeggy Apr 2014 #3
rug Apr 2014 #5
JVS Apr 2014 #4
rug Apr 2014 #6
LineLineNew Reply First let me say Peg, that this internet reproduction doesn't do the painting any justice.
NNadir Apr 2014 #7
CaliforniaPeggy Apr 2014 #8
NNadir Apr 2014 #9
Kali Apr 2014 #10
NNadir Apr 2014 #11
RedCloud Apr 2014 #12
NNadir Apr 2014 #13
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