When a Century of Soviet Art Meets Ceramics

Bolshevik leaders after the revolution urged the nation’s artists to produce high-quality and powerful propaganda. Many of the greatest avant-garde artists of the day captured the spirit of the young state by brandishing revolutionary slogans in poetry, theater, paintings and film.
Porcelain was no exception. Factories like Leningrad’s State Porcelain Factory, previously the Imperial Porcelain Factory, turned from producing dishware for aristocrats to producing it for the new Soviet regime. The 1920s saw phrases such as “He who doesn’t work doesn’t eat” and “The kingdom of workers and peasants will have no end” etched around the edges of dinner plates by masters of ceramic art.
These two plates are among the nearly 500 porcelain dishes and statues on display in a new permanent exhibition, “Masterpieces of Soviet Porcelain,” at the All-Russia Museum of Decorative-Applied and Folk Art. The exhibition displays rare masterworks crafted in the porcelain factories of Moscow and Leningrad from the 1920s through 1990.
“Twentieth-century Russian porcelain is a striking, unique page in the history of applied art not only in Russia but in the world. Such porcelain never existed before and will probably never exist again,” Larisa Karagodina, head of the contemporary art department at the State Ceramics Museum at the Kuskovo estate, said at the exhibition’s opening last month.
“This porcelain reflects all of the important events of the century and all its diverse and contradictory artistic trends,” she added.
Many of the exhibition’s pieces could be worth tens of thousands of dollars, said Yelena Vorushilina, the exhibition’s curator. Most of them are author’s editions, meaning that only a handful of copies were produced and each was signed by its artist. In some cases, similar designs would then be mass-produced for regular sale.
Some of the porcelain propaganda on show does not need slogans to make its point. A small ceramic statue from 1921 titled “The Awakening East” is of a Muslim woman with bared breasts removing her religious head-covering while reading a Soviet newspaper.
But not all of the works are propaganda. Most of the ceramic statues and dishware sets have no political agenda.
The Moscow Times


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