Socialist realism: The History of Russian art in 15 paintings. Part II
Through years the social realism was the only legitimate artistic style in the Soviet Union. After the perestroika in the mid 70s, the Soviet ways were wryly criticized, the paintings, which only recently were considered to be model, mocked and laughed at and their painters stigmatized as the “voice of the blood-thirsty regime.”
“I’ve painted everything from life. I’ve only broadened the doorway a little and transformed a monastery yard into a square of a small provincial town. Everything else has fitted all right. I was not squeamish about painting worn and rotten boards and a cracked wall. The work lasted two summer seasons, two sunny summers, such summers are a rare occurrence.”
During the preparation for the all-Union art exhibition in 1947, the painting was criticized. A representative of the Committee on the Arts said that “there should not be such floors in the Soviet reality”. As a result, the picture was hung in a narrow, dark passage. But very soon it occupied a fitting place in the hall, because that was the wish of the audience. The picture was an unbelievable success. When it was hanging in the corridor, it was so crowded there that guides complained it was impossible to lead a group past the painting by Laktionov. Three-quarters of all the entries in the visitors' book recognized the Letter From the Front - the best painting at the exhibition.
“The fact that I kept changing genres of creative work is not my fault (if it is a fault); this is the law of time, but probably I remained myself in essence. I know that tomorrow will give something new to me that will form the basis of my works, and I sincerely want this new to be deeply humane and beautiful. I understand painting, fine painting, but I prefer drawing form. While others know much about subtle nuances of tone and are absolutely indifferent to gross distortions of form, I am, on the contrary, very sensitive to subtle forms of rhythm and satisfied with simple color solutions.”
State Reception in the Kremlin on May 24, 1945 by Dmitry Nalbandian
Photo: the museum-workshop of people's artist of the USSR D. A. Nalbandian
“Stalin executed a few artists. At first they were summoned to the Kremlin in order to immortalize the leader and teacher. And obviously they failed to please the leader. Stalin wanted to be tall. And the hands should be the same length.
Artist Nalbandian outwitted everybody. On his portrait, Stalin with his hands folded somewhere on the stomach makes it straight towards the spectator. The view is taken from below.From this angle, even a midget seems a giant. Nalbandian followed Mayakovski’s advice: an artist should look at a model like a duck looks at a balcony. And from this duck’s position Nalbandian painted the portrait of Stalin. Stalin was greatly pleased. Reproductions of the portrait were hung in all institutions - even in hairdressing salons and in bathhouses.”