Soviet war painting gallery


28 Responses to “Soviet war painting gallery”

  1. Mr. Protocol says:

    I tried to share this on Facebook and it instead shared the Cory Doctorow thing four stories down. Same for attempts to share any of the surrounding stories as well.

    Looks like the Facebook button is buggy.

  2. jaytkay says:

    Reminds me of Tom Lea’s work for Life during WWII.

  3. danlalan says:

    Nice stuff.

    If you’re interested in WWII art from that American side, you might try the book “The Two Thousand Yard Stare: Tom Lea’s World War II”, which has a fine collection of WWII artwork.

  4. igpajo says:

    Fantastic works. I think my favorite is called “Letter from the front” by V. Laktionov. I love the light and the uplifting feel of it. The other one that struck me was called “Coming Home”. Thanks for posting this!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Just a thought, but were cameras more common amongst the British and Americans? Could this account for the Soviets doing so many paintings? Maybe photography obsoleted the need for paintings to some degree?

  6. NeilChi says:

    One of the most tragic things I have ever seen was a WWII propaganda movie about the incredible heroism and sacrifice of our Russian allies.
    All true, but I saw it in the middle of the “Cold War”.

  7. Anonymous says:

    60 years later it is still hard to image the life these people lived. Growing up in the cold war I was astounded by how little weight is given to the experiences of soviets during wwII.

    Thank you it was very moving to see these

  8. Anonymous says:

    What you “like” is being made … it just isn’t important work. Great artists grow from an art movement. Your bickering seems uninformed and your taste is not relevant when your knowledge is so obviously lacking in the basic aspects of art history. Try looking at Maye Stevens work if your needs are figurative, she is a powerful painter. The series she did of her mother in a nursing home could hardly be thought of as unemotional or unpolitical. Her intimate portraits of the elderly and decaying should satisfy your need for over acting. But maybe the CIA has taken all those works from your local library. Robert Colscott and Alice Neal have intense social and political commentary in their paintings and the images are so memorable. Post WWII painters were keyed into growth and social change, the idea of painting realistically for “realism”-sake seemed insipid and trite. Painters know the power is in their brush and the viscosity of the medium not in a hackneyed and tired view-point that has been well played out.

  9. Vanwall says:

    Some of these are some of the best paintings about war there are – the style isn’t always photo-realistic, or designed for magazines, but it’s powerful and haunting all the same. If you’ll notice, the love of birch trees and the significance of the vast forests of Russia is often part of the setting in some of them that we, as foreigners, might miss – the “Missed in Action” is as great as any comparable war painting from the West, IMHO, and the birches are a subtle counterpoint to show the ordinariness of every relationship in war. It’s surprisingly personal, too, something the Soviets, especially post-war, were wary of showing – they preferred the Motherland style of war paintings in general. Watch “The Cranes are Flying”, possibly the greatest Soviet war film, and certainly one the greatest films, period, anywhere, for a notion of what their cameras and actors could do.

  10. MrsBug says:

    Holy fright, those are powerful.

  11. Tzctlp says:

    ” …. I can’t think of anything in the west in the same time period that is as moving, as emotionally evocative ….”

    I can.

    It is called Guernica, which is so superior artistically, aesthetically and politically to all these paintings that is not even funny trying to compare them.

    So this Allllllie person may want to try to expand on the point above, as it is it sounds like hawgash…

  12. Bender says:

    Looking at this painting, what strikes me is how the artist is making darn sure that we know this guy didn’t live through this- “Maybe viewers might think that he’s only unconscious, and he could survive the fall? Hmm…I know, I’ll have him fall head-first into some steel girders! Yes, *then* they’ll know what I’m trying to say!”

  13. alllie says:

    “Your bickering seems uninformed and your taste is not relevant when your knowledge is so obviously lacking in the basic aspects of art history.”

    Maybe you are right. Maybe it is only art history that matters, not if the art pulls you in and makes you feel something. I guess my sensibility is too rock and roll. I keep on thinking of what Lester Bangs said: “The main reason we listen to music in the first place is to hear passion expressed.” I judge the visual arts by the same standard – what does a piece of art show me of what other people feel, what does it make me feel.

    These paintings made me think I understood what some Soviets felt during WWII, what they experienced, what they suffered. And I found them beautiful. I’m glad I found them.

  14. misterfricative says:

    These are some of the most visceral, powerful paintings I have ever seen. Thank you for linking to them here.

    What I don’t understand though is why an artist like Norman Rockwell would be mentioned in the same breath. I see a lot of sentimentality in his work, but I don’t think I’ve even glimpsed any real emotion. Can someone point me to a relevant Rockwell image or two and help me to understand what I’m missing?

    (Some of Tom Lea’s stuff though — yeah. They’re lurid, but they’re real.)

  15. misterfricative says:

    Also, in this painting (as well as in several others) can anyone tell me what she’s holding in her hand? Thanks.

    • grey not grey says:

      Looks to me like an anti-tank grenade bundle.

      • misterfricative says:

        Thanks. That would make sense. I did a search on ‘anti tank grenade bundle’ and found a picture of a couple of German ones at the top of this thread here . So it must work something like a limpet mine/shaped charge device then. Or something like the ‘sticky’ sock bomb that Tom Hanks uses in Saving Private Ryan.

        • grey not grey says:

          I think it’s something more along the lines of the German-style Geballte Ladung, basically an improvised bomb where several grenades are wired around another that is used as the single detonator.

          In terms of art it’s difficult to reconcile western European modernism with Soviet realism intellectually, and short of plowing through a comparative reading of Clement Greenberg versus Andrey Zhdanov it should suffice to say that the intent of the artists was obviously meaningful and it either touches you, or it doesn’t.

          Personally, I find it refreshing to see war art from a Soviet perspective, as it’s so infrequently discussed in the west. The political legacy of Stalinism aside, it’s no small stretch to say that if it weren’t for the incredible sacrifices of the Soviet people, WW2 might very well have turned out in favour of Germany. Lest we forget.

  16. Lloydville says:

    These paintings aren’t as technically accomplished as those of Rockwell and the other great American magazine illustrators, and are not as focussed, emotionally, or as subtle, ideologically. They are working the same territory though, aesthetically and narratively, and should be more appreciated.

  17. calabanos says:

    My gd y mdrtrs… grw p.

    Alllie. This is the type of work that Gauguin, Cezanne and Van Gogh were working AWAY from.

  18. Kamui says:

    I guess there is great misunderstanding or better said a complete lack of knowledge about Russian art in the 1930s and 1940s.

    The so called “Socialist Realism” is the only art movement which was left over after Stalin destroyed the whole Russian Avant-Garde movement. After the revolution in 1917 the leading Russian Avant-Garde artists like El Lissitzky, Tatlin, Alexander Rodchenko did fantastic art work while dreaming of a new, socialist society.

    But in the 1930s Stalin destroyed the Avant-Garde movement completely. The artists had the choice either to do “Socialist Realistic” art or to be killed!!! So in the 1940s the only art left over was propaganda art for the dictatorial Stalin regime. We’ll find the same in other dictatorships around the world, in Germany under the Nazis or in North Korea today.

    Therefore you’ll have to be careful to compare American of the 1940s with Russian art of the same time. Of course the US had Norma Rockwell, who did this kind of “emtional” art who appealed to the masses, but US artists could choose what to do, while for the Russian artists it was a question of live or death…

    • alllie says:

      I can’t believe these artists weren’t painting from the heart. On the other hand a lot of the posters from this era are clearly propaganda, on both sides, but these paintings, yeah, they are what you described as “emotional” art that appealed to the masses. Maybe that is why they appeal to me.

      Here are some Soviet World War II Propaganda Posters: Most are pure propaganda but some are Avant-Garde.

      If you really want to see the dark side here are some Nazi Collaboration Posters 1939-1945:

      I think the Soviet propaganda posters are better art and better done than the Nazi posters. Hitler didn’t leave much room for creativity, just for perversity.

  19. Teller says:

    Some are quite painterly. If the titles are accurate translations, these are clearly propagandist efforts meant to inspire or celebrate a specific war effort. This is not to demean their artistic merit, which is considerable. They possess great humanity – not surprising given the subject matter. But their mission is akin to heroic paintings of cars to promote the auto industry. Nobler, but similarly manipulative.

  20. mstoddard says:

    These are awesome, thanks for sharing!

    On a side note, the masterful Soviet propaganda art was in fact heavily influenced by American WWI [propaganda] art.

    And while we’re talking Golden Age of Illustrators, yes Rockwell was good, but how about the incredible Howard Pyle, Arthur Rackham or N.C. Wyeth!

  21. Clemoh says:

    Canada has had some fantastic War Artists. I would point to the paintings of Edwin Holgate, Alex Colville, Charles Comfort, Lawren Harris, and Thomas Wood. Each were influenced by Canada’s Group Of Seven, and to see these styles and techniques filtered through the work of these painters is very visceral and evocative of the moments they captured. Highly recommended.

  22. calabanos says:

    Wh th hll s “ll”, nd why dsn’t sh tk n rt hstry clss. Th gnrnc f tht qt s ffnsv.

  23. alllie says:

    “Who the hell is “Allie”, and why doesn’t she take an art history class. The ignorance of that quote is offensive.”

    You misspelled my name. There are 3 l’s. Alllie.

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