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David Elliott and Piotr Juszkiewicz

[Rus. Sotsialisticheskiy Realizm]

Term used to describe the idealization of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the arts, apparently first used in the Soviet journal Literaturnaya Gazeta on 25 May 1932. After the cultural pluralism of the 1920s in the Soviet Union, and in line with the objectives of the Five-year plans, art was subordinated to the needs and dictates of the Communist Party. In 1932, following four years of ideological struggle and polemic among different artistic groups, the Central Committee of the party disbanded all existing artistic organizations and set up in their place party-led unions for individual art forms. In the summer of 1934, at the First All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers, Socialist Realism was proclaimed the approved method for Soviet artists in all media. Andrey Zhdanov, who gave the keynote address at the Congress, was Stalin’s mouthpiece on cultural policy until his death in 1948. In the words of his leader, the artist was to be ‘an engineer of the human soul’. The aim of the new creative method was ‘to depict reality in its revolutionary development’; no further guidelines concerning style or subject-matter were laid down. Accordingly, the idea of what constituted Socialist Realism evolved negatively out of a series of cultural purges orchestrated by Zhdanov in the pages of ...

Article

John Milner

[Rus.: Suprematizm]

Term coined in 1915 by Kazimir Malevich for a new system of art, explained in his booklet Ot kubizma i futurizma k suprematizmu: Novyy zhivopisnyy realizm (‘From Cubism and Futurism to Suprematism: the new realism in painting’). The term itself implied the supremacy of this new art in relation to the past. Malevich saw it as purely aesthetic and concerned only with form, free from any political or social meaning. He stressed the purity of shape, particularly of the square, and he regarded Suprematism as primarily an exploration of visual language comparable to contemporary developments in writing. Suprematist paintings were first displayed at the exhibition Poslednyaya futuristicheskaya vystavka kartin: 0.10 (‘The last Futurist exhibition of paintings: 0.10’) held in Petrograd (now St Petersburg) in December 1915; they comprised geometric forms which appeared to float against a white background. While Suprematism began before the Revolution of 1917, its influence, and the influence of Malevich’s radical approach to art, was pervasive in the early Soviet period; ...