Soviet sculpture is a very special phenomenon in the history of Russian art. Probably it was the first time in Russian culture when such great importance was attached to sculpture: sculpture was banned until XVIII century, Peter the Great gave way to this art. Nevertheless, there were extremely small number of masters in Russia, they preferred to work in the field of portrait. Sculpture of the XIX century is more diverse and has undergone some ideological and stylistic changes. Russian works of this period can not be distinguished from the general European context of academic and classical sculpture. The turn of the XIXth and XXth centuries gave the flowering of Russian art, it was time of such artists like P. Trubetskoy and A. Golubkina. The art of the avant-garde remained indifferent to sculpture. Nevertheless, almost immediately after the Revolutions of 1917 the Bolsheviks chose sculpture as one of the leading art forms. The new government issued a so-called «plan of monumental propaganda». According to this plan, sculpture has to propagandize new world and it should be exclusively monumental. The art of sculpture in the Soviet epoch was full of heroic and idealistic images, responding to the demands of time and political situation.
Soviet times gave birth to a huge number incredibly talented artists. Some of them managed to create works both acceptable to the government and embodying their own creative ambitions, ideas, reflections.
All the variety of sculptural heritage is often hidden in museum storages, rarely exhibiting their treasures for shows. Much of that «special», non-monumental art, turned out to be in private collections, which also does not provide an opportunity to understand the significance of sculpture in the Soviet epoch.
Vera Mukhina (1889-1953)
History of Soviet sculpture in one way or another affects the work of Vera Mukhina. It was she who created the symbol of the Soviet Union, the image of «Worker and Collective Farm Girl», which became the emblem of Soviet cinema, thereby gaining access to every house, becoming a national treasure. Probably, none of the paintings of the Soviet period were so widely known among the people as a statue of Vera Mukhina.
The glory of this work of art is completely justified: the sculptor managed to express the ideals of time, to combine the image and form, to connect sculpture and architecture. But there are others Mukhina’s works which deserve attention. The master aspired toward monumental forms, but she also succeeded in the field of easel sculpture, in particular, in portrait. Her portraits represents a whole series of psychological realistic images, where talent of the creator is fully revealed. Small works, executed as sculptural sketches of nude nature are interesting too. Female figures in various poses make it clear how carefully the master tries to know human body.
Vera Mukhina did not limit herself with sculpture, she also painted, designed stage sets, created glass vases. Only half a year Vera Mukhina worked in experimental workshop of the Leningrad glass factory, but during this time she created unusual examples of vases of colored glass.
Her art is permeated with the spirit of creation, in all the works a firm and confident hand of the master is felt.
Ivan Shadr (1887-1941)
Ivan Shadr is a sculptor who created a monument familiar to everyone - «Cobblestone is the weapon of the proletariat». Another association with the name of the sculptor is a series of monuments to Vladimir Lenin. The talent of this master is more complex than we used to think. Despite the realistic approach to sculpting, his works are full of modernist tendencies, stylization, generalization, even distortion of forms. The master of the portrait-type, he created not only «Sower», «Worker», «Peasant» and «Red Army Soldier», which were used on banknotes of the early years of Soviet power, but also the images of Maxim Gorky, Alexander Pushkin and many other artists and politicians. Moreover, the master worked on female figures and extraordinary compositions, unknown to public - some of them lost during the war, and the other part is kept in private collections.
The work of Ivan Shadr requires deep study, his newly discovered works can surprise and expand the boundaries of Soviet artistic life.