Soviet Socialist Realism Art - Pelham House

I went to an exhibition about Russian painting in the Guggenheim in Bilbao about six weeks ago, and discovered another world. Kandinsky apart, so little of it had filtered through to me: the Iron Curtain had stopped more than just people from moving East to West. The most interesting thing was the exciting proliferation of avant-garde art that was being created at the beginning of the revolution: artists and politicians worked hand in hand to create a fresh new world. Then Stalin came to power and the honeymoon ended. He decreed that all art and literature must be approved by the state before being exhibited or published. From then on, modern art was considered 'degenerate’: artists who bent reality could end up in the gulag. A new style was born: socialist realism. Vast tableaux, showing the might of the state and the heroism of the Soviet worker. Inevitably the rules were relaxed somewhat as time went on, but not too much.

The paintings on show in Pelham House, largely from the 50’s and 60’s, are being lent by a private collector who wishes to sell them. Many are by the colourful landscape painter Yuri Matushevski, who travelled all over the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. My favourites are two paintings by T Roiman, ‘Worker’ and ‘Portrait of a Woman’. Both show simple people in simple settings; what they have in common is a quiet dignity. They don’t look fired up with revolutionary fervour, however. They look resigned to their lot. AL

Revolution Babe: ‘Portrait of a Woman’ by socialist realist T Roiman

Perham House - St Andrews Lane, Lewes
When? Runs til the end of August
How Much? Free entry

Pelham House
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