Happy children; young women running through green fields. Those were scenes in and around the time of the Second World War, and all the characters seem to embrace the sweet life under a communist regime. But something is wrong.
To understand what Russian art in the first half of the 20th century is about, we went to the Paris Grand Palais exhibition, which is titled Red. We meet with Nicolas Liucci-Goutnikov. To him, communist art simply doesn’t exist.
According to Exhibition Director Nicolas Liucci-Goutnikov, “Part of the exhibition shows how Stalin’s regime controlled the artists at the time. It eventually led to the annihilation of all the arts.”
In 1917, Russia was at war against Europe. Battles were raging. At the same time, the violence of the Bolsheviks spread throughout the country, decimating large segments of the Russian people. And for those who remained, beholding communism was the only horizon. Artists were then forced to paint for the glory of the regime.
“This painting represents all the members of the Politburo, surrounded by children. There’s a shadow here. It belongs to a character that the artist chose to remove in 1937.
The subject was a Navy minister, who was declared an “enemy of the people” and the artist was so afraid of being accused of supporting the enemy that he altered the painting himself.
You can still see the cap of the character remaining,” Liucci-Goutnikov said.
Here, Lenin and Stalin look like friends. But they hated each other in real life. Here, poet Maxim Gorky is reading a text to the glory of the Communist Party. But this scene never existed.
And when painters aren’t at the service of regime propaganda, they go on abstract painting.
Darkness prevails in their dreams made of grey, black … and a lot of red. A new Russia, where life seems hard to live.
Throughout history, Russian artists were prolific, creating a style such as iconic painting showing saints or realistic paintings in the 19th century. But as soon as the Bolsheviks gained power in Russia, everything changed. Fine arts and sculptures disappeared.
Is there a communist art? According to the expo, the answer is no.