Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Soviet War Art

Here’s a interesting gallery of Soviet war art, showing how great is the cost of war, and how universal the eye of the artist.

Link to Soviet War Paintings.
Thanks, k-tron


Steve said...

Powerful images. Dances With Torches, Victory Day/Machine Gunner, and Old Wounds moved me particularly. Given every nation's tendency to demonize the enemy during wartime, one of art's gifts is to express our common humanity. I was struck by how many of these were unheroic. There were the obligatory propaganda pieces, but many of them were straightforward depictions of loss. I've been spending a few weeks looking at Ogden Pleissner's watercolors done during WWII. Many are masterful, as are many of these.


Shane White said...

At the bottom of the page there's a PART I button that you may want to click to check out more pieces.

Also there's an excellent Russian film that was apparently not seen in Russia called Idi I Smotri (COME AND SEE).

It's a very powerful Russian perspective of World War II. What's particularly great about it is it feels like a lot of the paintings I've seen by the Russian Expressionists. The cinematography is beautiful and the acting is really intense. A lot of attention to showing more saying less.

Even still watch it with English subtitles and in it's natural Russian dialect--powerful and moving.


Mary Bullock said...

Thank you for posting these paintings, Jim. We in the United States many times do not understand the enormous loss suffered by the Russian people during WWII. Because much of the war was fought on their own land - they lost over 30 million people (many many women and children). While I was living in Memphis, there was a special exhibit of Russian artifacts, art, photos, ephemera, movies, etc from the war that made it all too graphic how devastating "The Great Patriotic War" was to them. We were Allies back then and this in no way diminishes the sacrifices made by our brave boys, but it is much worse when the fighting happens on your own soil. One thing that stuck with me about the exhibit was a reconstructed apartment from the seige of Leningrad - the seige lasted for 900 days and people resorted to stripping the wall paper off the walls and eating it.
The art produced from that time period really touches you to the core. Another great artist that portrayed the ravages of war was Kathe Kollwitz.

Gene Snyder said...


Thanks for posting this link to the Soviet war art. These look strikingly familar. I've seen a LOT of war art over the years and I find it amazing that regardless of nationality, the same themes are addressed - patriotism, suffering, heroism, death, etc...

During the 1990's, while I was in the Army, I had the unique opportunity to be a soldier painter. My mission was to document current Army operations in art. My studio location was at the U.S. Army Center of Military History in Washington D.C. in the storage area of the Army's collection of 15,000+ artworks. It was like having my own collection of works to study and learn from. Everything from Civil War artworks up to Desert Storm/Shield works. There were also a large number of German WWII propoganda works in the collection as well (works with the swastika or portraits of nazi leaders).

After my time there in the 90's as an artist, I was hired back after departing from the military in 2000 to digitally photograph the collection. There's a few Jes Schlaikjer works posted on my blog from those photos.

I'll post more works from the collection as time permits. Steve, I'll post the Ogden Pleissner ones soon.


Tyler J said...

Beautiful work. It's very expressive and conveys a mood and a feeling, not just an image, like all great art does.

I have to be honest, viewing the entire set is pretty heavy duty stuff. The cumulative effect is both powerful and morose.

Thanks for sharing it.

Pete said...

Growing up at the end of the Cold War, I've learned to see the Russians as "the enemy". As a lover of history, I've known that they were our allies during WWII but you tend to forget that their human experience was every bit the same as anyone else's. It's universal. Sherman was right.

Anonymous said...

Great site. Shows that there was much more to Soviet art than just hollow propaganda. The best of those remind me of the Russian painter Vasily Vereshchagin whose work shows the tragedy of wars in the late 19th century.

David Still said...

Wow. There's a lot of them I really like, but Guarding The Peace has got to be one of my favourites. There's an exhibition of Sovjet Estonian propaganda art in my home town right now, and there's some really great broad shouldered fishermen in bronze there. That kind of art is a bit different of course. But some of these paintings are, technically, on par with the old American Illustrators!

i, me said...

Also from the site:
A German illustrator, really impressive stuff.

James Gurney said...

Thanks, everybody, for your thoughtful comments--and links and recommendations.

I second I,me's motion about the Hans Liska sketchbook. His work is new to me. Anyone heard of him.

Shane Pierce said...

wow - very cool
Thanks for sharing these!