Sunday, August 8, 2021

Yablonskaya Visits a Collective Farm

Tatiana Yablonskaya, Bread (or Grain), 1949 Tretyakov Gallery

Tatiana (or Tetyana) Yablonskaya (Ukranian, 1917-2005) produced more than 300 drawings and studies for her composition showing the grain being harvested for the making of bread.

She traveled to a working farm to document the harvest. Her painting expresses the optimism of the early Soviet years. She said: "The vast scope of work performed by the united, happy workers at the collective farm astonished me. Being there made me clearly realize what a big debt our art still owed to our great people, how little it had done to reveal all the greatness and dignity of the Soviet people."

In planning the composition she said that she "did not paint individual people or details of the landscape, I tried to capture whole groups, along with trucks, sacks, and structures, naturally forming a unique composition that one can only find in real life."


Yablonskaya "wanted to show the communal energy of work, the joy of collective labour... Happy, always accompanied by song, shared work. Its vigorous pace and joyous cadence left a strong impression on me, and I tried to express it in all my studies, and especially in my sketches and drawings."

But according to a museum publication, conservatives criticized the work because they felt that her expressive paint handling undermined the the realism of the scene, and that it "revealed the harmful influence of Impressionism, and where 'realism was sacrificed to the so-called painterliness.' 

Tatiana Yablonskaya, detail of Bread (or Grain), 1949

Fortunately, critics later exonerated her, and the painting is one of the most cherished images in the Russian collection.

Yablonskaya said, "In order to create truly valuable works of art, the artist has to live with the people and learn about every aspect of their lives. To observe life in its entirety. Only then one may be able to sum it up. This is why I am convinced that I was absolutely right to make so many sketches during my stay at the collective farm."


Susan Krzywicki said...

Love this painting. She called it: nature does form itself into "a unique composition that one can only find in real life."

This, like most artworks and photos from that era, has started to feel much further back in history that it did when I was younger and the whole idea of Communism filled some people with an excitement about a social experiment that would have had promise. And it filled others with a strong fear.

I like how the detail of the work has such completeness and appeal, as well as the whole composition. And that so many of the figures are female and expressive of a joy in being there, doing the work.

Michael Pianta said...

It’s a bit disconcerting to look at this painting and think about the famine that afflicted Ukraine just a few years earlier - a man made disaster that is now widely considered a genocide.

James Gurney said...

Michael, yes, I was thinking the same thing. But of course I was trying to see it through her eyes or at least let her describe her experience and what she was trying to accomplish with the painting.

Susan, I also love the lighting she used. The backlighting is so powerful.

Mary Aslin said...

I absolutely love this painting, the mood, atmosphere, the key, the composition, light quality....Wow...

arenhaus said...

Well-executed, artful propaganda is arguably the worst kind of propaganda. Regardless of the purely artistic qualities of the work.