Russian Art: Vladimir Kozlinksy’s Then and Now

Vladimir Kozlinsky - Then and Now

 

Vladimir Kozlinsky’s Then and Now was a window poster produced in 1920. The poster was produced post-Russian revolution and is a perfect example of early socialist propaganda art. Lenin asserted, writing about Party-Literature and art, that:

 

Literature must become part of the common cause of the proletariat, “a cog and a screw” of one single great Social-Democratic mechanism set in motion by the entire politically-conscious vanguard of the entire working-class. (1.)

 

Lenin is arguing that art must be part of the revolution, and must convey the feeling and aims of the mechanism of revolution. Lenin explains ‘Literature [and art] must become a component of organised, planned and integrated Social-Democratic Party work’. (2.) Lenin believes that art should become the overt tool of the revolution and central party.

 

Kozlinsky’s artwork is a component of the party with its attempt to illustrate the differences between pre- and post-revolutionary Russia. Kozlinksy creates this interesting dialectic by producing two opposing scenes of then and now. In the left-hand frame three large figures dominate the scene. The medals they are wearing indicate that they are apart of the old-guard. Their size dominates the scene and the stick-like figures below (which look like Lowry’s representations of workers). The workers are also faceless; they are completely dominated by the symbols of the old Imperial system of government.

 

In the right-hand scene, the “now”, the large singular figures have disappeared and been replaced by workers of the Social-Democratic Party marching in full colours. The faces of the workers are plainly seen and seem to be chanting or singing songs. The upbeat, strong vision of the crowd is a marked difference to the down-trodden appearance of the workers in the first scene. The common man is invigorated, empowered by the revolution. The introduction of a prior scene ensures the difference between then and now is clearly indicated ensuring Kozlinsky’s work communicates its political message clearly and distinctly. Kozlinsky’s work is an interesting and distinct example of overtly political art – in line with Lenin’s assertion that all art must serve the party.

 

1. Vladimir Llyich Lenin, ‘Party Organization and Party Literature’ in Maynard Soloman (ed.), Marxism and Art, Detroit: Wayne State University Press, (1979), pp.179-183, p. 180.

2. Vladimir Llyich Lenin, ‘Party Organization and Party Literature’, p. 180.

Published by

A.R. Duckworth

South Yorkshire England

One thought on “Russian Art: Vladimir Kozlinksy’s Then and Now”

  1. Interesting article. You could also translate the words at the top of the poster. The first word means ‘festival’ used as an adjective and the second ‘clothes’. My Russian dictionary gives ‘holiday clothes’ as the translation. There’s some ironic humour here perhaps.I’m using this poster in a painting which I’m doing at the moment, hence my interest.Part of the painting, of Lenin, will be based on the poster.

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