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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

12 works by Soviet artist Aleksandr Deineka, b. May 20, 1899

One of the Soviet Union's greatest socialist realist artists, Aleksandr Deineka (sometimes translated as Deyneka) was born in Kursk, May 20, 1899.

A remarkable and very prolific artistic pioneer, he created some of the USSR's greatest and most famous works. While some have portrayed socialist realism as somehow dull or constraining, Deineka's work -- like all the best socialist realism -- is dynamic, inventive and often experimental.

He touched on all facets of Soviet life from the horrors of the war and civil war, to sports, aviation, working people, science, daily life and beyond. He was a People’s Artist of the USSR (1963), member of the Academy of Arts from 1947; vice-president of the Academy of Arts from 1962 to 1966, was made a Hero of Socialist Labor (1969) and was a member of the CPSU from 1960.

Here we look at 12 of his works on the anniversary of his birth. We have also included the short biography of him from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia of 1979.

Deineka died in Moscow in 1969.

Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Deineka

Born May 20, 1899, in Kursk; died June 12, 1969, in Moscow. Soviet painter. People’s Artist of the USSR (1963). Member of the Academy of Arts from 1947; vice-president of the Academy of Arts from 1962 to 1966. Hero of Socialist Labor (1969). Member of the CPSU from 1960.

Deineka studied at the Moscow State Higher Arts and Technical Studios from 1920 to 1925 under V. A. Favorskii and I. I. Nivinskii. He was a member and founder of the Society of Painters. During the early period of his career (1920’s) he worked primarily as a graphic artist for magazines. Even then the themes and images that are typical of Deineka’s work as a whole began to take shape in his painting and drawing. Turning to the motifs of industrial labor, engineering, urban life, and sports, he sought to express the attitude of the new Soviet man. Deineka’s almost monochromatic works of the 1920’s are distinguished by expressive monumental forms, dynamic composition based on the contrast of planes, volumes, and different spatial schemes, and a graphically clear style of painting. His generalized images of workers subject to the rhythm of labor—sometimes solemn and strained, sometimes violent—as well as the engineering logic of the openwork designs and the artist’s own techniques personify a new era in the life of the country. During this period Deineka created his best work on a historical revolutionary theme, the painting The Defense of Petrograd (1928, Central Museum of the Armed Forces of the USSR, Moscow), which expresses the stern heroism of the Civil War of 1918–20.

Lyric motifs often appear in Deineka’s work of the 1930’s (Mother, 1932, Tret’iakov Gallery). The subjects, the dynamic rhythm, and the pictorial resolution of his works of this period, which are filled with sun and light, communicate the enthusiasm of the first five-year plans and an awareness of the joy of life and the constructive labor of the Soviet people. Deineka’s works on the theme of sports acquire great social specificity by personifying the strength and physical and spiritual health of Soviet society and Soviet man (Donbas: Lunch Break, 1935, Art Museum of the Latvian SSR, Riga; Future Pilots, 1938, Tret’iakov Gallery). His works based on impressions of a tour of the USA, France, and Italy during 1934–35 are outstanding for keen observations and social characterizations (A Street in Rome, 1935, Tret’iakov Gallery).

During the Great Patriotic War Deineka created a picture imbued with heroic enthusiasm (The Defense of Sevastopol’, 1942, Russian Museum, Leningrad), as well as stern, dramatic landscapes (The Outskirts of Moscow, November 1941, 1941, Tret’iakov Gallery). In the postwar period he turned again to the themes and images that he had emphasized in the 1920’s and 1930’s (By the Sea, 1956–57, Russian Museum). Deineka’s monumental painting is closely related to his other paintings in its themes and graphic structure. Among his monumental paintings are a panel and murals in the Central Theater of the Soviet Army (1940) and at the Exhibition of the Achievements of the People’s Agriculture (1957), mosaics on the ceilings of the Mayakovsky (1938–39) and Novokuznetskaia (1943) subway stations in Moscow, the mosaic frieze in the foyer of the Palace of Congresses in the Moscow Kremlin (1960–61), and the mosaics A Fine Morning and The Hockey Players (1959–1960) and Red Guard and The Milkmaid (1962), for which he received the Lenin Prize in 1964. Deineka created many graphics (two series, both done in watercolor gouache: Sevastopol’, 1932–34, Tret’iakov Gallery and Russian Museum; and Moscow in Wartime, 1946, Tret’iakov Gallery). He executed posters (Physical Culture, 1933) and illustrations and created works of sculpture.

After 1940, Deineka taught as a professor at a number of schools, including the Moscow State Higher Institute of Art and Technology (1928–30), the Moscow Polygraphic Institute (1928–34), the V. I. Surikov Moscow Art Institute (1934–46 and 1957–63), the Moscow Institute of Applied and Decorative Art (1945–52; director, 1945–48), and the Moscow Architectural Institute (1953–57). Deineka has been awarded the Order of Lenin, the Order of the Red Banner of Labor, and various medals.

The Defence of Sevastopol, 1942 -- Oil on canvas

Basketball, 1962

Conquerors of Space, 1961

From a mosaic he did on the Novokuznetskaya metro station, 1940

Donbass, 1947

The Forgemen

Farmer on the bike, 1935 Oil on canvas

Sverdlov Square. December 1941. From the series Moscow in War Time.

In the Crimea, 1956

Future Pilots, 1938

The Defense of Petrograd, 1928

Textile Workers, Oil on canvas, 1927



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