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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Daily LIFT #683

Street fighting during the Revolution, engraving Alexey Kravchenko, USSR 1929 -- Daily LIFT #683

This etching was first published outside the USSR in the American Communist New Masses magazine issue of March, 1929.

"People running, falling, shouting, shooting. Barrels, signs, wheels are thrown pell-mell upon uprooted pavement stones, bespattered with the blood of the dead. This is street fighting. With all its noise, excitement and frenzy of despair. Nature and people are united in a mix-up of rain and smoke that is surrounding the whole barricade.

There are different things made by Kravchenko; illustrations for romantic stories by Hoffman and Gogol. The subjects vary, but throughout all of them there is the same exciting play of dark and light, the same pointed crispness of line, that reveals suddenly the hidden beauty of common things. Yet in all his work, no matter how grotesque the subject might be, there is no trace of degeneracy of any kind. They are energetic and full of life.

Alexey Kravchenko comes from a peasant family, a fact significant in itself. His parents intended him to become a clergyman. Fortunately, he had his way, and eventually became a student of the Moscow School of Art. He studied under distinguished men both in Russia and abroad. In 1914 the Petersburg Academy sent him to India, where he made several large paintings. He participated in the war, and during the revolution was appointed an instructor of art and curator of the newly created museum of Saratov.

It was only in 1921, that he became interested in wood engraving. Before the war wood engraving in Russia was a lost art. As war turned into revolution, oil-colors, canvas, even good paper became scarcer all the time. Naturally the artists turned to something that could be done in a small size on a block of wood or linoleum, and could stand a cheap and effective reproduction. A whole school sprung in existence. A line of fine artists like Favorskij, Masiutin, Falileev, Pavlinov and others, were busy making endless illustrations, book-covers, posters etc.. But among them Kravchenko is, perhaps, the most significant figure. He is the type of a modern Russian artist-illustrator, who combines the rare insight and romantic approach towards things, that he inherited from an older generation of artists, with the healthy and robust spirit, which can be only the result of a great social change. " -- text from the New Masses accompanying the piece.

Kravchenko, a prolific artist and illustrator was involved in many Soviet art shows, projects and exhibitions both in the USSR and abroad. He died while working in his studio near Moscow at the age of only 51.


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