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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Six pieces of contemporary Soviet art, 1956-1970

In March, 1976 Soviet Life magazine published this look at six artworks from Soviet artists of the period 1956-1970.

While they have common themes and motifs they also show the different schools of what was a second Golden Age of Soviet art.

Here are works by artists of the Georgian, Ukrainian, Armenian SSRs and from the RSFSR.

We have included commentary about each piece.

"The life, work and, above all, the personality of people of our day, their characters, moods and emotions are the main object of the reflections of Soviet artists of different republics and different generations. A sense of the age in which they live and kinship with it enable our artists to penetrate reality, the spiritual world of their contemporaries.

Time passes, and the image of the valiant, noble champion of the people changes. Our time

and our society have filled this image with new ideas. It is art's mission to find expression for


Georgian Land - Konstantin Makharadze, ( 1965)

Take the monumental work Georgian Land by Konstantin Makharadze. The painting is static the gestures are terse, but the absence of outer dynamics in the figures is replaced by the dynamics of the composition itself . This imparts an exalted, epic tone to the pictorial narrative, creating a generalized image of the country. One senses the painter's deep concern for what he is portraying . Makharadze seems to be introducing us to his republic and his contemporaries. He stresses the decorative quality of the painting with clusters of grapes—the fruit of his land and of the labor of its heroes.

Summer - Tatyana Yablonskaya (1967)

Summer by the Ukrainian artist Tatyana Yablonskaya conveys a sensation of radiance. The image of the sultry Ukrainian summer is not simply copied from nature. Once perceived, the motif is superimpressed on the emotions born of it and then grows over with later associations. The landscape, enlivened by the presence of people, becomes a theme of youth. The bright dresses and kerchiefs of the girls and their swinging movements are replete with poetry. At the base of Yablonskaya's work is a deep feeling for people. This is also true of her other vigorous genre paintings.

Family of the Artist Chernyshev -- Dmitri Zhilinsky ( 1969)

You are no less impressed by Dmitri Zhilinsky's Family of the Artist Chernyshev. It shows the well-known Soviet painter Nikolai Chernyshev, who lived a long and fruitful life. For those who knew him , he was a model of selfless dedication to art. Zhilinsky, who always achieves a portrait likeness and deep psychological delineation of character, portrayed him so.

Byurakan -- Ruben Gevondyan ( 1970)

When introducing us to his heroes, another painter, Ruben Gevondyan of Armenia, shows different treatment, albeit with the same view of the times. Byurakan is an observatory that is associated in our minds with the front line of science, but it was important for the painter to show some typical traits of the young people of our day. In this painting there is a clearly defined lyrical and symbolic note.

My Heroes -- Igor Simonov ( 1963)

Igor Simonov called his work My Heroes, there by defining its main content. The artist introduced a generalized touch into the individuality of each character. Four men stop\ working for a moment to examine, each in his own way, a painting in which they are perhaps themselves depicted. This atmosphere of concentration unites the men spiritually, makes this a group portrait, and imparts a unity to the entire painting.

Spring -- Oganes Zardaryan (1956)

The subject of communion between people and the Earth they live and work on is expressed likewise in Spring by Oganes Zardaryan of Armenia. Without shedding any of its living concreteness, the figure of a young woman becomes a symbol . Spring as a season and spring as a time of human life are fused here into a single entity that imparts a poetic touch to the daily scene. A village girl bearing the traditional jug of water on her shoulder has stopped for a moment to reflect. She is full of hopes and dreams, and her image conveys an association with the eternal thread of life . The theme of labor, of constructive effort, is inseparable from the theme of the land. In elaborating it , each artist follows an individual path consonant with his or her own experiences, national school and talents. Often the theme of labor acquires an emotional - poetic or psychological - philosophical shade that renders it multiplaned.

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