Graphics by Alexander Deineka of the 1920s and 40s
Alexander Deineka entered the history of Russian art primarily as the author of mosaic panels and large thematic paintings, as an enthusiastic fan of all equipment, terrestrial and celestial, as well as as an admirer and connoisseur of various types of physical education and sports. Deynek put his outstanding artistic gift and remarkable energy at the service of the victorious Communist ideology, which he sincerely believed to be the only correct one. But his talent was much deeper and broader than ideological schemes, even when in the 1920s Deinecke had to deal with their direct propaganda. Perhaps it was at this time of open agitation that the artist’s talent was revealed most deeply and widely.
From illustration to large works
Deineka began his career, as many people do, by illustrating magazine articles. By the time he arrived in Moscow and entered VKHUTEMAS, that is, by the age of 21, Deyneka had a very different experience in the civil war. By force of circumstances Deyneka got into aggressive and fighting magazines “Atheist”, “Atheist at the machine”, then – “Searchlight”, ” Give!”, “Krasnaya Niva”.
Deineka’s magazine graphics of the 1920s became widely known and largely determined his creative path. Of particular interest are those drawings of Deineka, where he tries to convey physical movement. It was this movement that the author considered his main theme. On the one hand, these are instant sketches, where he skillfully reproduces the rhythms of physical movement with precise strokes, which he will later call “sniper”, and quite roughly-the external outline of people and objects. On the other hand, these are sketches of models, where he perfectly models the plastic form with long, elastic and strong lines. What is especially important, and within this form, the author tries to identify the subtle movement that is caused by the interaction of the dense masses that make up the form. The occurrence of a special internal pulsation is most noticeable on large volumes with accentuated divisions. This is partly why Deineka likes to draw heavy models, sometimes adding a detailed plastic design to a linear drawing with an accentuated contour. In these studies, he clearly captures the process of flowing and waving massive forms, which is transmitted on paper with a special, sensual sense of a wide, lazy rhythm.
Paintings or caricature?
The young artist is clearly behind other coffee caricaturists and part of the experience, and especially on the part of the cocky gloating sarcastic. Deineka compensates for the lack of this quality in relation to the various oppressors and exploiters who work in his lists together with the priests by saying that, figuratively speaking, he does not spare black paint on them. This was the trend of that violent and irreconcilable time. But here is to the rest of their characters, whether they are under the influence of not yet liquidated “as a class” of priests and bourgeois, or their own bad habits, or under the influence of circumstances, Deyneka clearly can not treat with direct mockery. Most often, he does not laugh at them, but tries to understand them. Deineka prefers to portray a person as a type, rather than as an individual. This is probably why the artist almost does not show the faces of his characters, most often presenting them in profile or from the back – this technique he will keep in his work for a very long time.
But for all this, Deineka was distinguished by the ability to “get into the skin” of such a typical person with considerable artistry and show him large, with the amazing vitality of his gestures and grasps, with the same interest with which in educational sketches he depicts the deliberately rough and heavy bodies of models. All the more, that survivor in conditions revolution, war, hunger, cold, typhus and devastation this “collective” man one fact his existence truly already showed any much higher conventional fortress, and Deyneka entire life liked to portray people strong. Now, under his brush, a scary picture of the life of that era of early Soviet people is being built. They are whipped and shot by class enemies, they do not understand what is happening and can easily, filled with an aggressive belief in something not too humane, vote as one person.
Sometimes they are having a good time, and sometimes, being in a kind of bestial state, they wander senselessly, carry heavy loads, stand in line for Newspapers, sit at meetings, wait for the descent into the mine, from which not all of them are destined to return. Circumstances can bring some of them to a state of incredibly sad convulsions. Deineka captures all this, but with a kind of surprising empathy. In his later memoirs, the artist does not dissemble at all, saying that in drawings, posters, he forgot about the visual side, that he was completely absorbed by the theme, the inner side of the plot.
With enthusiasm, although in the emergency mode of permanent magazine haste, the artist does not forget to take care of the expressiveness of the form. Magazine graphics of the early XX century developed techniques for angular expressive flatness and silhouette. Deineka often builds a form not only with the help of ink spots, but also with gaps in the background of white paper. Remembering the lessons of Favorsky (who was the rector of Vkhutmas during Deineki’s studies there), the artist gives the shades of black and white a sense of volume and even color, which makes his drawings especially expressive.
Throughout his life, Deineka preferred to make only the first sketches from nature, and then work from memory. This allowed him to cut off everything unnecessary, to arrange the work in such a way that they are better imprinted in the memory of readers. Deineka contrasts their misfortunes and delusions with pictures of creative work and sports.
Being one of the most expressive artists of social realism, Deineka makes us believe in the reality of these romantic images of people for whom work is everything.
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