As I mentioned in my monthly roundup, Sotheby’s are holding a brief exhibition on soviet realist portrayals of the sports. The boy and I went over there yesterday and took a look. We also wielded our cameras to great effect as you can see below.
One good thing about Sotheby’s is that their exhibition catalogues are generally free, so when we left, we grabbed one. All of the information in the captions is from the exhibit notes.
Mikhail Sokolov was a member of the Miriskusstvo (“World of Art”) movement in the 1910s, and followed that with cubist styles. During his exile in the 1930s, he became interested in dramatic works of realism; the Oarswoman is one of his best. Unusually, he doesn’t portray her at her moment of triumph; rather, this is the post-race, exhausted face of the winner. The painting reveals her humanity and reality, rather than abstractions of victory and achievement.
Vladimir Kutilin’s Waverunner is one of his earlier works, painted soon after his studies completed at Surikov Art Institute. It was inspired by increasing popularity of the sport (invented in the US in 1922) in the USSR. This work highlights the ambition and energy of the Soviet youth, and also points out the increasing appreciation among common citizens of the healthful benefits of sport.
Aeromodelling was a popular sport in the 1920s and 1930s, especially driven by the Soviet preoccupation with the conquest of the skies. Schoolchildren in particular formed aeromodelling clubs in which to pursue their interests in aircraft development. Olga Vaulina depicts the sky bound ambitions of the boy with the contrasting placement of his hand on the globe of the earth.