Socialist Realism

1,679 artworks, 553 artists
Socialist realism is an art movement that arose and developed in the 20th century in the USSR and other countries of the socialist camp. The artworks were based on the principles of ideology, they glorified military and labour exploits, scientific achievements, victories in sports and described the life of the working class and peasantry. Art has become not a source of aesthetic pleasure, but a method of educating people within the state ideological framework. The main customer and consumer of the works of socialist realism was the state, which determined the subject of the work, the form and method of depicting objects. Painting required to be apotheotic, emotional and understandable. For this reason, the paintings of socialist realism were called “high low art”.

In the 1920s, Lunacharsky was the first to use the definition of the “new social realism” concerning literature, and in 1934, this term became official and began to determine the artistic direction. The state used art as a means of agitation and propaganda.

The artists of socialist realism declared the harsh realism and truthfulness of the works, but at the same time they created a new myth about the “ideal world”. The canons established by the authorities did not allow creative search, ideological or subject deviation, experiments or artistic expression. Art constructed a solid hierarchy of genres. The most demanded genre was thematic or genre painting, which depicted the “dark past” or “bright future” with vivid-tempered subjects and clear accents. The genres also included historical and battle painting. Socialist landscapes have become panoramic, hyperbolized, and pathetic, with a stable horizontal composition. This caused excitement and awe from the breadth of the vast expanses of the dearest land and created the visual strength of the world. Still lifes were heavy, saturated and monumental, which emphasized the abundance and creative power of the socialist system. The portraits depicted politicians, popular actors, writers and prominent representatives of industrial production, science and agriculture. Absence of seclusion and minimum of static ruled the art movement: the subjects of the portraits were active workers of their own field, in which they had succeeded and were an example to follow.

Gigantism, pathos, and quantitative glut dominated in social realist paintings. The images of the socialist world abounded in dense saturated shades, objects and subjects, the space was visually heavy and compacted. Huge canvas contained everything and as much as possible. In facial expressions and movements of the depicted subjects, pressure and exaggerated emotionality were traced. Smoothed lines, dense inexpressive shades, the absence of a clear brush stroke were welcomed. All this depersonalized the painter and allowed to use the picture as an object of mass culture, replicated art. The painting of socialist realism is an endless series of paintings resembling film frames and illustrating myth with realistic precision.

Pictures of socialist realism:
The Defense of Sevastopol” 1942, “Expanse” 1944 by A. A. Deyneka, “The Great October” 1925, “Assembly of the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR” 1929 by I. I. Brodsky, “Bread” 1949 T. N. Yablonska, “Hi, XVII Congress of the CPSU (B)” 1934 by I. I. Mashkov, “The Commander’s Family” 1936, by K. S. Petrov-Vodkin.

Socialist realist artists: 
A. A. Deyneka, I. I. Brodsky, K. S. Petrov-Vodkin, T. N. Yablonska, A. M. Gerasimov, M. V. Nesterov, P. P. Konchalovsky.