Life, art and design 1905 – part two

There was tremendous hope for a new modern society after the Russian revolution and civil war, and a new geometric, dynamic and sometimes playful style in art and design, constructivism, grew in the early 1920s from the avant-garde ideas which developed earlier in the century.

el lissitsky 2 squares 1922

El Lissitsky 1922

Alexandra exter set design 1926

Alexandra Exter set design 1927

russian textile

soviet textiles 1920s

Soviet textiles 1920s

Although constructivism was revolutionary and full of force and vigour, it was eventually suppressed in favour of social realism, which the working people could understand, and which was not based on a desire for freedom and innovation, anathema to the Bolsheviks. It was probably this force and the geometric patterns and diagonal lines in futurism and constructivism that led to the popular art deco style, which, like Art Nouveau, influenced graphic design, posters, furniture, jewellery, textiles and ceramics.

art deco teapot

Clarice Cliff art deco teapot


Art deco Odessa travel poster

1929 Soviet poster by Valentina Kulagina

Valentina Kulagina 1929 poster commemorating the 1905 revolution

Outside of Russia, purely abstract art was developed mostly through the Bauhaus in the 1920s, and then suppressed by the Nazis in the 1930s. Again Kandinsky was a huge influence.


Kandinsky 1923


Paul Klee 1925

Paul Klee puppets 2

Paul Klee puppets

Many European artists emigrated to America between the wars or just before World War II. A group of them and several Americans such as Jackson Pollock began developing abstract styles after the war. Mark Rothko, born in Russia in 1903, may have something of Malevich and the suprematists in his work, but his paintings of rectangles are also thought to have been inspired by the 1905 pogroms and stories of mass graves that his family told but he almost never spoke of. And so we come full circle back to the pogrom in 1905.

mark-rothko 1956

Mark Rothko 1956

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