The one style that probably did influence everyday life in the early 1900s was Art Nouveau, which permeated design on every level, from architecture to furniture, wallpaper, illustration, jewellery, advertisements, posters, postcards, shop signs and textiles. There is no one who would not have seen posters on the street, shop signs, book illustration and postcards with the typical swirling patterns of art nouveau, and many household items would have been influenced to some extent.
Odessa postcard 1902
Russian Art Nouveau soap ad
Illustration Vasalisa by Bilibin, 1899
Popular artistic styles like the swirling figures and lettering of art nouveau would only have touched people’s lives minimally in their own homes, through the covers of books or magazines, a vase, or decorated tin.
Vysotsky tea tin
At the same time, an explosion into abstraction in art was beginning in the early 1900s, slowly in Germany and France, following the lead in Art Nouveau with artists like Klimt and Kandinsky, who went back and forth from Germany to Russia. At first, abstraction was brought into design, such as in fabrics, furniture and architecture, but painting soon followed with an incredible liveliness.
Frances Macdonald 1896
Fabric Riemerschmid 1905
Fabric Jonasch 1910
In early 1900s Russia, there was the realist style of painting of Repin, the satirical art of political posters and newspapers, and an Impressionism which moved close to abstraction at times. Artists of different styles responded to the events of 1905, especially the political graphic artists, but others as well.
Ivanov The execution 1905
Isaac Brodsky Mother and sister 1905
Isaac Brodsky was from Odessa. My first impression of this painting of his mother and sister was that the girl seemed frightened and the two were clutching each other. This might be an over interpretation.
The earliest purely abstract art began with Malevich in Russia in 1912, inspired by a movement called suprematism in avant-garde poetry and modernist literature.
This movement rejected that art needed to come from the natural or real world but could be centred solely on itself. Kandinsky was originally part of this movement but was later rejected because of his mysticism, seeing other meanings behind his purely abstract forms. The later Russian movement, constructivism, which grew up after the revolution, was inspired by Italian futurism and other movements that developed as artists watched the destruction and mechanisation of life during World War I. It developed through painting, sculpture, graphic design, textiles, theatre design and architecture.
To be continued…