Krasnaya Niva – ‘The Worker’s Breakfast’
The cover shows part of a picture by Serafima Vasilevna Ryangina. It is entitled ‘The Worker’s Breakfast’ and is interesting for its composition and mood. The ‘worker’ is living in rather well for the late 1920s in the USSR – he has high leather boots, his wife is wearing slippers, there is a clock on the wall and a cat. It looks as though the kitchen is not shared. However, his slumped body gives the impression of exhaustion, even though he has only just woken up. The woman, possibly pregnant (or intentionally overfed), does not look very happy. She seems concerned about the man.
Ryangina is known for genre paintings such as this, but more so as a great socialist realist painter. Her works depicting electric powerline workers, brick factory women and many others are highly representational of the style.
‘October’ – Matveev
The frontispiece shows a photograph of the sculpture ensemble ‘October’. It was commissioned by the Soviet of People’s Commissars from the leading sculptor of the time, Aleksandr Trentevich Matveev. The piece was part of the celebration of the 10th. anniversary of the October revolution. It stood in the entrance hall of the newly-opened Museum of the Revolution, on Manezh Square in the heart of Moscow. Matveev was a very important plastic artist and teacher, influencing a great deal of Soviet and post-Soviet Russian sculpture.
From left to right are arranged a kneeling Red Army soldier in a Budenovka cap, a standing worker, and a seated peasant, holding a sphere.
The three male figures are well-defined, muscular individuals. The peasant is older than the other two, expressing the long traditions and practices of agriculture. His beard and authority give an air of worldly wisdom. The sphere he holds may symbolise the earth and it belonging in the hands of the peasantry. As a compositional device, it connects him to the factory worker. This man is the central figure of the group. He is strong, tall and looking to the horizon. He holds a hammer, which seems to be able to shape the ‘world’ borne by the peasant. The soldier is lean and attentive. He is on the look-out, crouched and ready for action. Of the three figures, it is only the peasant whose gaze may connect with the viewer. The worker is concerned with matters more far-reaching than the present day, so he belongs to the future. The Soldier does not have time to engage with people – he must always be searching for the enemy.
Streets of Moscow
The photograph shows the Nikitovskaya Gates in Moscow. It is not only of interest because of it’s age. This picture, published in a popular weekly news magazine in the 1920s, formed the subject matter for a painting by the contemporary Russian artist, Aleksei Shalaev.
Judging from the positioning of the vehicles, the modern artist has clearly used the original photograph as the source material for his impressionist work. He has successfully given this part of Moscow a warm Parisian feel.