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Aleksander Rodchenko (1891-1956)
Mother, 1924
Gelatin silver print, printed c. 1960s
11 3/8 x 8 1/4 in. (28.9 x 21 cm)
Artist's initials (A.M.R.) written by Linhart in pencil on verso
Lubomir Linhart Collection stamp on verso

Abram Shterenberg (1894-1978), Lilya Brik seated in chair, 1923

Abram Shterenberg (1894-1978)

Lilya Brik seated in chair, 1923

Vintage gelatin silver print

5 1/2 x 3 1/4 in. (14 x 8.3 cm)

Signed by the photographer on mount

Lili Brik, 1924

Aleksandr Rodchenko (1891-1956)
Lilya Brik, 1924
Gelatin silver print, printed c. 1980s
10 5/8 x 6 11/16 in. (27 x 17 cm)
Photographer's stamp on verso
Published in Soviet Photo, 1991
 

Aleksander Rodchenko (1891-1956)

Aleksander Rodchenko (1891-1956)
At the Telephone, 1928
Gelatin silver print, printed later
9 7/8 x 7 1/2 in. (25 x 19 cm)
Lubomir Linhart Collection stamp on verso

Alexander Grinberg (1885-1979), Portrait of an actress, late 1920s

Alexander Grinberg (1885-1979)

Portrait of an actress, late 1920s

Vintage gelatin silver print

4 1/2 x 6 in. (11.4 x 15.2 cm)

From the collection of Alexander Loganov, Moscow

Alexander Zhitomirsky (1907-1993)

Alexander Zhitomirsky (1907-1993)
Erika, 1930s
Photocollage
7 1/8 x 7 1/8 in. (18.1 x 18.1 cm)

 

Zhitomirsky dedicated this photomontage to his wife and muse, Erika. Late in his life, the artist wrote about his wife. 

 

My beloved, my Erika, used to say: 'I shall never cease to be amazed at the miracle that happens when on the white sheet of paper lying in front of you there appears a beautiful black drawing. In it is air and sorrow and joy — everything you felt when you worked on it' . . . My dear one, you are no longer, but, like a cactus spike, you remain in my heart. You are my happiness, you are my pain. . .

Roman Karmen (1906-1978)

Roman Karmen (1906-1978)
Untitled (Black Sea), 1930s
Vintage gelatin silver print
8 1/2 x 5 in. (21.6 x 12.7 cm)
Photographer's stamp on verso


Roman Karmen was born in 1906 in Odessa, on the Black Sea, and is considered one of the most influential figures in Soviet documentary filmmaking. He worked as a photographer for newspapers and magazines in the 1920s, including USSR in Construction, Ogonyok, and Sovetskoe foto, and participated in the landmark exhibitions 10 Years of Soviet Photography in Moscow in 1928; Film und Foto in Stuttgart in 1929; and the Exposition internationale de la photography contemporaine at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris in 1936.

In the 1930s, Karmen turned to filmmaking and cinematography. A lifelong Communist, he produced documentary films portraying the Spanish Civil War, the Siege of Leningrad, the Nuremberg Trials, the Vietnam War, and more international conflicts and events. When he died in 1978 at the age of seventy-one, the New York Times lauded him in his obituary as “one of the Soviet Union’s foremost film makers…highly respected by cinematographers of varying political ideologies for the brilliance of his work.”

Alexander Grinberg (1885-1979), Untitled (arabesque), 1920s

Alexander Grinberg (1885-1979)

Untitled (arabesque), 1920s

Vintage gelatin silver print mounted on board

8 1/2 x 6 1/2 in. (21.6 x 16.5 cm)

Unknown artist Cigarette Girl, Krasnaya Niva, July 27, 1925

Unknown artist
Cigarette Girl, Krasnaya Niva, July 27, 1925
Vintage gelatin silver print
6 ¾ x 4 ¾ in. (17.1 x 12.1 cm)
Stamp on verso: "Krasnaya Niva ["Red Field," an illustrated journal published weekly in USSR from 1923-1931]. No. 33/23 No. 1212. July 27, 1925.”

Evgeny Khaldey (1917-1997)

Evgeny Khaldey (1917-1997)
Memory of Spartakiada, 1933
Photocollage
6 1/2 x 7 1/2 in. (16.5 x 19.1 cm)

Inscribed in black lettering before a lively young volleyball player are the words “Memory of Spartakiada.” The Spartakiada was an international sporting event organized in the Soviet Union as a response to the Olympics. The last Spartakiada was held in 1937, and in 1952, the Soviet Union joined the Olympics.

Ivan Shagin (1904-1982), Pasha Angelina, 10th Congress of the Young Communist League, the Kremlin, April 1936

Ivan Shagin (1904-1982)

Pasha Angelina, 10th Congress of the Young Communist League, the Kremlin, April 1936

Vintage gelatin silver print

9 x 5 3/4 in. (22.9 x 14.6 cm)

Photographer's stamp on verso


 

Pasha Angelina was internationally famous in her lifetime as the first female tractor driver in the USSR. Born in 1912 in a village of Greek families in present-day Ukraine, Angelina organized an all-female tractor team at the age of twenty-one. The team became a focus of Soviet propaganda, and Angelina was propelled to national fame as a symbol of a young, strong, technically adept, industrious Soviet woman. She was a recipient of the coveted Stalin Prize, three orders of Lenin, and the Order of the Red Banner of Labour, and twice was named a Hero of Socialist Labor. When she died in 1959, her obituary was signed by Nikita Krushchev, and she received an obituary in the New York Times.

In this photograph, Shagin captures Pasha Angelina at a meeting of the 10th Congress of the Young Communist League in the Kremlin in April 1936. Angelina was seated in a place of honor next to Stalin. This image is a cropped version of the larger photograph, which shows Angelina next to Stalin and can be seen at this link, along with a short documentary about Angelina.

This is the full image that is cropped in the previous photograph. Ivan Shagin captures Pasha Angelina at a meeting of the 10th Congress of the Young Communist League in the Kremlin in April 1936, where she is seated in a place of honor next to Stalin. A short documentary about Angelina can be seen at this link:, stalinsmoustache.org/2015/01/28/soviet-feminism-pasha-angelina/

This is the full image that is cropped in the previous photograph. Ivan Shagin captures Pasha Angelina at a meeting of the 10th Congress of the Young Communist League in the Kremlin in April 1936, where she is seated in a place of honor next to Stalin. A short documentary about Angelina can be seen at this link:

stalinsmoustache.org/2015/01/28/soviet-feminism-pasha-angelina/

Georgy Zelma (1906-1984)

Georgy Zelma (1906-1984)
Komsomol Girl, 1932
Gelatin silver print, printed c. 1960s
Image 11 x 8 in. (27.9 x 20.3 cm)
Paper 11 1/4 x 8 in. (28.6 x 20.3 cm)
Title, date, and artist’s name on verso

Aleksandr Rodchenko (1891-1956), Student, 1932

Aleksandr Rodchenko (1891-1956)

Student, 1932

Gelatin silver print, printed c. 1940s-50s

10 3/4 x 7 1/4 in. (27.3 x 18.4 cm)

Photographer's stamp in Cyrillic and crop marks in pencil on verso

Moisei Nappelbaum (1869-1958)

Moisei Nappelbaum (1869-1958)
Portrait of Nina Podgoretskaya, Ballet Dancer at the Bolshoi, 1934
Vintage gelatin silver print
14 1/2 x 10 5/8 in. (36.8 x 27.0 cm)

In the 1920s, Nina Podgoretskaya was the Bolshoi Ballet’s most beloved starlet, along with Anastasia Abramova, Liubov Bank and Valentina Kudriavtseva. Here, Podgoretskaya delicately holds the gauze of her dress that floats from her hand like mist. Nappelbaum illuminated the background by dabbing watercolor on the glass of the negative, thus emphasizing the ethereal impression of her hands and dress. A portraitist with a painterly approach to his art, Nappelbaum wrote in his book From Craft To Art (1958):

"It is more difficult to photograph a face with regular features than one with irregular features. I have always used the subject’s hands both to suggest a psychological atmosphere and to serve as a secondary element in the composition of the image. At the same time, they give a finishing touch to the design . . . I firmly ruled out the use of entirely white or entirely grey backgrounds being too monotonous and unexpressive."

(See: Shudakov, G. 1983. Pioneers of Soviet Photography. London: Thames & Hudson, p. 15)

Aleksandr Rodchenko (1891-1956)

Aleksandr Rodchenko (1891-1956)
Acrobat, 1940
Gelatin silver print, printed c. 1950s
6 1/2 x 4 1/2 in. (16.5 x 11.5 cm)
Title, date and photographer's name in Russian in pen on verso
Collection stamp on verso

fencers

Aleksandr Rodchenko (1891-1956)

Fencers, 1936

Gelatin silver print, printed c. 1960s

6 1/8 x 8 7/8 in. (15.6 x 22.5 cm)

Lubomir Linhart Collection stamp on verso

Yakov Ryumkin (1913-1986), Sports Parade, Kharkov, 1939

Yakov Ryumkin (1913-1986)

Sports Parade, Kharkov, 1939

Gelatin silver print

11 5/8 x 9 in. (29.5 x 22.9 cm)

Kolkhoz Woman

Georgy Petrusov (1903-1971)
Kolkhoz Woman, 1934
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 x 6 7/8 in. (22.9 x 17.5 cm)
Signed in pencil on verso

Georgy Lipskerov (1896-1977), Fishing Woman, Buryat-Mongolia, 1938

Georgy Lipskerov (1896-1977)

Fishing Woman, Buryat-Mongolia, 1938

Gelatin silver print, printed later

3 1/4 x 2 1/4 in. (8.3 x 5.7 cm)

Boris Ignatovich (1899-1976)

Boris Ignatovich (1899-1976)
Galya Mel'nikova, 1937
Gelatin silver print
8 7/8 x 7 in. (22.5 x 17.8 cm)
Title and 1936 date in pencil in Russian on verso
Photographer's stamp on verso

Kuban Cossack Galya Mel’nikova was awarded a gold watch for winning equestrian competitions. Scholar Valery Stigneev has recognized the especially rich detail and expressivity found in Ignatovich's portraits, adding that he sometimes modified his camera to achieve a more shallow depth of field.

Boris Ignatovich (1899-1976)

Boris Ignatovich (1899-1976)
Sculptor Vera Mukhina, 1946
Vintage gelatin silver print
11 x 8 3/4 in. (27.9 x 22.2 cm)

 

Vera Mukhina (1889-1953) was one of the most prominent sculptors of the Soviet Union. Born in Riga, Mukhina studied in Moscow, Paris, and Italy, and achieved national recognition in the 1920s for her Socialist Realist sculptures. In 1937, she received international attention for Worker and Kolkhoz Woman, which crowned the Soviet Pavilion at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris (just opposite the Nazi German pavilion) and was subsequently moved to Moscow. The 78-foot tall, stainless steel sculpture was the world’s first welded sculpture and features a worker and a kolkhoz woman holding aloft a hammer and sickle. In 1947, the sculpture became the official emblem of the Mosfilm studio. In this portrait by Ignatovich, Mukhina is seen with a version of the sculpture.

Semyon Fridlyand (1905-1964)

Semyon Fridlyand (1905-1964)
Girl from Arkhangelsk, c. 1950s
Chromogenic print
7 5/8 x 5 3/8 in. (19.4 x 13.7 cm)
Signed and titled on verso

15 3/4 x 11 3/4 in. (40 x 29.8 cm)
Photographer's name on verso

Olga Ignatovich (1904-1984), On a stroll, 1930s

Olga Ignatovich (1904-1984)

On a stroll, 1930s

Vintage gelatin silver print

15 1/2 x 11 3/4 in. (39.4 x 29.8 cm)

Photographer's stamp on verso

Boris Kudoyarov (1898-1973), Pilots, heroes of the Soviet Union, defenders of Moscow (Dolina M.I. at left; Vatintseva A.A. at right), 1943

Boris Kudoyarov (1898-1973)

Pilots, heroes of the Soviet Union, defenders of Moscow (Dolina M.I. at left; Vatintseva A.A. at right), 1943

Gelatin silver print, printed c. 1960s

11 1/2 x 9 1/4 in. (29.2 x 23.5 cm)

Signed on verso

 

At left in this photograph is Mariya Dolina (1922-2010), a Soviet pilot who was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union for her service as a deputy squadron commander in World War II. 

parachute

Viktor Ruikovich (1907-2003)
Muza Malinovskaya, One of the First Women Parachuters, 1937
Gelatin silver print
11 1/4 x 7 1/2 in. (28.6 x 19.1 cm)
Titled and dated in pen in Russian on verso
Photographer's stamp on verso

Muza Malinovskaya was one of the first female paratroopers in the Soviet Union. In 1935, she was one of a group of six female paratroopers who set a world record by jumping from a height of 7,000 meters, a feat that made her famous throughout the Soviet Union. After this record, she toured the country and the world, giving lectures, and worked as an instructor in the Soviet air force academy. She was featured, along with a reproduction of the above photograph, in the book Soviet Women, printed in 1939.

During World War II, Malinovskaya became part of a special brigade that parachuted behind enemy lines to perform reconnaissance. After the war, she married Nahum (Leonid) Eitingon, a Soviet intelligence officer with whom she had two children. Eitingon was arrested and imprisoned in the 1950s due to accusations of involvement in a “Zionist plot,” and for some time she was unable to find work due to her association with him. Malinovskya died in 1989.

Evgeny Khaldey (1917-1997), Night Witches from the Night Bomber Regiment (including Nadezhda Popova), Tamansky Division, Novorosyisk, 1943

Evgeny Khaldey (1917-1997)

Night Witches from the Night Bomber Regiment (including Nadezhda Popova), Tamansky Division, Novorosyisk, 1943

Gelatin silver print, printed 1990s

30 x 40 cm

 

Khaldey's photograph captures a group of the Russian air force's "Night Witches," the name given to female Russian bomber pilots by the Nazis because "the whooshing noise their plywood and canvas airplanes made reminded the Germans of the sound of a witch's broomstick." Nadezhda Popova, shown standing in this photograph, was memorialized in a New York Times obituary when she died in 2013 at the age of 91. The Times writes, "These young heroines, all volunteers and most in their teens and early 20s, became legends of World War II but are now largely forgotten. Flying only in the dark, they had no parachutes, guns, radios or radar, only maps and compasses. If hit by tracer bullets, their planes would burn like sheets of paper...Any German pilot who downed a 'witch' was awarded an Iron Cross."

Aleksandr Ustinov (1909-1995), Pilot Grizodubova, 1940s

Aleksandr Ustinov (1909-1995)

Pilot Grizodubova, 1940s

Vintage gelatin silver print

14 3/4 x 9 1/2 in. (37.4 x 24.1 cm)

Photographer's stamp and Pravda stamp on verso

 

Valentina Grizodubova (1909-1993) was one of the first female pilots in the Soviet Union awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union, and the only female Hero of the Soviet Union to also be awarded the title Hero of Socialist Labour. The daughter of pioneering aircraft designer Stepan Grizodubov, Valentina Grizodubova flew a glider solo at the age of fourteen and became a flight instructor at the age of twenty-four, training over eighty male pilots. She went on to set seven world records for altitude, speed, and long-distance flying. When WWII broke out, she was appointed commanding officer of the 101st Long-Range Air Regiment, presiding over about three hundred men and participating in the effort to break the siege of Leningrad. After the war, she served as the sole female member of the national panel to investigate Nazi war crimes in the Soviet Union.

Press Release

Nailya Alexander Gallery is pleased to present The Image of a Woman in Soviet Russia: 1920s-1940s, an online exhibition that provides a window into the role of women in the newly-formed Soviet society.

The Bolshevik Revolution led to widespread calls for equality between the sexes and for women to participate in political, economic, and social life with the same status and opportunities as men. The Image of a Woman in Soviet Russia includes prints that celebrate women of all ages – from a young student to Aleksandr Rodchenko’s elderly mother – and from a wide range of roles and professions – from artists to athletes, and from laborers to war heroes. A mélange of portraiture, propaganda, and personal photography, the exhibition captures the awe, admiration, and conflicting emotions with which male photographers viewed the women around them, many of whose accomplishments mirrored or rivaled their own. The hopefulness of the 1920s is palpable in two prints by Alexander Grinberg, which show a dancer and an actress in moments of joy, in full command of their abilities. Meanwhile, the vigor and bravery of the new Soviet woman is portrayed in photographs of Pasha Angelina, internationally famous in her lifetime as the first female tractor driver in the USSR and seated next to Joseph Stalin at a Congress of the Young Communist League in the Kremlin; the young female pilots who defended Moscow and Leningrad during the war, one of whom, Valentina Grizodubova, set seven world records and went on to serve as the only female member of the national panel to investigate Nazi war crimes in the USSR; and Muza Malinovskaya, one of the first female parachuters in the Soviet Union, who set a world record in 1935 by jumping from a height of more than 7,000 meters.

The role of the Soviet woman as muse was filled most famously by Lilya Brik, shown in this exhibition through the eyes of both Rodchenko and Abram Shterenberg in the mid-1920s; in the former’s photograph, she seems the very image of a liberated woman, in modern attire and with her hands at her hips. A more novel role – the Soviet woman as an artist – is depicted here in Boris Ignatovich’s portrait of Vera Mukhina, one of the most prominent sculptors in the Soviet Union, seated before her famous sculpture Worker and Kolkhoz Woman, which crowned the Soviet Pavilion at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris; as well as in Moisei Nappelbaum’s vintage print of Nina Podgoretskaya, the beloved starlet of the Bolshoi Ballet. Other images of women show their subjects generalized as model of an ideal woman or as aspirational icons – a young woman lounging in an inner tube on the Black Sea, photographed by filmmaker Roman Karmen in the late 1920s; a Mongolian fisher-woman smoking a pipe; a smiling young girl selling cigarettes, photographed for the pages of the news journal Krasnaya Niva [Red Field].

“The early Communist vision of women’s equality and liberation – where women would be able to work in any profession and communal institutions would take responsibility for childrearing and housekeeping – was never fully realized,” writes Katie McElvanney, Curator of Slavonic and East European Collections at The British Library. The Image of a Woman shows the power of this vision, which captivated male photographers, and, indeed, the whole of Soviet Russia in the mid-twentieth century.