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Biography

Georgy Petrusov (1903-1971) was born in Rostov-on-Don and took up photography as a hobby at age 14. After several years of work as a bank bookkeeper in his hometown, he moved to Moscow to begin his career as a professional photojournalist. By 21, he was contributing to newspapers such as Trud, Metallist and Pravda. Among his assignments for Pravda was a 1928-1930 photoshoot of the construction of the massive Magnitogorsk metallurgical plant in the Urals. The People’s Commissar of Heavy Industry would award him a car for the Magnitogorsk project, as well as for his photographs of the Gorky Car Factory.

Petrusov worked alongside the period’s most prolific avant-garde photographers, many of whom he would photograph throughout his career. Petrusov’s photographs are particularly striking for their well-organized space and deep perspective. For scholar Anri Vartanov, Petrusov “knew how to structure his compositions with an incredible sense of height that only easel-painters are capable of” (Sovetskoe Foto, 36). For scholar Alexander Lavrentiev, Petrusov’s compositions resemble a theatrical stage: “it was important to pick his observation point. He conveyed not just the perspective, the subject matter of the photography, the humor and formal relations, but all of them combined in a kind of spatial dialogue between the spectator and the scene represented.” (Petrusov: Retrospective, Point of View, 179).

In 1930 Petrusov began contributing to USSR in Construction, a publication dedicated to promoting advances in Soviet industry and culture. Other contributors included Alexander Rodchenko, Varvara Stepanova and El Lissitzky. Petrusov created photographs for the magazine on a diverse range of topics including collective farming in Kabardia, the opening of the Moscow subway station, and a travel piece about the Black Sea coast. Among his most well-known projects was a 1934 photostory about the massive construction of the Dnepr Hydroelectric Dam.

During World War II Petrusov served as a war photographer for Izvestia and the Soviet Information Bureau. He also published an album of photographs showing Berlin in the days immediately after peace was declared.

When Petrusov returned to Moscow, he began photographing the Bolshoi Ballet. He produced over a thousand performance images spanning 1945 to 1957. For the next 18 years of his life and up until his death, he worked for Soviet Life, a magazine published in the United States by the Novosti Agency. In 1969, he revisited Berlin and published his album entitled Two Meetings with Berlin. He died in 1971 in Moscow.

Petrusov's photographs have been shown in over 30 exhibitions around the world. During his lifetime, Petrusov exhibited his photographs in Masters of Soviet Art Photography, Moscow, 1935; First Exhibition of Art Photography in the USSR, Moscow, 1937; and International Salon of Photography, Boston, 1941, among others. In 2010, the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow, organized Georgy Petrusov. Retrospective: Point of View, the artist's first major retrospective. Most recently, Petrusov's photographs were exhibited in The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film, Jewish Museum, 2015; and Revolutsiia! Demonstratsiia! Soviet Art Put to the Test, Art Institute of Chicago, 2017-2018. Petrusov also contributed various articles to the popular photography journal Sovetskoe Foto, such as "More About the Leika," 1935, and "The Highest Honor," 1937. 

 

See: 

Vartanov, Anri. "Zvezda Petrusova," Sovetskoe Foto 1 (1989): 35-39.

Lavrentiev, Alexander. "Georgy Petrusov: Point of Observation." In Georgy Petrusov. Retrospective: Point of View. Moscow: MAMM, 2010. 

Selected Exhibitions

Solo and Selected Group Exhibitions

1935

Masters of Soviet Photography, Moscow

1936

Exhibition of Soviet Photography, Prague

1937

First Exhibition of Art Photography in the USSR, Moscow

1940

International Photography Exhibition, Zagreb

1941

International Salon of Photography, Boston

1947

International Photography Exhibition, Cairo

1948

The Great Patriotic War 1941-1945 in "Art Photography", Moscow

1960

Allunion Exhibition in Art Photography, Moscow

1963

Photography Exhibition APN, Moscow

1964

Photography Exhibition APN, Moscow

1965

Photography Exhibition, APN, Moscow

1967

Allunion Jubilee Exhibition "50 Years of the Soviet Union", Moscow

Exhibition of Economic Achievements in the USSR, Moscow

One-Man Exhibition, Berlin

1968

Allunion Exhibition, "50 Years of the Soviet Army," Moscow

1975

Allunion Exhibition, "30 Years Since the Great Victory," Moscow

1982

Early Soviet Photographers, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford

1990

20 Soviet Photographers, Amsterdam

1991

Soviet Photography of the 1920s and 1930s, Galerie Alex Lachmann, Köln

1992

The Utopian Dream: Photography in Soviet Russia, 1918-1939, Laurence Miller Gallery, New York

The Great Utopia. The Russian Avant-Garde 1915-1932. Frankfurt, Amsterdam, New York

Photography in Russia 1840-1940, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford

1993

Ludwigs-Lust, Nürnberg

Russian Avant-Garde in the 20th Century, The Ludwig Collection, Musuem Ludwig, Köln

Georgy Petrusov. Pioneer of Soviet Photography, Galerie Alex Lachmann, Köln

2002

Soviet Photography of the 1920s and 1930s, Wien

2004

Soviet Photography of the 1920s and 1930s, Moscow

Staging Happiness: The Formation of Socialist Realist Photography, Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York

2010

Georgy Petrusov. Retrospective: Point of View, Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow

2015

The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film, Jewish Museum, New York

Soviet Photography, 1920s-1930s, Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York

2017-2018

Russian Photography after the Revolution, Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York

Revolutsiia! Demonstratsiia! Soviet Art Put to the Test, Art Institute of Chicago