Biography

Known as the father of Soviet photomontage, Gustav Klutsis (1895-1938) was one of the most influential photographers and revolutionaries of the Soviet era and a key figure of Constructivist art. Born in Latvia, Klutsis wad drafted into the Russian army in 1915 and participated in the overthrow of the Tsar two years later. At the age of twenty-two, he moved to Moscow and began his studies at the state-run art and technical school VKhuTEMAS under Kazimir Malevich and Antoine Pevsner.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Klutsis, alongside his wife and collaborator Valentina Kulagina, worked as an artist for the Soviet State, producing photomontages, collages, posters, and books, and breaking new ground in the fields of typography, design, and color theory. His work was exhibited internationally at the First Russian Art Exhibition in Berlin in 1922 and at the Soviet Pavilion of the Pressa Exhibition in Cologne in 1928. The extraordinary range of his work and the extent of his influence are all the more notable given the brevity of Klutsis’s life. Despite his unwavering dedication to the Communist Party and his decades of work producing Soviet propaganda, Klutsis was arrested in 1938 and executed under the order of Stalin at the age of forty-three.

“Klutsis brought photomontage to its peak of expression in posters from 1930, and after that blended workers’ bodies (in some cases his own) and their machines with the heads of leaders of the Soviet state to forge a collective juggernaut for modernization. These posters, printed in the tens of thousands, helped transform the Soviet visual landscape in the early Stalinist era.” The Art Institute of Chicago, Avant-Garde in Everyday Life, 2011