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Operator Frantsisson (collage for Towards Victory in the Skies), 1924
Photocollage on cardstock with handdrawn lettering
6 1/2 x 5 3/8 in. (16.5 x 13.7 cm)

This photocollage celebrates Boris Frantsisson (1899-1960), the Soviet avant-garde cinematographer who shot Sergei Eisenstein’s first film, Glumov’s Diary (1923), and collaborated with director Dziga Vertov on films including Girl with a Hatbox (1927) and The Happy Canary (1929). The collage was published in September 1924 in the weekly newspaper The Cinema Gazette (later named Kino) to promote the film Towards Victory in the Skies, for which Frantsisson became the first camera operator in Soviet cinema to perform the dangerous feat of photographing an airborne plane from another plane. Galadzhev has inscribed the name “Frantsi-" and "sson” on the collage, perhaps intended as a pun on the Russian word son, meaning “to dream,” and the resemblance of the filmmaker’s name to the name of the country France. Galadzhev’s composition reflects the ideals of flight and technology that captivated members of Moscow’s art scene in the 1920s, and each word in the collage is punctuated by a full stop — a unique Galadzhev signature.

Information courtesy of Philip Cavendish. See Cavendish, Philip, The Men with the Movie Camera: the Poetics of Visual Style in Soviet Avant-Garde Cinema of the 1920s. New York: Berghahn Books, 2016, p. 21


Aleksandr Rodchenko

Portrait of Mayakovsky, 1924

Vintage gelatin silver print

8 15/16 x 11 3/8 in. (22.7 x 28.9 cm)

OGIZ-POLITIZDAT stamp on verso

“Foto Rodchenko, by Spiridovsky” in ink on verso

V.V. Mayakovsky in Cyrillic in ink on verso

Cubist Head

Unidentified artist

Cubist Head, c. 1919-1920
Sculpted by David Yakerson (1896-1947)

Vintage gelatin silver print

9 1/2 x 7 1/8 in. (24.1 x 18.1 cm)

In pencil in Russian on verso: "D.A. Yakerson (1896-1947) / Cubist Head / 1919-1920 sculpture did not survive"

Photographed are the now-destroyed cubist sculptures by Russian Suprematist artist David Yakerson. Yakerson created his sculptures at the Vitebsk People’s Art School that he joined in 1919 at the personal invitation of Marc Chagall. While overlooked in the history of the Soviet avant-garde, Yakerson has recently regained prominence, and his artworks have been exhibited at the State Russian Museum (2018); Centre Pompidou (2018); Jewish Museum (2018); as well as a solo exhibition at the Pushkin Museum of Art (2000).   


Yakerson’s cubist sculptures reflect the rapid and exciting artistic developments of the late-1910s Soviet Russian avant-garde — a period situated between Picasso’s analytical cubist artworks, and Russian Constructivism’s ascent in the early 1920s. Yakerson’s sculptures draw from an international cubist inquiry about the nature of forms in space — and Suprematism, an avant-garde movement indigenous to Russia. Founded by Kazimir Malevich whose radical Black Square (1915) shocked the art world, Suprematism pushed abstraction to its furthest limits in its effort to express the complete dematerialization of objects in space. The artist maintains a degree of figuration in Cubist Head assembling his subject from a combination of simplified cones, pyramids and prisms. In his disdain for Classical beauty and form, Yakerson rejected academic materials such as marble to create his sculpture. Instead, he used a hard clay that he carved into directly.


(See: Shatskikh, A; K Mikhnevich. 2000. David Iakerson: Skul’ptura. Rabota na bumage. Moscow: Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts.)

Monument to Ferdinand Lassalle

Boris Ignatovich

Monument to Ferdinand Lassalle, Leningrad, 1930, printed c. 1960s

Gelatin silver print

9 5/8 x 6 3/8 in. (24.4 x 16.2 cm)

Construction of the Globe

Arkady Shaikhet (1898-1959)

Construction of the Globe at the Moscow Telegraph, 1928

Vintage gelatin silver print

9 7/16 x 7 in. (24.0 x 17.8 cm)

Date in pencil and title in pen in Russian on verso

Photographer's stamp and signature on verso


Two workers construct the revolving glass globe that decorated the facade of Moscow's Central Telegraph Building. The Globe both documents the rapid technological developments in 1920s Moscow, and conveys an impactful message about the Soviet Union's new global position. As a key member of the Soviet 20s avant-garde, Shaikhet captured the photograph with a Constructivist eye — as evident in the tight framing and sharp contrasts of light and dark to celebrate industrial form. 

The artist and designer El Lissitzky incorporated this photograph into his 1930 photocollage for the International Hygiene Exhibition, Dresden, in which the globe is superimposed onto the body of a factory worker. 

shaikhet ogonyek

Ogonyek magazine cover, 1928

Arkady Shaikhet's Construction of the Globe at Moscow Telegraph became a cover of the first illustrate magazine in the SU Ogonyok. Shaikhet was a major photographer for Ogonyok and his photographs frequented the covers of the magazine. 


El Lissitzky 

Photomontage for Soviet Pavilion at the International Hygiene Exhibition, Dresden 1930

With Arkady Shaikhet’s Construction of the Globe, 1928

Gelatin silver print

10 x 7 1/2 in. (25.4 x 19.1 cm)


Alex Lachmann Collection


El Lisstizky incorporated Arkady Shaikhet’s Construction of the Globe at the Moscow Telegraph, 1928 into the pictured photomontage. Lissitzky designed the artwork as a centerpiece for a floor-to-ceiling poster display at the entrance of the Soviet pavilion at the International Hygiene Exhibition, Dresden, 1930. The Soviet pavilion was intended to display Soviet innovations in healthcare to a Western audience. According to Margarita Tupitsyn, this was the first time Lissitzky put into practice the principle of mobilizing the observer within a total installation.


(See Margarita Tupitsyn, El Lissitzky: Beyond the Abstract Cabinet: Photography, Design, Collaboration, Yale University Press, 1999. p. 57.)


Holiday Illumination

Boris Ignatovich (1899-1976)

Holiday Illumination, 1932, printed c. 1950s

Gelatin silver print

3 3/8 x 5 1/2 in. (8.6 x 14 cm)

Artist's stamp on verso


El Lissitzky (1890-1941)
Self-portrait, 1924
Gelatin silver print
7 x 5 in. (17.8 x 12.7 cm)
Stamped "Originalabzug / vom Glasnegativ / einmalige Auflage / für die griffelkunst 1985 / Nachlab Jen Lissitzky" on verso [Original print / from glass negative / unique edition/ estate print (Jen Lissitzky)]
Artist's name written in pencil by artist's son on verso

Lissitzky was a favored designer for exposition pavilions at home and abroad. He developed a series of "total exhibition installations" in 1923-1928, rooms in which walls, floor, lighting, and artworks were conceived as a whole. 


El Lissitzky

Russland. Die Rekonstruktion der Architektur in der Sowjetunion (Neues Bauen in der Welt. Band 1)

(Russia. The Reconstruction of Architecture in the Soviet Union [New Ways of Building in the World], vol. 1)



With a Board

Boris Ignatovich (1899-1976)

With a Board, 1929, printed c. 1960s

Gelatin silver print mounted on board

23 5/8 x 18 1/2 in. (60.0 x 47.0 cm)


A worker skillfully balances on lumber while carrying another piece of wood over his shoulder. Leading avant-garde artist El Lissitzky incorporated With a Board into his design for the cover of Russland, from the 1929 book series Neus Bauen in Der Welt that represented the architectural fantasies of America, France and Russia.

Strastnoy Boulevard, Moscow, 1930

Strastnoy Boulevard, Moscow, 1930
Gelatin silver print mounted on board, printed c. 1960s
Title and date in pencil in Russian on verso
Photographer's stamp and name in pencil on verso
21 5/8 x 15 5/16 in. (55 x 39 cm)

Strastnoy Boulevard is a street rich with cultural iconography that stretches from Strastnoy (now Pushkin) square to Peter's Gates. It is 123 meters wide, making it one of the broadest streets in the boulevard ring. The contrast here between socialist slogans and Romanov-era architecture highlights dramatic differences in pre- and post-revolutionary worldviews. This photo—controversial at the time for not offering viewers an easily-digestible, straight-forward message — is emblematic of Ignatovich’s tireless spirit of experimentation.


Boris Ignatovich responded to the criticism from Soviet art critic Leonid Mezhericher on a variant of this photograph in the 1931 issue of Proletarskoe Foto, no. 3, p. 8:


The artist received the task of capturing Moscow on election day . . . in this shot the artist included the banners hung up on Strastnoy Square. And what is characteristic of this square? Dom Izvestnyi, the monastery’s bell tower, the Pushkin statue, the bus, the lively movement on the street, the kiosks, the boulevard, and, never fear, fierce critics — also the balloons. Almost the entire composition is anchored around the main object — the banners.

Portrait of Mayakovsky

Aleksander Rodchenko (1891-1956)

Portrait of Mayakovsky with Scottie, 1924

Vintage gelatin silver print

14 5/16 x 11 1/4 in. (36.4 x 28.6 cm)

Titled and dated in pencil in Russian on verso

Rodchenko stamp on verso

Pioneer, 1930, Gelatin silver print

Pioneer, 1930

Gelatin silver print

6 1/8 x 5 1/4 in. (15.5 x 13.3 cm)

Lubomir Linhart stamp on verso

Rodchenko created this portrait to celebrate the steadfast commitment of the Soviet Pioneer -- analogous to the boy or girl scout --  to the communist project. The extreme angle from which Rodchenko took the shot provides the photograph an air of monumentality and triumph. Captured just prior tor Rodchenko's expulsion from the avant-garde October collective, members of the journal Proletarskoe Foto denounced the artwork for its formalist underpinnings. Critic Ivan Bokhanov wrote about a similar photograph, Pioneer Girl, from the same series, "The Pioneer Girl has no right to look upward. That has no ideological content. Pioneer girls and Komsomol girls should look forward." (see Tupitsyn, Margarita, The Soviet Photograph 1924-1937, p. 107).

Dmitry Debabov

Georgy Petrusov (1903-1971)

Caricature Portrait of Dmitrii Debabov, 1934

Vintage gelatin silver print

8 5/8 x 6 7/8 in. (21.9 x 17.5 cm)

Title in pencil in Russian on verso

Photographer's signature in pencil on verso


Petrusov reveals a bright sense of humor and a lively spirit of experimentaiton through his caricatures of prominent Soviet photographers like Aleksandr Rodchenko, Boris Kudoyarov and Dmitry Debabov. Petrusov submitted these photographs to the seminal 1935 exhibition Masters of Soviet Photography in Moscow. 

Caricature Portrait of Boris Kudoyarov, 1934, Vintage gelatin silver print

Caricature Portrait of Boris Kudoyarov, 1934

Vintage gelatin silver print

9 x 6 in. (22.9 x 15.2 cm)

Title and signature in pencil in Cyrillic on verso


Georgy Petrusov was a key member of Moscow's circle of avant-garde photographers in the 1920s and 30s. Petrusov demonstrates a bright sense of humor and a lively spirit of innovation through his caricatures of prominent Soviet photographers like Aleksander Rodchenko, Boris Kudoyarov and Dmitry Debabov. Petrusov submitted these photographs for the seminal 1935 exhibition, Masters of Soviet Photography in Moscow.

Scarecrow, 1927

Boris Ignatovich (1899-1976)
Scarecrow, 1927
Gelatin silver print, printed c. 1960s
6 x 9 1/2 inches (15.2 x 24.1 cm)
Photographer's stamp on verso

In 1909, a monument to Alexander III was erected in the center of Znamenskaya Square (present day Vosstaniya Square) in front of the Nikolaevsky Railway Station, in recognition of the Tsar's construction of the Great Siberian Railroad, which connected the capital with the Far East. The monument was designed by Italian sculptor Paolo Trubetzkoy (whom G.B. Shaw declared "the most astonishing sculptor of modern times"). After the 1917 revolution, a poem by Demyan Bedny, "Scarecrow," was carved into the pedestal. In 1937, the monument was moved to the yard of the State Russian Museum, and now it stands near the museum's Marble Palace. 


Boris Ignatovich (1899-1976)
Drums, 1929
Gelatin silver print
6 3/8 x 9 5/8 in. (16.1 x 24.4 cm)
Title and date in pencil in Russian on verso
Photographer's stamp on verso

Reaping Machine Wheels

Reaping Machine Wheels, 1929, printed c. 1960s
Gelatin silver print
6 7/8 x 9 in. (14.5 x 22.9 cm)
Title, date and photographer’s name in pencil in Russian on verso
Photographer’s stamp on verso

 Boris Ignatovich (1899-1976)

Boris Ignatovich (1899-1976)
Still Life, 1928
Gelatin silver print
Paper 7 x 9 1/2 in. (17.8 x 24.1 cm)
Image 6 5/8 x 9 1/8 in. (16.8 x 23.2 cm)
Photographer’s stamp on verso


Evgeny Khaldey (1917-1997)

Memory of Spartakiada, 1933


6 1/2 x 7 1/2 in. (16.5 x 19.1 cm)


Gustav Klutsis

Spartakiada (Design for postcard for Spartakiada, Moscow), 1928

Vintage gelatin silver print

6 5/16 x 4 1/8 in. (16.0 x 10.5 cm)

Klutsis stamp on verso


The postcard for which this was designed was one out of a series of nine, produced for the 1928 Spartakiada in Moscow. The Spartakiads were a series of international sports events organized by the Soviet Union in response to and in opposition to the Olympics. The All-Union Spartakiada in 1928 was so titled because it involved the participation of seventeen countries outside of the Soviet Union. The last Spartakiad was held in 1937, and in 1952 the Soviet Union joined the Olympics.


Boris Ignatovich (1899-1976)

Youth, 1937

Vintage gelatin silver print mounted on board

16 1/2 x 21 15/16 in. (41.9 x 55.7 cm)

Title and date in pencil in Russian on verso

Photographer's stamp on verso


This photograph is a timeless celebration of the joy and energy of youth. The artist positioned his subjects in a triangle composition that succesfully corresponds to the rounded shape of the camera lens, and the interaction of light and shadow give the photograph a warm vitality. 


Boris Ignatovich (1899-1976)

Shower, 1935

Gelatin silver print mounted on board

23 1/4 x 16 5/8 in. (59.1 x 42.2 cm)


Young athletes enjoy a therapeutic water massage. In the foreground, a musacular youth sprays water from a Charcot Shower. Shower’s composition inspired Alexander Deyneka to recreate the scene in the painting, Shower (After the Battle). As writes art scholar Margarita Tupitsyn, “Later [Deyneka] produced a work which he himself considered to be a failure in comparison to the original photograph.”

Armenian Delegation

Georgy Petrusov (1903-1971)

Armenian Delegation at Sport Parade, Red Square, Moscow, 1935

Vintage gelatin silver print

18 1/2 x 12 3/8 in. (47.0 x 31.4 cm)

Title, date and photographer's name in pencil on verso


A trio of Armenian athletes stand before a 1935 sports parade in Moscow's Red Square. The photograph's impeccable geometric composition is evidence of Petrusov's meticulous planning. The interlinked pattern created by the figures' backs conveys the fraternity and unbreakable bond between the athletes. Petrusov also structured his photograph as a cinematic shot, creating a deep perspective: focusing on the trio in the foreground and illuminating the performance space with shadowy silhouettes of dancers in the distance. A rare vintage print, Armenian Delegation reveals the warmth and texture of distinctly early 20th century paper — visible in the canvas of the athlete's shoes and the rough cobblestone they stand on. 

Sport Parade

Georgy Zelma

Sport Parade, 1930s

Vintage gelatin silver print

6 5/8 x 4 5/8 in. (16.8 x 11.8 cm)


Rodchenko made a sketch for the shot for Yakov Khalip's photograph titled On Guard. Rodchenko highlighted 3 objects of various sizes to produce a greater emotional impact. (From an article by Alexander Lavrentiev). 


Yakov Khalip (1908-1980)
On Guard (Large-bore Cannon), Baltic Fleet, 1936
Vintage gelatin silver print
Image 5 1/2 x 3 1/2 in.
Paper 9 1/2 x 5 1/2 in.
Signed and dated by Khalip or his son in pencil on verso
Soyuzfoto stamp on verso
"The First All-Union Exhibition of Photographic Art. YA Khalip" printed on verso


Arkady Shaikhet (1898-1959)
Motor Boat and Eight Oarsmen, 1939
Gelatin silver print
9 1/4 x 5 7/8 in. (23.5 x 14.9 cm)
Title in pencil in Russian, photographer's signature in pencil, and photographer's stamp on verso


Arkady Shaikhet

Pamir Road, 1934

Vintage gelatin silver print

6 1/8 x 9 1/4 in. (15.6 x 23.5 cm)

Title and date in pen in Russian on verso

Photographer's stamp and signature on verso


Arkady Shaikhet

In Flight, 1935

Vintage gelatin silver print

6 1/4 x 9 1/2 in. (15.9 x 24.1 cm)

Date in pencil, title in pen in Russian on verso

Photographer's stamp and signature on verso


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.

Press Release

Nailya Alexander Gallery is pleased to present Constructing the Frame: Composition Among the Early Soviet Avant-Garde, on view Tuesday 10 September through Saturday 26 October 2019. The opening reception will take place Wednesday 11 September from 6:00-8:00 PM as part of Gallery Night at the Fuller Building.

Constructing the Frame showcases exciting experiments with framing and composition among the leading avant-garde artists of the 1920s and 1930s, including Aleksandr Rodchenko, Boris Ignatovich, Petr Galadzhev, Gustav Klutsis, Arkady Shaikhet, Georgy Petrusov, and Yakov Khalip.

By the mid-1920s, photography and cinema were at the forefront of the arts in the Soviet Union. In 1924, Aleksandr Rodchenko had abandoned painting and turned to photography, which offered artists fresh ways of seeing, unexpected angles, innovative contrasts and perspectives, and new possibilities for composing a two-dimensional image. He introduced constructivist ideology to photography, elevating the medium from the purely documentary to the level of fine art.

On view in Constructing the Frame is a rare photocollage by Galadzhev, Maquette for the Front Cover of Dreams (Operator Frantsisson), that combines cinema, photomontage, typography, and graphic design in a dynamic expression of the spirit of the mid-1920s. The collage celebrates the famous Soviet cinematographer Boris Frantsisson, who shot Sergei Eisenstein’s first film, Glumov’s Diary (1923), and whose name, along with the Cyrillic word for cameraman, frames a portrait of the cinematographer surrounded by symbols of progress and modern life — the Zeppelin Hansa (later Lufthansa), an airplane, and a camera.

Photographers found that the construction of a strong, carefully framed composition was key to both the development of a fresh style and the communication of their message. Ignatovich documents advances in literacy among the working class in Still Life, 1928; the workers’ hands and the newspaper Soviet Labor, shot from above, are surrounded by the circular shapes of cups, teapots, biscuits, and sausages. Bold, formalist compositions that focused on a single detail of an event or concept could create powerful metaphors, as in Ignatovich’s 1929 photographs of drums and of reaping wheels. These photographs, both dominated by round, massive shapes, are powerful examples of synecdoche: the performance of the orchestra is conveyed solely by the drums, while the reaping wheel embody the larger subject of agricultural growth.

Compositions with such a strong geometric component helped to create a sense of space and were especially effective in capturing the ambitious technological and industrial projects that were sweeping the country. An image by Ignatovich shows a worker crossing a beam with a long board, balancing like a circus performer; the beam and board cut diagonally across the vertical orientation of the image from opposite directions, while Ignatovich shoots from below, so that the worker seems suspended in the air. This photograph so impressed El Lissitzky that he used it for the 1930 cover of Russland (Russia. The Reconstruction of Architecture in the Soviet Union [New Ways of Building in the World], vol. 1). Lissitzky also used Shaikhet’s 1928 circular composition of Construction of the Globe at the Moscow Telegraph in his photomontage for the Soviet Pavilion at the International Hygiene Exhibition in Dresden in 1930.

Similarly, in Khalip’s On Guard, which recreates with astonishing precision a sketch for the shot made by Rodchenko, the yawning mouth of a large-bore cannon is counterbalanced by the tiny circles of the naval officer’s binoculars. The composition is constructed only with three elements of various sizes, in keeping with Rodchenko’s belief that contrasts in size across visual planes helped an image make a strong impression.

Photographers were not concerned only with the formalist aspect of a shot. Emotional expression was equally important, as seen in Ignatovich’s photograph Youth, 1937, whose strong triangular composition celebrates the spirit of adolescence and the future of the country. In a satirical photomontage from 1934, Georgy Petrusov teases his colleague Dmitri Debabov by showing Debabov standing on his head — and still holding his camera and photographing. Also on view is one of Rodchenko’s first and most famous photographs, a psychological portrait of Mayakovsky. The portrait was made as a collaboration between the artist and the legendary poet, whose piercing eyes bring the image to life.

The masters of Soviet avant-garde photography expanded the range of the medium through these experiments with composition, introducing new techniques to photojournalism and enhancing the unique visual language of photography.

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