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Arkady Shaikhet (1898-1959)

Express, 1939

Vintage gelatin silver print

15 11/16 x 21 1/4 in. (39.8 x 53.9 cm)

Title and date in Russian in pencil on verso

Photographer's stamp and signature on verso


Express has become iconic of the dynamism and innovation of the Soviet 1930s. Steam and cloudy skies envelop the train's dark skeleton. Speeding down the tracks, the train resembles a zeppelin preparing to launch. The train was named the "Red Arrow" and ran between Moscow and Saint Petersburg (then Leningrad). A triumph of Soviet industrial technology, only two Red Arrow trains were ever built. Along with the Soviet metro and developments in aviation, the engine captured in Express is emblematic of 1930s Soviet industrial design. 

Portrait of Mayakovsky

Aleksander Rodchenko (1891-1956)

Portrait of Vladimir Mayakovsky, 1924

Vintage gelatin silver print

11 13/16 x 8 7/8 in. (30 x 22.5 cm)

Photographer's stamp on verso


Taken in 1924, this portrait of Russian Revolutionary poet Vladimir Mayakovsky is one of Alexander Rodchenko's earliest photographs. Outside of his role as poet, Mayakovsky was a screenwriter, film actor, artist and editor for the Constructivist journal New Left Front of Arts (1927-1929). Rodchenko and Mayakovsky would collaborate on various projects through the 1920s including Pro Eto (1923), an illustrated epic poem dedicated to Mayakovsky's lover, Lily Brik, and posters for the state advertising agency, Mosselprom. 

Portrait of Mother

Aleksander Rodchenko (1891-1956)

Portrait of Mother, 1924

Gelatin silver print

11 1/4 x 8 in. (28.5 x 20.5 cm) 

Photographer's initials in pencil on verso

Collection stamp on verso


Portrait of Mother was one of Rodchenko's first single frame photographs. In Museum of Modern Art's catalog for the 1998 exhibition Alexander Rodchenko, former MoMA photography curator Peter Galassi wrote:


In 1924, anticipating further collaborations with Mayakovsky, [Rodchenko] made a group of posed studio portraits of the poet. This in turn led to an open-ended series of portraits of family and friends, through which Rodchenko began to explore photography as a descriptive medium. This exploration included the brilliant concision of the portrait of his mother, tightly cropped from the more generous framing of the negative, and a handful of multiple exposures. Both the cropping and the double exposure signal the graphic designer's approach to the photograph as an invitation to alteration. 


Portrait of Mother was published in Sovetskoe Foto's 1927 issue no. 10. 


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. 

Navy Fleet, Black Sea

Sergey Shimansky (1898-1972)

Navy Fleet, Black Sea (men from Sevastopol), 1930s

Vintage gelatin silver print

15 x 22 7/8 in. (38.1 x 58.1 cm)

Title and date in Cyrillic on verso

Photographer's stamp on verso

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. 

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. 

Collage with Girls, Athletes and Clowns

Petr Stepanovic Galadzhev (1900-1971)

Collage with Girls, Athletes, and Clowns, c. 1924

Vintage collage with Indian ink on brown paper

12 3/4 x 8 3/4 in. (32.4 x 22.2 cm)

Monogrammed in Cyrillic in ink on verso


Galadzhev created this photomontage at the height of the New Economic Policy (NEP) that briefly introduced small-scale capitalism to the Soviet Union. In juxtaposing images of a clown dressed in an aristocrat's tuxedo, with a fashionable new automobile, Galadzhev responds to NEP and the upper middle class culture that emerged from it. Galadzhev may have produced the photomontage as part of his artistic training at the State College of Cinematography, where he studied from 1921-1925. 

About This

Aleksander Rodchenko (1891-1956)

Unpublished photocollage for Vladimir Mayakovsky's "About This", 1923

Gelatin silver print, printed c. 1940

7 1/8 x 4 3/4 in. (18 x 12 cm)

Collection stamp on verso


This photomontage was created for Vladimir Mayakovsky's 1923 epic love poem Pro Eto (About this). While originally unpublished the photomontage was later reproduced in a 1973 facsimile of the poem by Ardis publishers. Mayakovsky dedicated his verse to his lover and muse, Lily Brik, whose portrait is collaged alongside images of zoo animals. Rodchenko created a related photomontage for Pro Eto to accompany Mayakovsky's lines:


And she

-- she who loved beasts -- 

Also sets foot in the garden

Operator Frantsisson

Petr Stepanovic Galadzhev (1900-1971)

Maquette for the Front Cover of Dreams (Operator Frantsisson), c. 1920s

Photocollage on board with handdrawn lettering

6 1/2 x 5 3/8 in. (16.5 x 13.7 cm)


This photomontage celebrates Soviet cinematographer Boris Frantsisson (1899-1960), who took some of the first aerial shots of Moscow in the early 1920s. Part of the milieu of Soviet Constructivist filmmakers and photographers, Frantsisson was cinematographer for Sergei Eisenstein’s first film, Glumov’s Diary (1923), and collaborated with the director Dziga Vertov on films like Girl with a Hatbox (1927), and The Happy Canary (1929). Galadzhev has inscribed the words “Frantsi-" and "sson” on the collage, perhaps intended as a pun on the Russian word “son,” meaning to dream. Galadzhev’s wordplay reflects the ideals of flight and technology that captivated members of Moscow’s bourgeoning film scene in the 1920s.


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

Sergei Eisenstein

Attributed to Alexander Sigaev (1893-1973)

Sergei Eisenstein enthroned during the production of October (1928), 1927

Vintage gelatin silver print

20 x 15 3/4 in. (50.8 x 40.0 cm)


Dressed in worker’s clothes, film director Sergei Eisenstein sits on Nicholas II’s real throne in the Winter Palace during the production of his landmark film, October (1928). Based on John Reed’s journalistic account Ten Days that Shook the World (1919), the film chronicles the events leading up to the October Revolution. This photograph was taken just before shooting the scene of storming the winter palace by photographer and cinematographer Alexander Sigaev, who also took photographs on set of Eisenstein's The General Line (1929). The late actress and Eisenstein scholar Marie Seton humorously commented on the production of the photograph:


With a mock gesture of His Majesty waving his hand, [Eisenstein] ordered photographs to be taken of himself in his role of iconoclastic emperor of a new art form. But as he sat on the throne, his short legs did not touch the floor. Defiantly, he flung his legs over the arms of the throne and was photographed again.

(See Seton, Marie. 1952. Sergei M. Eisenstein. London: The Bodley Head, p. 96.)

Dmitrii 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. 

Boris Kudoyarov

Georgy Petrusov (1903-1971)

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 Russian on verso


Petrusov experimented with darkroom processes to produce this caricature of fellow artist, Boris Kudoyarov. He produced the distorted bulge in Kudoyarov's jaw by carefully bending the photographic paper while exposing the photograph. The bend in the paper is visible along the lighter points on the bottom of the photograph. 

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


Boris Ignatovich (1899-1976)

Motherhood, 1938

Vintage gelatin silver print mounted on board

14 3/4 x 19 3/8 in. (37.5 x 49.2 cm)

Photographer's stamp on mount verso


Ignatovich creates a symmetry between the colt's black body and that of the white mare behind. The classicized aesthetic of motherhood is represented by animals and people alike. 


Georgy Petrusov (1903-1971)

Harvest, 1934

Vintage gelatin silver print

15 1/2 x 10 1/2 in. (39.4 x 26.8 cm)

Title, 1935 date and photographer's signature in pencil in Russian on verso


Petrusov captured this photograph as part of a photoshoot on collective farming for the internationally-published journal USSR in Construction, 1936, no. 3. 

Lunch in the Fields

Georgy Petrusov (1903-1971)

Lunch in the Fields, 1934

Vintage gelatin silver print

9 1/2 x 7 3/8 in. (24.1 x 18.7 cm)

Title and photographer's signature in pen in Russian on verso


In the 1939 no. 10 Sovetskoe Foto article "Master", photographers Aleksandr Rodchenko and Yakov Khalip praised Georgy Petrusov's Lunch in the Fields: 


This is one of the strongest works of Soviet art photography because it simultaneously reveals one aspect of the newly developing daily life on the collective farm in a documentary fashion: the joy of collective labor is depicted with enormous expressiveness. The group of collective farmers gather for a comradely lunch, as if celebrating a holiday. In the background — the lovingly worked socialist fields. 

In Flight

Arkady Shaikhet (1898-1959)

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

Drying Sheep Skin

Arkady Shaikhet (1898-1959)

Drying Sheep Skin, 1929

Vintage gelatin silver print

6 3/8 x 8 5/8 in. (16.2 x 21.9 cm)

Photographer's stamp and signature on verso

Pamir Road

Arkady Shaikhet (1898-1959)

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

Moscow Fireworks

Georgy Petrusov (1903-1971)

Moscow Fireworks, 1940s

Vintage gelatin silver print

9 1/4 x 6 3/4 in. (23.5 x 17.1 cm)

Signed by Vera, photographer's wife, in pencil in Cyrillic on verso

Worker and Kolkhoz Woman

Georgy Petrusov (1903-1971)

Worker and Kolkhoz Woman, Moscow, 1939

Vintage gelatin silver print

11 7/16 x 9 1/8 in. (29.1 x 23.2 cm)

Artist's name in pencil in Russian on verso


Worker and Kolkhoz Woman centers around Vera Mukhina's (1889-1953) eponymous statue of two figures holding a hammer and sickle. Mukhin created the statue for the 1937 World's Fair in Paris. A glorification of Soviet power, the 80 foot-tall statue was displayed immediately before the Nazi German pavilion and later relocated to the VDNKh Park in Moscow. 

Press Release

In celebration of the fifteenth anniversary of the opening of Nailya Alexander Gallery, we are pleased to announce two exhibitions: Masters of Early 20th-Century Soviet Photography, on view from Wednesday 27 March to Saturday 11 May, followed by a group exhibition of the gallery’s contemporary artists, on view from Wednesday 15 May to Friday 12 July 2019.

Nailya Alexander Gallery was founded in New York in 2004 after several years of private work in Washington, D.C. For the past decade and a half, the gallery has prided itself on its diverse roster of contemporary fine-art photographers as well as on its collection of rare and vintage gelatin-silver prints by the great pioneers of the Russian avant-garde.

Masters of Early 20th-Century Soviet Photography presents a rare selection of vintage gelatin-silver prints from the latter group, including work by such luminaries as Boris Ignatovich (1899-1976), Aleksandr Rodchenko (1891-1956), Arkady Shaikhet (1898-1959), and Georgy Petrusov (1903-1971). These artists reached the zenith of their careers immediately after the 1917 Russian Revolution, during a historic moment of creative freedom and development. They left an indelible mark on the history of their medium, introducing to photography fresh perspectives and experimental forms that reflected the radical changes transforming the world around them.

On view are not only some of the most iconic photographs of the era, but some of the highest-quality printmaking, whereby meticulous attention to light, tone, and texture has transformed each image into a unique and exquisite object of art. These include images both of and by the great artists of the period: a vintage gelatin silver print of one of Aleksandr

Rodchenko’s earliest photographs, Portrait of Vladimir Mayakovsky (1924), captures the enigmatic poet who famously commanded his audience in 1917 to “throw Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc., etc., overboard from the Ship of Modernity”; and perhaps the only existing exhibition-size photograph of Sergei Eisenstein shows the filmmaker relaxing on the throne of Tsar Nicholas II during the production of October (1928). As scholar Marie Seton writes, “With the mock gesture of His Majesty waving his hand, [Eisenstein] ordered photographs to be taken of himself in his role of iconoclastic emperor of a new art form.” The photographers Boris Kudoyarov and Dmitry Debabov are caricatured in Georgy Petrusov’s 1934 portraits, which reveal not only a playful sense of humor but a shared spirit of innovation and irreverence.

Other photographs depict the revolution in industry, architecture, and labor that was sweeping the nation, such as Arkady Shaikhet’s Construction of the Globe at the Moscow Telegraph (1928), which El Lissitzky superimposed onto the body of a factory worker in a photocollage created for the International Hygiene Exhibition Soviet pavilion in Dresden in 1930. Georgy Petrusov’s Lunch in the Fields and Harvest (1934) illustrate daily life and labor on the newly developing collective farms. The exhibition also includes two extraordinary vintage gelatin-silver prints by the great master Boris Ignatovich. Youth (1937) celebrates the joy and energy of early adolescence with a close-up, triangular composition perfectly corresponding to the rounded shape of the camera lens; while Motherhood (1938) is both poignant and daring due to its creation during the time of the Stalinist purges.