JU­LIA WEINER

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - REV­O­LU­TION enade Prom-

ANEW EX­HI­BI­TION opens at the Royal Acad­emy this week mark­ing the 100th an­niver­sary of the Rus­sian Rev­o­lu­tion by ex­plor­ing the art made in that coun­try in the 15 years af­ter 1917, the pe­riod un­til Stalin be­gan his vi­o­lent sup­pres­sion of the avant-garde. Jewish artists are, un­sur­pris­ingly, well rep­re­sented in this ex­hi­bi­tion as, fol­low­ing years of an­tisemitism and op­pres­sion un­der the Tsars, Jews em­braced the revo­lu­tion­ary ideals and be­came in­volved with the gov­ern­ment, in the hope that the new so­cial or­der with new rules would im­prove their lives.

One such artist was Marc Cha­gall, who ex­hi­bi­tion cu­ra­tor Dr Natalia Mur­ray tells me was “one of the most im­por­tant artists for the for­ma­tion of not only 20th cen­tury Rus­sian art but Euro­pean mod­ernism.” Cha­gall wrote of his en­thu­si­asm for the Rev­o­lu­tion, say­ing it “shook me with a full force that over­pow­ered the in­di­vid­ual, his essence, pour­ing across the bor­ders of imag­i­na­tion and burst­ing into the most in­ti­mate world of images that turn them­selves into part of the Rev­o­lu­tion.” Some­thing of this sen­ti­ment can be found in his 1917 paint­ing

which shows Cha­gall tak­ing a walk in his home town of Vitebsk with his beloved wife Bella, who flies up above him, wav­ing like a flag, sug­gest­ing some­thing of the free­dom, ex­u­ber­ance and ex­cite­ment of the time. Cha­gall served as Comis­sar of Arts in Vitebsk where he or­gan­ised revo­lu­tion­ary street dec­o­ra­tions and was Di­rec­tor of the Peo­ple’s Art School. How­ever, his en­thu­si­asm for the Rev­o­lu­tion did not last. At one point Party of­fi­cials asked him what his fly­ing an­i­mals had to do with Marx and Lenin. In 1922, Cha­gall ob­tained per­mis­sion to leave the coun­try and the cou­ple set­tled in Paris.

Also on show at the RA will be works by Isaak Brod­sky, an­other Jewish artist, much less well­known in the west, who, how­ever, is renowned in Rus­sia as a fore­fa­ther of so­cial­ist re­al­ism in par­tic­u­lar for his por­traits of Lenin and Stalin. Born in Sofievka in the Ukraine in 1884, he stud­ied first at the Odessa School of Arts and then re­ceived one of the few places re­served for Jews at the Im­pe­rial Acad­emy of Arts in St Petersburg. Briefly in­volved in the Jewish So­ci­ety for the En­cour­age­ment of Arts in 1916, he al­ways ac­knowl­edged his Jewish her­itage and wrote in his mem­oirs of the an­tisemitism he ex­pe­ri­enced prior to the Rev­o­lu­tion. He was one of a num­ber of young artists who be­came in­volved in the As­so­ci­a­tion of Artists of Revo­lu­tion­ary Rus­sia (AKhRR), a neo-Re­al­ist group cre­ated in 1922. Its dec­la­ra­tion am­bi­tiously an­nounced: “Our civic duty be­fore mankind is to set down, ar­tis­ti­cally or doc­u­men­tar­ily, the revo­lu­tion­ary im­pulse of this great mo­ment in his­tory.”

Recog­nis­able por­traits of the

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