Graphics by Alexander Deineka 1920s-40s
Alexander Deineka entered the history of national art primarily as the author of mosaic panels and large thematic paintings, as an enthusiastic admirer of every technique, earthly and heavenly, as well as an admirer and connoisseur of various types of physical culture and sports. His outstanding artistic gift, remarkable energy Deineka put in the service of the victorious communist ideology, which he quite sincerely considered the only correct one. But his talent was much deeper and wider than ideological schemes, even when in the 1920s Deineke had to engage in their direct propaganda. Perhaps it was at this time of open agitation that the artist’s talent was revealed most deeply and widely.
From illustration to great work
Deineka began his creative career, like many, illustrating journal articles. By the time he arrived in Moscow and enrolled in VHUTEMAS, by the age of 21, Deineka had a wide range of work experience in an atmosphere of civil war. By the force of circumstances Deineka got into the aggressive and combat magazines “Godless”, “Godless God at the machine”, then – “Searchlight”, “Give!”, “Red Niva”.
The journal graphics of Deineka of the 1920s became widely known and in many ways defined his creative path. Of particular interest are those drawings Deineka, where he tries to convey physical movement. It was his movement, the author considered his main theme. On the one hand, these are sketches of the moment, where it is precisely stroked, which it would later call “sniper”, masterfully reproduces the rhythms of physical movement and, quite roughly, the external outline of people and objects. On the other hand, these are sketches by models, where with long, resilient and strong lines he perfectly simulates a plastic form. What is especially important, and within this form, the author tries to identify the subtle movement that is caused by the interaction of the dense masses that form the form. The emergence of a special internal pulsation is most noticeable on large volumes with accented articulations. This is partly why Deineka likes to draw oversized models, occasionally adding detailed plastic design to the linear pattern with an underlined outline. In these sketches, he clearly captures the process of flowing and fluttering massive forms, which is transmitted on paper with some special, sensual feeling of a wide, lazy rhythm.
Pictures or caricature?
The young artist is still clearly losing to other journalistic cricaturists in terms of experience, and especially in self-confident, gloating sarcasm. The lack of this quality in relation to those acting in his sheets at the same time with the priests of various kinds of oppressors and exploiters Deineka compensates for the fact that, speaking figuratively, does not spare them black ink. Such was the trend of that fierce and irreconcilable time. But here to the rest of their characters, whether they are influenced by the priests and bourgeois who have not yet been eliminated “as a class,” or by their own bad habits, or under the influence of Deinek’s circumstances, they obviously cannot be taken as direct mockery. Most often, he does not laugh at them, but tries to understand them. Deineka prefers to portray a person as a type, and not as an individual. This is probably why the artist almost does not show the faces of his heroes, most often presenting them in profile or from the back – he will retain this technique in his work for a very long time.
But with all of this, Deineka was distinguished by the ability to “get into the skin” of such a typical person with considerable artistry and show him large, with the tremendous vitality of his gestures and tricks, with the same interest with which he portrays the deliberately coarse and heavy bodies of models. Especially since this “collective” person who survived under the conditions of revolution, war, famine, cold, typhus and ruin has truly shown some kind of much higher than normal fortress, and Deineka loved to depict strong people all his life. Now a scary picture of the life of that era of early Soviet people is being built under his brush. And class enemies are whipped and shot, they do not understand what is happening and can easily, full of aggressive conviction in something not too humane, vote as one person.
Sometimes they have a rollicking fun, and sometimes, being in some kind of bestial state, they senselessly wander, suffer weights, stand in a line for newspapers, sit in meetings, wait for the descent into the mine, from which not all of them are destined to return. Circumstances can bring one of them to a state of incredibly woeful convulsions. Deineka captures all of this, but with some amazing sympathy. In his later memoirs, the artist is not at all crafty, saying that in drawings and posters he forgot about the pictorial side, that he was completely absorbed by the theme, the inner side of the plot.
With enthusiasm, although in an emergency mode of permanent magazine haste, the artist does not forget to take care of the expressiveness of the form. Magazine graphics of the beginning of the 20th century developed techniques for angular, expressive flatness and silhouette.