Stories for Little Comrades
Revolutionary Artists and the Making of Early Soviet Childrenâ€™s Books
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- Published: 1999
- Subject Listing: Slavic Studies
Twentieth Century Art
- Bibliographic information: 237 pp., 63 illus., 23 in color, notes, index
In the Soviet Union of the 1920s, the most prominent avant-garde artists were eager childrenâ€™s book illustrators. Reaching a mass audience of unformed, malleable young people appealed to their commitment to an art manifesto based on the creation of a new kind of person for the revolutionary age. At the same time, the opportunity to work for good pay along with a low risk of censorship were practical attractions.
The Constructivist artists drew considerable attention in the West for their brilliant creativity in using geometric designs, machine-age forms, and an architectural sense of space in their approach to the visual arts. Rejecting easel painting as a passĂ© bourgeois preoccupation, they turned to designing and mythologizing objects of everyday use. In a major reassessment of their work, Evgeny Steiner forcefully demonstrates that the Constructivists were as committed to implementing Utopiaâ€”regardless of the human costâ€”as their establishment counterparts.
Basing his work almost completely on primary sourcesâ€”Russian picture books from the Russian State Library, private collections, and publishersâ€™ archivesâ€”Evgeny Steiner tells his story in deft prose with a wry sense of humor. The solidness of his sources, the range of his interests, and the depth of his understanding of Russian life combine to make this an unusually perceptive book on a fascinating cultural issue that combines the visual arts, literature, and politics.
Evgeny Steiner is a member of the adjunct faculty, New York University, School of Continuing and Professional Studies. Formerly a senior editor in the Iskusstvo publishing house, Moscow, he has taught art history and history of literature in universities in Moscow, Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv, Tokyo, and Yokohama. He lives in New York.