Ten artists exploring the legacy of World War Two in Russian Art

By Richard Moss | 17 March 2015

Ten pictures from a new exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery exploring how 20th century Russian artists responded to the Great Patriotic War

Mai Volfovich Dantsig

a painting of a Russian woman feeding an injured soldier from her breast
Mai Volfovich Dantsig (born 1930), Partisan Ballade (1969). Oil on canvas
Born in Minsk in Belorussia in 1930, Dantsig is famous for his monumental paintings of  the war with a particular emphasis Soviet Partisans. Belorussia was the hardest-hit Soviet republic during World War II, with two to three million estimated casualties in a brutal campaign that saw swathes of the population murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators.


Igor Pavlovich Obrosov

a painting of Russian soldiers marching through a street past tank onstacles
Igor Pavlovich Obrosov (1930–2010), Wartime Moscow (1941)
Obrosov's Wartime Moscow 1941 is a ghostly, Modernist-influenced vision that conjures the thousands of Red Army troops who marched through Moscow's streets to the front line in the bloody battle for the Soviet capital.


Ivan Milevich Penteshin

a painting of a group of soldiers in a gun pit firing an anti-aircraft gun on the snowy banks of a river with domes of a city in the distance
Ivan Milevich Penteshin (born 1927), The Defence of Leningrad. Oil on canvas
Closer to a traditional notion of military art, St Petersburg painter Penteshin is renowned for his depictions of scenes from World War Two. Here he re-imagines the defence of Leningrad with a study of an anti-aircraft gun crew on the banks of the River Neva with the city in the distance. The successful defence of Leningrad was one of the turning points of the war on the Eastern Front.


Alexander Ivanovich Laktionov

a painting of a family group standing in a doorway as a young boy reads from a letter
Alexander Ivanovich Laktionov (1910–1972), Letter from the Front (1951). Oil on canvas
Strangely reminiscent of Norman Rockwell's vision of post-war America, Laktionov's Letter from the Front cleverly frames the Russian family during wartime in a doorway and bathes them in a summer glow.


Alexsei and Sergei Tkachev

A painting of a man being bathed with buckets of water from a well by a group of three women
Alexsei Tkachev (born 1925) and Sergei Tkachev (born 1922), By the Well (1951)
The brothers Tkachev often completed paintings together - as in this impressionistic narrative scene from a Russian village in which three women help bathe a Soviet soldier with water from the well.


Vera Mukhina

a sculpture of a man and woman holding a hammer and sickle aloft
Vera Mukhina (1889–1953), Worker and Kolkhoz Woman. Plaster
Originally created to crown the Soviet pavilion of the World's Fair in 1937, Mukhina's famous Worker and Kolkhoz Woman became one of the defining artworks of the Soviet era and the epitome of Socialist Realism.


Evsey Evseevich Moiseenko

a painting of an emaciated figure with hands raised emerging from a doorway
Evsey Evseevich Moiseenko (1916–1998), Freedom (1962)
Leningrad artist and People’s Artist of the USSR, Moiseenko’s Freedom captures the moment a Russian Prisoner of War is freed from captivity. It is estimated that out of the 5.7 million Russian soldiers taken captive during World War Two, at least 3.3 million died in Nazi custody.


Mai Volfovich Dantsig

a painting of a central mother figure with a child surrounded by a multitude of figures as in a religious fresco painting
Mai Volfovich Dantsig (born 1930), And the World Remembers the Saviour
Another painting from the Belorussian Dantsig, this allegorical painting of the Great Patriotic War puts Mother Russia centre stage.


Nikolai Andronov

a painting of fields and houses and in muted browns and reds with an injured soldier on crutches in the foreground
Nikolai Andronov (1929–1998), Landscape with Injured Soldier (1995). Oil on board
A great Soviet-era artist, Andronov sought to express the characteristic features of national identity by exploring man’s inherent link with the countryside.


Gely Mikhailovich Korzhev

a painting of a woman embracing a grey haired man in uniform
Gely Mikhailovich Korzhev (1925–2012), The Reunion. Oil on canvas (1980s)
Korzhev's The Reunion offers a later, softened version of the approved style of Soviet-era Socialist Realism painting.

  • You can see The Legacy of WWII in Russian Art is at the Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York's HQ, London until April 10 2015. 

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