In the early years of the Soviet Union, there was a strong urge to understand all elements of life in terms relating either to the bourgeoisie or the proletariat. Many longstanding assumptions pertaining to the role of arts and leisure in society were subject to ideological debate. Constructivist artists, eager to secure a role for art in the world of social activism,  worked to blend avant-garde art with proletarian culture by designing posters for films and sporting events.[1] This poster, produced by the Stenberg brothers Georgii (1900–1933) and Vladimir (1899–1982), advertises a German silent film called Die Boxerbraut (“The Boxer’s Bride,” directed by Johannes Guter, 1926). It reflects the turbulent era of its origin and exemplifies much of the brother’s early Soviet work and style.

Artists under the nascent communist government developed new approaches inspired by their dramatically altered circumstances following the Russian Revolution. In the early years, the avant-garde was encouraged by the state; artists made use of unusual techniques in filmmaking and photography such as collage, montage, darkroom manipulation, and unconventional camera angles in order to present reality from unfamiliar perspectives.[2] By 1931, however, these independent styles were no longer tolerated and the avant-garde itself became suspect, with art subject to strict state control and approval by the growing socialist agenda. The film posters produced by the Stenberg brothers therefore display an experimentation unique to their moment, when art was integrated into everyday life in order to serve the needs of the proletariat. [3]

 


Mir Finkelman is Collections Assistant for Drawings, Prints & Graphic Design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.


[1] Boddy, Kasia. “Boxing: A Cultural History,” Reaktion Books Ltd London, 2008. Pp. 63.

[2] Merrill C. Berman Collection. “The Frist Center: The Power of Pictures.” mcbcollection.com. http://mcbcollection.com/the-frist-center-the-power-of-pictures (accessed December 7, 2018).

[3] Mount, Christopher. 1997. “Designed to Shock: Film Posters by Moscow’s Stenberg Brothers, 1923-1933.” Print 51 (November): 41–49. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aft&AN=505704789&site=ehost-live.

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