Virtual Museum of Political Art

Socialist Realism

The Socialist Realism, an ideology enforced by the Soviet state as the official standard for art, literature etc., was defined in 1934 at the First All-Union Congress of Soviet writers. It was based on the principle that the arts should glorify political and social ideals of communism. Every artist had to join the "Union of Soviet Artists", which was controlled by the state. The paintings had to be idealisations of political leaders and communist ideas.

The paintings displayed on this site are part of the Horvath-Collection, situated in Austria. The collection is based on an idea, which is explained in the article "Die Sammlung Horvath für politische Kunst" by Patrick Horvath (in German).

Boris Vladimirski: "Roses for Stalin", oil on canvas, 100,5 x 141 cm, 1949.

"The Academy of Arts in St.Petersburg was the primary center for art education in Russia and the ultimate authority for maintaining artistic standards and controlling the content of exhibitions and commissions. Founded in 1757, the academy became the major influence on the development of Russian painting. After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the academy's main functions were to implement the Communist Party line in the fine arts and to oversee the training of Soviet professional artists.
The Zhdanov decrees were resolutions adopted by the Central Committee of the Communist Party in 1946. Formulated by the Party's secretary and cultural boss, Andrei Zhdanov, these decrees called for stricter government control of the arts and promoted an extreme anti-Western bias.
The Union of Soviet Artists was the single official artists' union of the Soviet Union, authorized and controlled by the state. Proposed in 1932, it was fully realized in 1957."
"Russian Jewish Artists in a Century of Change 1890 - 1990", edited by S.T.Goodman, Prestel, Munich-New York, 1996.

"The Stalin prizes were inaugurated in 1939 to reward high achievement in the arts and sciences. The first prizes for painting were awarded in 1941. The prizes conferred considerable prestige and a large sum of money. All awards were agreed by Stalin and inevitably they had strong political colouring. Igor Grabar headed the committee responsible for the painting prizes."
(Mattew Cullerne Bown: Russian and Soviet Painters. Ilomar, London)

"Initially, Socialist Realism was an artistic and literary doctrine of political censorship in the Soviet Union. Established by the Union of Soviet Writers, it became implemented as compulsory practice in 1932. Socialist Realism primarily required that artists portray a positive depiction of socialist society in conventionally realistic terms. But after Stalin's death (1953), the practice of Socialist Realism gradually became more relaxed though Soviet censorship, in general, remained comparatively strong until Glasnost of the mid-1980s. In the 1950s, both genres of painting existed - scenes depicting political revolution and scenes showing realistic everyday life. Grandiose-scale paintings depicting scenes of the revolution were commissioned for government buildings, while real life scenes were available to grace the walls of homes. In reality, there was little market for selling the paintings. Essentially, the regime controlled the entire process.
(Anne Visser, "Lenin in Art - The History of an Illusion", Azerbaijan International 14.2, Summer 2006.)

See also in WIKIPEDIA: Sozialistischer Realismus


Sergei Fotievich Besedin

"Lenin in St.Peterburg". Oil on cardboard, 26 x 48 cm.


Mikhail Mikhailovich Bozhi

"Stalin in the Civil War", oil on canvas, 110 x 148.5 cm, appr.1950.

"Portrait of the Leader". Oil on canvas, 60 x 48,5 cm.

"Lenin",. Oil on canvas, 69,5 x 40 cm.

"Stalin and Mikojan in the Kremlin". Oil on cardboard, 29,5 x 25 cm.

Isaak Izraelovich BRODSKI

"Vladimir Ilich Lenin". Oil on cardboard, 50 x 30 cm, 1924. 


Aleksandr Chemisov

"Farmers' Revolution 1905". Water colors on paper, 18 x 24 cm. 

"Life has become more cheerful". Water colors on paper, 22 x 16 cm.

"First of May". Oil on cardboard, 17,5 x 22,6 cm.


Vojtech Cinybulk (former Czechoslovakia)

"Boy with Eagles". Woodcut-print, 42 x 30,5 cm.

Viktor Nikolaevich Govorov

"Gorky reading to Stalin". Oil on canvas, 112 x 132 cm, 1940.

Sergei Alekseevich Grigorev 

"Stalin at a session of politicians at the Kremlin". Oil on canvas, 144 x 178 cm.

Stepan Mikhailovich Karpov

"Lenin". Oil on cardboard, 39 x 28 cm, 1928.


Vasili Filippovich Ivanov

"Vladimir Ilich Lenin". Oil on canvas, 90 x 116 cm.
"Vladimir Lenin was short. He was also forty-six and balding when he seized control of Russia in 1917, in the world's first communist revolution. But his words were firy. ... This painting comes from the USSR, during a time when the Soviet government banned 'unsuitable' subjects and styles.
(Gardner, Parsons, Zwicky in "Stories of the Century", Duval House Publishing, Toronto, Ontario 2003 about this particular picture.)

"Lenin I" and "Lenin II", each of them oil on cardboard, appr. 31 x 24 cm.


Konstantin Kamyshni

"Karl Marx". Oil on cardboard, 50 x 32 cm.


Igor Klein

"Naked Woman on the Beach". Oil on cardboard, 48,5 x 25 cm.


Vladimir Gavrilovich Krikhatzki

"Lenin's Room in Simbirsk 1878 to 1887". Oil on canvas, 28 x 41 cm.

"Soldier of the Red Army I". Oil on cardboard, 36 x 27 cm. 

"Soldier of the Red Army II". Oil on cardboard, 36,4 x 26,7 cm.

"Farmer". Oil on cardboard, 40,5 x 26 cm.

"Look outside, the world is red!". Water-colors on paper, 17 x 25 cm.

"On the Beach". Oil on canvas, 30,3 x 18,5 cm.

"The First Tractor". Oil on cardboard, 34,5 x 50 cm.

Alexander Krylov

"Karl Marx". Oil on canvas, 76 x 63 cm.

Mikhail Vasilevich Kupriyanov

"The End (The last Hours in Hitler's Bunker)". Oil on canvas, 67 x 89 cm, 1951.


Aleksandr Ivanovich Laktionov

"Portrait of Stalin". Oil on canvas, 79,5 x 59,5 cm, Moscow 1949.


Konstantin Matveeich Lomykin

"Stalin at the Kremlin". Oil on cardboard, 29 x 21 cm.

"Stalin I"and "Stalin II". Oil on cardboard, appr. 22 x 16 cm, 1949.

Otto Matousek (former Czechoslovakia)

"Red Army Soldier". Linolcut-print, 55,5 x 46 cm.


Alexej Konstantinovich Nesterenko

"Lenin". Oil on canvas, 71 x 53 cm, 1938.

Petr Panteleimonovich Parkhet

"Stalin at the 8th Conference of the Highest Council". Oil on canvas, 165 x 220 cm.
This painting is also published in "The Russian Revolutions" by George Bowen, a study of government and political change in Russia, the Soviet Union and CIS, Pearson Education New Zealand, 2008 (ISBN 978-0-7339-9342-8).

Nikolai Artemevich Pavlyuk

"Lenin in his working room". Oil on canvas, 80 x 100 cm, 1947.

Ivan Nikolaevich Petrenko

"Lenin at the Kremlin". Oil on wood, 37 x 24,5 cm.


Alexej Putaev

"The Kremlin in Moscow", each of them water colors on cardboard, appr. 20 x 15 cm.

Arkadi Victorovich Rusin

"Lenin's Arrival at the Finland-Station in Petrograd in Spring 1917". Oil on canvas, 173 x 190 cm.
This painting is also published in "The Russian Revolutions" by George Bowen, a study of government and political change in Russia, the Soviet Union and CIS, Pearson Education New Zealand, 2008 (ISBN 978-0-7339-9342-8).

Vassili Andrianovich Saicenko

"Return of the Winners". Water colors on cardboard, 37 x 71 cm, 1953.


Nikolai Andreevich Shelyuto

"Lenin". Oil on cardboard, 30 x 21 cm.


Aleksei Alekseevich Shovkunenko

"Karl Marx". Oil on paper, 15,5 x 11,5 cm. 

"Wladimir Lenin". Oil on paper, 15,5 x 11,5 cm.

"The Red Place in Moscow". Water colors on paper, 25 x 40 cm. 

"Monument in Moscow". Water colors on paper, 40 x 25 cm.

"Scene from Moscow". Water colors on paper, 25 x 40 cm.

"Muchina's Monument in Moscow".Water colors on paper, 40  x 25 cm.

"Sun of Communism". Water colors on paper, 20 x 23 cm.
This painting is the cover image of the CD "After the Wars" by the Canadian band "Red Orchestra".


Grigori Efimovich Shpolyanski

"Vladimir Ilich Lenin at the Smolny Institute". Oil on canvas, 100 x 160 cm. Copy of the famous painting by I.I.Brodsky.
The painting "Lenin in Smolny" by Shpolyanski is the cover image of the book "The Parallax View" by Slavoj Zizek, MIT Press, Cambridge USA - London, 2006 (ISBN 0-262-24051-3), and a detail of the picture serves as cover image of the MIT Press Catalogue Spring 2006.

"Lenin". Oil on canvas, 89 x 66 cm, 1940.

"Stalin". Oil on canvas, ,  88,5 x 58 cm, 1949.

Vladimir Mikhailovich SINITSKI

"Lenin in front of the World Globe". Crayon on paper, 58 x 50 cm, 1937.


Karel Stech (former Czechoslovakia)

"Imperialism". 14 woodcut-prints, each of them appr. 35 x 25 cm (paper), 25 x 18 cm (motif).


Karel Stehlik (former Czechoslovakia)

"Building of a Dam at the Moldavia". Oil on canvas, 50,5 x 71 cm.


Vyacheslav Vasilevich Tokarev

"Portrait of the Leader". Oil on cardboard, 50 x 45,5 cm.

"Polling-Station". Oil on canvas, 107 x 75 cm.

"Lenin with farmers". Oil on canvas, 46 x 77 cm, appr. 1960


Karp Demyanovich Trokhimenko

"Stalin as an organizer of the october revolution". Oil on canvas, 85 x 117 cm.
is painting is also published in "The Russian Revolutions" by George Bowen, a study of government and political change in Russia, the Soviet Union and CIS, Pearson Education New Zealand, 2008 (ISBN 978-0-7339-9342-8).

"J.Stalin and S.Kirow visiting the Wolkhow- Gidrostation". Oil on cardboard, 31 x 20 cm.

 "Revolution 1917". Oil on cardboard, 33 x 22 cm.


Unknown artists:

"Lenin 1917". Gouache, 31 x 22 cm.

"Plan for a postcard". Water colors on cardboard, 15x 9 cm, Soviet-Union, appr. 1960.

"Look Forward !" Original plan for a poster, water colors on cardboard, 27 x 14 cm, Soviet-Union, appr. 1960.

 "Welcome-celebration for Red Army soldiers". Oil on canvas, 60 x 80 cm, Slovakia (?) 1953 (signation: "Elena 53"). On the backside of this painting you find a motif of a rural landscape, done by the artist Domansky in 1958.



Aleksei Aleksandrovich Vasilev

"Stalin". Oil on canvas, 191 x 95 cm.

"Lenin and Stalin". Oil on canvas, 121 x 158 cm.


Ivan Alekseevich Vladimirov 

"Lenin and Stalin in summer 1917". Oil on canvas, 89 x 124 cm.
This painting is also published in "The Russian Revolutions" by George Bowen, a study of government and political change in Russia, the Soviet Union and CIS, Pearson Education New Zealand, 2008 (ISBN 978-0-7339-9342-8).

"In a Girls' School". Oil on canvas, 100 x 86 cm.

"Lenin and Gorki". Oil on wood, 40 x 37 cm.


Boris Eremeevich Vladimirski

"Roses for Stalin". Oil on canvas, 100.5 x 141 cm, 1949.
"This painting illustrates 'socialist realism' - a style that Stalin forced on Soviet artists. Socialist realism delivered positive messages about the USSR and its leaders. Because of propaganda like this and censorship, many Soviet citizens did not know the extent of Stalin's brutality."
(Gardner, Parsons, Zwicky: "Stories of the Century", Duval House Publishing, Toronto, Ontario 2003.)

This picture is also  published in Funken, Koltrowitz: "Geschichte plus", Volk und Wissen Verlag, Berlin 2001 (ISBN 3-06-110924-2), as well as in "The Brain and The Arts" by Espen Dietrichs and Ragnar Stien, Koloritt Forlag, Oslo, Norway 2008 (ISBN 978-82-92395-64-6). 
It is the cover image of the CD by Overlord "In Soviet Russia, My Heart Breaks You", published in the US 2011.

In 2016 the painting "Roses for Stalin" was published in "What's thr Use? - Constellations of Art, History and Knowledge" by Nick Aikens, Thomas Lange, Jorinde Seijdel and Steven ten Thije (editors). Valiz, Amsterdam, ISBN 978 94 92095 121,  p. 189.
It is also published in "The Imaginary Reader" by Marie Nerland (editor) in an article by Avery F. Gordon  entitled "Flowers for Natascha". ISBN 978-82-303-28149, Volt 2016, Bergen (Norway), p.64. 

"Black Ravens". Oil on wood, 32 x 20 cm. 

This painting, owned by the Horvath Collection of Political Art, is currently on loan to the House of European History in Brussels.

It is published in the essay "The Black Ravens and Stalinist terror" by Zofia Woycicka in the book "CREATING THE HOUSE OF EUROPEAN HISTORY", edited by Andrea Mork and Parkles Christodoulou, Publications Office of thre European Union, ISBN 978-92-846-1972-6, 2018.

This painting was also used as cover-image of the magazine "Azerbaijan International", 13/4, Winter 2005:
"Our cover is based on the original painting 'Black Ravens' by Boris Vladimirsky (1878-1950, Collection Horvath, Austria), who often was commissioned to paint propagandistic scenes during Stalin's era. 'Black Ravens' shows another side of the soul of the Vladimirsky. It is still unknown how this work passed censorship. 'Black Ravens' were the cars used by the NKVD (KGB) to arrest civilians, often in the wee hours of the morning. They were notorious in creating an atmosphere of fear and distrust so prevalent in the 1930s and 1940s. Note the prison in the background."

"Miner". Oil on cardboard, 41 x 29 cm, 1929.

"Female Worker". Oil on cardboard, 41 x 29 cm.

"Lenin on Airfield". Oil on cardboard, 32,5 x 49,5 cm.

"Lenin in red dawn". Oil on cardboard, 34 x 48,6cm, appr. 1930.   

Boris Vladimirski: "Lenin in Red Dawn", oil on cardboard, 32,5 x 49,5 cm.

Back to mainpage of the Virtual Museum of Political Art