Images of Soviet Painters at Work and Play

Artists from the Surikov Institute at a summer practicum in the Crimea. 1938

The online gallery Soviet Painting (in Russian) features a fantastic gallery of images that give a glimpse into the life of Soviet artists. Beautiful black and white photographs show the studios of the Surikov Institute packed with students and paintings, summer practicums by the Black Sea, and even the war-time evacuation to Samarkand Uzbekistan. The photos range from 1932 to 1982 and appear to come from the family collection of Vladimir Gremetsky, who appears in many of the photos.

These images of vibrant community stand in stark contrast to the current atmosphere of the Institute. I had the opportunity to visit the Institute, and one of the Academic Dachas, where summer workshops are held, near Tver two summers ago. Sadly, neither resemble the hive of vibrant activity that can be seen in these images from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. There are, of course, many aspects of those years that deserve the severest criticism. Yet these images present such a beautiful vision of productivity and community it is hard not to feel a certain nostalgia, even as an American without any memory of Soviet times.

“And long have I daydreamed the life of bliss —

And long have I planned, a tired slave, the flight

to the removed abode of labor and delight.”

– Pushkin, from It’s Time, My Friend


Author: Barry O'Keefe

Artist/printmaker from Richmond, Va

2 thoughts on “Images of Soviet Painters at Work and Play”

  1. Thanks for the links here. Great photo. Despite the horrors of the Soviet system, it did produce a few good things at times. Like the summer camps and sanatoria, which no doubt have provided many good memories and some real nostalgia for those who knew them.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Agreed. As I learn more about the USSR my opinion of it becomes more complicated. While some argue that the former republics should have gone through something like De-nazification, I don’t think that’s quite right. It’s too long and too complicated a history to turn our backs on in that way.

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