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