TRACES IN SCULPTURE (1930-1942)
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4. TRACES IN SCULPTURE (1930-1942)
4.1 First steps in sculpture. The early creative period
Chronologically the creative work of N. Slobodinskaya embraces more than 50
years. The first mature independent sculptural work of the artist was elaborated in
the end of 1930, the last in the beginning of 1980s, thus the sculptor’s creative work
reflects a variety of clashes in the XX century Russian sculptural development.
The early period of Nina Slobodinskaya’s creative work starts in 1930 when she
successfully graduates as a young sculptor from the VHUITEIN (the Russian state art
and technical school) in Moscow.
Slobodinskaya, S. Bulakovsky, professor I. Chaikov, M. Belashov; 4-row: A. Aizenshtadt, E. Gercentstein, L. Pisarevsky.
1927-1930, unknown author.
As to the artistic heritage of this period, unfortunately, we don’t dispose almost of
nothing. Her studio was located at the mansard of the building, situated in the main
centre of Leningrad. During Leningrad’s bombardment in The Second World War this
building was completely destroyed. Respectively all her elaborated sculptural works
which were preserved there simply disappeared. With deep distress we have to
admit, that this period may be defined as the most uncertain and unknown in terms
of the artistic heritage. The only testimony and proof of her creative achievements
resulted to be photos, documents and a few notices, discovered in the family
archive without any information on works’ assignment or destination. The studio’s
and sculptures photos often just ascertain the fact of its creation without any more
information added. Accordingly, it occurs to be extremely difficult to make a
period’s characteristic and works’ classification; in addition, it is impossible to affirm
that all further represented sculptural images give a full idea of her early creative life.
This period defines the beginning of creative formation and professional
development of the artist. The analysis of her works asserts us that Nina
Slobodinskaya already possesses the bases of sculptural mastery. It is not surprising –
as we know she got the best possible education in her field – and moreover, having
Vera Muchina as the main sculpture’s professor.
Above all, Nina Slobodinskaya is a mature person at her 32, with an elaborated
artistic taste and a significant cultural knowledge and background; the young artist
has a clear determination to find her path in sculpture despite of all social difficulties.
Even if the apprentice’s years were hard, and being a woman – she already knew
what difficulties waited her in this mainly masculine profession - she did not change
her mind. Besides, the new Soviet regime, which politics she did not accept
somehow helped her: a new role of a woman as of an active participant of social
life, the emancipation, made it easier to become consolidated at her profession. In
addition, the social circumstances, the determination of the new government to
promote it-self and cultivate its new leaders with the means of monumental art
signified a risen necessity in sculptors – a certainly favourable fact for a sculptor -
In 1929 the Soviet Government decreed to start a series of massive propaganda
actions in order to conquest nation’s mind and conscience. And as arts were
considered as a main tool to achieve this purpose, logically, increased the necessity
in new specialists in all fields of arts. Hence, as soon as Nina Slobodinskaya
graduated from the VHUTEIN, she was immediately assigned to work as an official
sculptor in The CPKO (ЦПКиО – The Central Park of Culture and Leisure in Moscow
named after Gorky). Moreover Nina Slobodinskaya was accepted as an artist –
member to The MOSSH (МОССХ - Moscow Union of Soviet Artists). If not to severe
politics of terror and repressions, Stalin’s dictatorship we would affirm that young
artists in Russia never had such favourable conditions starting their carrier.
Being a member of the MOSSH (summer of 1932) supposed participation and the
official representation at all the periodic exhibitions. The acceptance to the MOSSH
from the very beginning signified to get in to the actual art-environment, to meet
and to be in touch with the best and already acknowledged Russian artists such as:
K. Iuon, G. Riajskii, A. Deneika, A. Lentulov, and I. Mashkov between others.
“From a point of view of totalitarian aesthetics, art does not just passively reflect life,
but also actively influences conscience, being a significant weapon of shaping new
people, which was the main goal; thus, in order to achieve it, - all totalitarian
countries spent enormous material and spiritual resources. Propaganda spoke while
art demonstrated in exact images, that a new man with new qualities was already
The photo of a fragment of politicized Street carnival’s figures, elaborated from papier-mache. 1929,
Moscow, unknown author.
In 1930 Nina Slobodinskaya was assigned to work as an official sculptor of the CPKiO
(The Central Park of Culture and Leisure named after Gorky in Moscow). She
participated in sculptural decoration of the Park’s complex, organizing space, park,
without any concrete known strictly sculptural task
. In order to understand what
Golomshtok, Igor. Totalitarnoe iskusstvo. Moskva: Galart, 1994, p.198.
Moreover, in 1929 -30s young sculptors - apprentices often participated in the decorative
preparation of street-celebrations, creating multiples compositions of papier-mâché. Slobodinskaya
kind of tasks and work she had to complete it’s important to analyse the works hold
during those years in the Park and to find out the artistic goals of that epoch.
Therefore we address to the Park in its 1929-30
ss. By 1930 the Park was widened and
reorganized. The architectors created the Leninskaya Place, the kindergarden, small
and big theatres. The Military town (in Summer House); a bandstand, the Corner of
Silence with an alley of leisure, varios cafes Poplavok and Samovarchik. Was joined
a special territory for dance, for gimnastics, for cinema watching, reading hall and
The CPKO Park’s plan,1929 - 1930ss, Moscow, unknown author.
The park had to play an important role for the State’s aims, representing a Moscow
centre of Leisure and Culture. In terms of Communistic politics Park was regarded as
a cultural factory. Leisure had to be also collective, socially significant, active and
wrote in her autobiographical notes that she took part in various projects of the Moscow street
celebrations, which played the role of political carnivals. The approach to carnivals’organization was
following: first, a script had to be elaborated, which would reflect International and national state of
affairs. In accordance with this scenario the VHUTEIN students created decoration of agitavtomobilei –
kind of propaganda – cars. For example, for the inauguration of the CPKiO’s summer season in 1929
students prepared some voluminous –decorative carnival compositions, united under the unique idea.
As the result, in the politicized carnival participated 54 heavy cars with 20 carts, which moved through
Moscow streets towards the CPKiO Park (see the photo p.207). In the columns followed clowns - figures
of the world politicians and their parodies. Thousands of people, huge crowds followed the procession.
As we may observe, even the street celebrations served to the political aims; thus the Vhutemas
students were orientated from the very beginning, of what kind of political fulfilment was expected
from them by the State. To see more on the matter:
Беньямин, В. Произведение искусства в эпоху
его технической воспроизводимости. Избранные эссе. М.: Труды, 1996; Кагарлицкий, Б.Ю. Рынок,
государство и кризис «клас-сической культуры». Десять докладов, написанных к Международной
конференции по философии, полити-ке и эстетической теории Создавая мыслящие миры. М.:
Русская книга, 2007, C.130.
Коржев, М.П. Из истории планировки первого советского парка, Парк и отдых. М: Труды,1977, C.
had to introduce and impose social Soviet slogans through the variety of
propaganda art, including sculpture. The park tended to develop a multiplicity of
work forms, having as a goal education and enlightenment of Soviet citizens
through such visually effective tools as cinema on open air or serious scientific
conference, by means of balalaika concert or a symphonic orchestra performance.
As it was mentioned, the park served as a perfect tool to impose new Soviet
ideology and to influences masses. Territorially enormous park perfectly served for
this goal. According to Soviet ideology, contemporary Russian culture had to differ
from old bourgeois capitalistic one. The Soviet art and culture had to elaborate its
proper language through all genres and aspects of art and culture. The Soviets had
to have access to masterpieces of art and to be active participants of massive
regime was not over with the October Revolution, they had to convince a
300.000.000 Russian population to accept and to obey to this newly organized State.
The battle was continuing without any compromise. Active social position of a mass
of labour’s class, their efforts to complete a 5 years plan’s deadline in earlier terms,
an interest towards international and interior political situation, and necessity in
socialization – everything favoured and contributed to this goal.
Workers indeed considered the Park as a Cultural Factory in Nature’s surroundings. In
1930 was made the sociological research. The result was following: 73% of visitors
were attracted by attractions and performances, 70% used to come to enjoy
walking, massive political work attracted 62 %, culture and education attracted -
34% and sport attractions gathered 40% of public. The first park workers informed
that during its first 5 years of existence park gathered 37.000.000 of people: 120.000
visitors daily, and 250.000-300.000 persons per weekend
Seeing such high level of popularity, which the CPKO gained in the shortest terms,- It
becomes quite understandable why Soviet government invested big sums in the
Park’s functioning and decoration, aiming to attract and to win mass‘s minds. Artists,
sculptors just having finished their studies were directed to the places of mass
Тарасова, Н.А. Пропаганда искусства. Центральному парку - 50 лет. M.: Министерство культуры
РСФСР, Методический отдел парковой работы при Ордена Ленина ЦПКиО им. М. Горького, 1978,
attractions in order to bring art to masses, to embody principles of communism,
developed in artistic forms.
Photo of the general view of the CPKO, 1928-1934, Moscow, unknown author.
Many contemporary famous Russian and foreign personalities visited the Gorky Park
and were really amazed by its scale, variety of cultural, sport and leisure activities.
Between others were: Herbert George Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Romaine
Rolland, Martin Andersen Nex, and Louis Aragon. Maxim Gorky personally visited
Park named behind him three times. Herbert Wells left a memorial phrase written in
the Visitor’s Book of the Park on 25 of June in 1934: “When I will die for capitalism and
will resuscitate again for Soviet system, I would like to wake up exactly here, in this
park of culture and leisure”
. Sculpture was an active element and was widely
used in Totalitarian Park, as it was considered a Word in image and the most
powerful and influential of visual arts. That’s how Russian sculpture entered in
grandiose educational program of utopia – base of totalitarianism.
The Park represented a place – kind of utopian socialization. Stalin intended to
change and to lead mind of new Soviet man into a new totalitarian – mythological
system and park together with sculpture were one of the most important tools in this
approach. A new visual language was actively introduced, neglecting the old one.
We should not forget that the new government was obsessed with displacing and
substituting Christian mythology and images of Christ and Cross, such notions as sin,
Рублев, Анатолий Дмитриевич. Парк Горького (Партер). M.: Искусство, 2003, C.27.
survival and expiation (which still remained as vivid archetypes in Russian man’s
conscience) from people conscience replacing Christian sculpture with simulacrums
of antic’s sculpture
Photo of I. Chadr working on sculptural model Girl with an oar (first version),1935, Al. Grinberg.
I. Chadr, Girl with an oar,1936, plaster-cast, Harrison Forman.
Photo of the CPKO park’s general panorama, 1950
In 1934 sculptor I. Chadre gets an official commission to create a series of sculptures
for the Park. His first sculptural work of the 1935 was discarded by officials.
Consequently, the park was fulfilled by 1937 with a plenty of female nu sculpture
and so far was at its moment of artistic glory. Some critics see the sculptural
organization of the Park at the epoch as a medium used by the Soviet government
to generate sexual energy which later had to be inverted in socially useful forms – a
labour. From that point of view sculpture’s task was to generate excitement in its
Meanwhile sculptures of communist leaders as Lenin, Stalin and others were
mediums for impose of socialistic mythology, emblems and signs-indicators of a new
main role as a method of infusion and social hypnosis that’s why it maintained
position of leadership in art
Гегель. O христианской скульптуре. M.: Искусство, 1968, C.179 -182.
Золотоносов, М. Исследование немого дискурса. Аннотированный католог
According to M. Zolotonosov, another hidden message represented a massive scale
of sculptures which were figures in movement – often sportsmen, throwing something
in the air: javelin throwing, volleyball or basketball players (resembling the renowned
sculpture the Diskoball). Those ones had a hidden goal to psychologically orientate,
prepare and agitate a nation to the ideas of space expansion, war, expressing it by
language of spatial art
. So far sculpture in 1930s has become one of the most
dominant codes of ideological message
Photo of The CPKO’s inauguration, Sport’s town, 1928, unknown author.
Photo of Pushkinskaya embankment, 1930, unknown author.
Regarding N. Slobodinskaya 1 year’s work in the Moscow’s CPKO, unfortunately
there is no scientific evidence in the found materials to affirm her authorship of the
sculptural park’s decoration in the indicated period. In the sculptor’s
autobiographical notice, she acknowledges working in the park, but does not
specify a kind or a type of sculptural work she executed. The documentary
information on the architecture and the ensemble’s sculpture decoration work held
in the Park at that period permits to assume that N. Slobodinskaya pertained to the
department which was responsible for planning different projects of sculptural
organization in the park’s zone
садово-паркового искусства сталинского времени. СПб.: ООО ИНАПРЕСС, 1999, C.3-19.
Ibid, p.3 -19.
Кухер, К. Парк Горького: Культура досуга в сталинскую эпоху.1928—1941. М.: Российская
политическая энциклопедия (РОССПЭН), 2012, C.352.
Мельников, Константин Степанович. Архитектура моей жизни. Творческая концепция.
Творческая практика. М.: Искусство, 1985, C.311.
N. Slobodinskaya, Autobiographical note, created on 16.09.1970. Sculptor’s personal archive.
In the short autobiography the artist mentioned that concurrently she worked on an
easel sculpture, and participated in preparation of official date’s streets’
celebrations, elaborating figures of papier-mache and plywood. In 1929 a new
wave of the massive propaganda overwhelmed the Soviet society together with the
beginning of the Piatiletka – a 5 years’ plan of work: aiming to provide a quick
technical progress, gathering a harvest, or producing tractors - increasing an
industrial power and the State’s economic capacity
. Social poster became the
most important visual tool in this goal. Consequently multiples organizations edited
thousands of propaganda posters in order to promote the collectivization.
One of the most important editorials at the time was the State’s publishing house of
fine arts – the IZOGIZ
. Already in the first 3 months of 1930 the IZOGIZ edited and
published 21 posters and 600000 copies in total
. In the first quarter of 1931
approximately 125 models of posters promoting collectivization were published.
Politic art did n’ have any official directive representative centre till 1931. On the 11
of March The CK of the Communist’s Party accepted a resolution on significance of
posters’ role in terms of social propaganda. They recognized posters as a crucial
medium to influence conscience and hearts of millions at the vast Russian territory.
Besides, the party formulated an ambitious goal for Soviet political art – to change a
structure of people’s conscience at its irrational level. From now on it was decided to
concentrate all publishing of social propaganda posters in hands of the IZOGIZ. This
decree was taken precisely when Nina Slobodinskaya started working in the IZOGIZ
(1931) as the specialist of the highest category
. In this context becomes clear
what kind of work Slobodinskaya could execute in the IZOGIZ. The IZOGIZ becomes
the unique publishing house working directly with the CK
. One centralized
directive office of publishing signified a uniformity of images and ideas.
McCauley, Mary. Soviet Politics 1917—1991. L.: Oxford University Press, 1992, pp.28-39.
Сикорский, Н.М. Ред. Книговедение. Энциклопедический словарь. М.: Советская энциклопедия,
Иваницкий, С.Г., Шульц, А. Советская скульптура. М.: Советский художник, 1981, С.192-203.
N. Slobodinskaya writes in her official autobiography’s certificate (see image p. 213) that she was
accepted in the mentioned status; unfortunately she did not specify a kind of work she executed.
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was the main department of the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) between Party Congresses. According to the Party’s rules,
the Central Committee headed all Party’s and government’s activities between each Party Congress.
Members of the committee were assigned at the Party Congresses. Месяц, С.А. ИСТОРИЯ ВЫСШИХ
In 1932 Slobodinskaya worked for the VSEKOHUDOGNIK (Russian Union of
Cooperative Societies of Artists 1928 -1953).
V. Muchina, Rabochii ikolhoznitsa, 1935 -1937, steel, 25 m. high, VDNH, Moscow.
In the Rabochii I kolhoznitsa by Muchina of 1937 we see a female figure athletically
built, strong, fertile, which visually combines in her image traits of worker and
peasant. She holds a sickle in her hands, which embodies an element of the new
Soviet State Emblem.
In 1933 due to the changes occurred in sculptor’s private life (N. Slobodinskaya
married Vladimir Georgievich Gnezdilov) she left Moscow and moved to Leningrad.
There the artist was accepted as a member into the Leningrad Union of Soviet Artists
and till her death the sculptor took part in this union, mainly living and
working in the former Russian Empire’s capital. The young sculptor was fortunate; as
she was given a studio in the famous building of Leningrad - the fairy tales home at
the Dekabrists Street, which was a real masterpiece of a North Modern style (see
photo p.91). The building was decorated by sketches of I. Bilibin
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