Vera Gitsevich, For the Proletarian Park of Culture and Leisure, 1932.
Vera Gitsevich (Russian, 1897 – 1976), For the Proletarian Park of Culture and Leisure, 1932. Lithograph on paper. Generously lent by Svetlana and Eric Silverman.

Constructing Revolution

Soviet Propaganda Posters from between the World Wars

Jun 26, 2021 – Sep 26, 2021

Main Building, Floor 2

Constructing Revolution explores the remarkable and wide-ranging body of propaganda posters as an artistic consequence of the 1917 Russian Revolution. This vibrant exhibition delves into a relatively short-lived era of unprecedented experimentation and utopian idealism, which produced some of the most iconic images in the history of graphic design.

The eruption of the First World War, the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917, and the subsequent civil war broke down established political and social structures and brought an end to the Tsarist Empire. Russia was split into antagonistic worlds: the Bolsheviks and the enemy, the proletariat and the exploiters, the collective and the private, the future and the past. The deft manipulation of public opinion was integral to the violent class struggle. Having seized power in 1917, the Bolsheviks immediately recognized posters as a critical means to tout the Revolution’s triumph and ensure its spread. Posters supplied the new iconography, converting Communist aspirations into readily accessible, urgent, public art.

This exhibition surveys genres and methods of early Soviet poster design and introduces the most prominent artists of the movement. Reflecting the turbulent and ultimately tragic history of Russia in the 1920s and 1930s, it charts the formative decades of the USSR and demonstrates the tight bond between Soviet art and ideology.

Bringing more than 100 Soviet-era posters from the private collection of Svetlana and Eric Silverman, Constructing Revolution showcases a number of key figures in the Soviet artistic avant-garde, among them Vladimir Mayakovsky, Aleksandr Rodchenko, and Gustav Klutsis.

Curated by Kristina Toland and organized by the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. Curatorial coordination in Portland by Mary Weaver Chapin, Ph.D., Curator of Prints and Drawings.