“The Red Guard”
Created at the State
We can see the earliest so-called "agitporcelain”
work (porcelain works aimed at revolutionary
propaganda) of famous Soviet sculptor
Vasily Kuznetsov: he had already created a model
of the “Red Guard” in 1918. A young worker
with a rifle looks like those from documentary
photographs by Yakov Steinberg featuring the real
revolution fighters on the streets of Petrograd
(Petersburg was renamed into Petrograd during WWI).
Yakov Steinberg. Guards at the Smolny Palace, 1917.
Brilliant porcelain artist Vasily Kuznetsov headed the sculpture
studio at the Petrograd State Porcelain Factory in the 1920s.
His name went down in history as one of the creators of the iconic
plastic portraits of the first “red” revolutionary heroes.
“‘Agitporcelain,’ as it was called later, was manufactured in the years following
the October revolution. Vivid sculptural illustrations of revolutionary events were
among the first hundred collection items acquired by the Museum of the Revolution
(now The State Central Museum of Contemporary History of Russia) immediately after its opening in 1924.”
The agitporcelain masterpieces made their appearance following Lenin's “Monumental
Propaganda Plan”. This one of a kind document was adopted by “the proletariat leader”
in 1918 for the purpose of ideological education of new generations through culture.
From then onward all Soviet painters, writers, filmmakers and other artists, picking up the motto
enthusiastically, started “mass production” of new ideological symbols for the young Soviet Republic.
One of the first points where the “Monumental Propaganda Plan” was
implemented was the State Porcelain Factory in Petrograd commissioned
with a series of sculpture portraits of great revolutionaries in 1918.
It should seem that explicit ideological pressure on “free” art should
fail immediately... Nevertheless, the new rebel heroics, the boiling
political life in Petrograd, mass demonstrations and ideological festivals –
everything served as a source of inspiration, and even the accelerating wheels
of the state bureaucracy added to the euphoria. Of course this trend had its
exceptions, but the unsurpassed craftsmanship and vivid imagery of agitprop
art have never ceased to amaze us.
Shop Storefront of the State Porcelain Factory. Petrograd, 1921
Photo by A. Popovsky