Рабо́чий и колхо́зница

My daughter’s art project for the finals of her secondary school last week was this statue The Worker and the Kolkhoz Woman by Vera Mukhina, Вера Игнатьевна Мухина. (The title in English sounds awkward and unbalanced against the woman, contrary to the Russian or the French versions, it somehow rightly reflects the secondary role allocated the woman in the sculpture composition… I also like the fact that in Russian Рабо́чий [Rabochiy] has the same Slavic root as robot!) While being a quite massive outcome of the official socialist realism school, hence a good illustration of the propaganda run by Stalin’s regime, and while its location at the 1937 Paris World’s Fair right in front of Albert Speer’s equally propagandist Nazi pavilion, made for an interesting prefiguration of the coming war, I find the choice completely inappropriate for an art project! Most of the comments my daughter made about this piece of work were either historical (the rise of Stalinist terror in USSR, the Moscow trials, the repression of the avant-garde schools like constructivism and suprematism from the 30’s, the parallel with Germany, and the opposition with the Spanish pavilion housing Picasso’s Guernica that was painted a few days prior to the fair, &tc.) or technical (this is the first welded sculpture using stainless steel of that size, the statue was raised in 11 days in Paris, the Nazis waited for the Soviet pavilion to be completed before raising theirs higher, &tc.), and not artistic, because in fine there is little beauty and much brutality in Mukhina’s work. Apart from obvious links with La Marseillaise and The Victory of Samothrace, The Worker and the Kolkhoz Woman does not stand within a genuine school of sculpture and whatever appeal one could find in the statue is quickly polluted by the political aftertaste of the work. It was an interesting exercise on how dictatures can repress artistic schools, but this choice of artwork is inappropriate for a national exam.

3 Responses to “Рабо́чий и колхо́зница”

  1. Manoel Galdino Says:

    I didn’t knwo the age group. Now you seem to be right.

  2. I know nothing about the exam, but I disagreee with you. You said: “whatever appeal one could find in the statue is quickly polluted by the political aftertaste of the work”

    This is a good subject to discuss in an art project: how our aesthetics evaluation of a piece of art is changed by the background of the piece?

    • Manuel: this is an interesting monument in an incredibly interesting if dramatic era. the exam just does not fit the age group it is supposed to evaluate. Communism and fascism are not naturally associated with art for 13 years old…! I would have personally enjoyed the assignment at 17 or 20, not earlier!

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