Vladimir Tatlin - Artist's portrait - Image via wikipediaorg

Vladimir Tatlin /   Vladimir Yevgraphovich Tatlin

Russian Federation 1885 - 1953

Constructivism

Vladimir Tatlin
Vladimir Yevgraphovich Tatlin
Male
Russian Federation
1885
August 24, 2016

Most remembered as the creator of iconic but never realized Monument to the Third International, Vladimir Tatlin was a central person of the Russian Constructivism, the most influential modern art movement which, starting from the ideas of Cubism, Suprematism, and Futurism developed a completely new approach to making artworks focusing on construction. Abandoning traditional pictorial concerns that he gained during his training for icon painter, the artist took an interest in materials such as metal, glass and wood and their implementation into objects that were between sculpture and architecture. With the aim of subjugating art to modern purposes and bringing it to the service of everyday life, Tatlin’s work defined the avant-garde strivings in the 20th century that became the touchstone of the utopian ideas for future progressive generations. In favor of the postulates of the Russian Revolution, he began something that would be later used for the production of the advertising and propaganda for the state.

 This work, designed to be the highest construction on the world remained only the museum monument shown at exhibition
Vladimir Tatlin – Monument to the Third International, 1919-1920 (Left) / The Bottle, 1913 (Right) – Images via wikipedia.org and pinterest.com

Education and Early Influences

Tatlin was born in 1885 in Kharkov, Ukraine as the son of the father railway engineer and the mother poet. At the age of seventeen, he ran away from home to work as a merchant sea cadet traveling around the Eastern Mediterranean countries for almost a year. Enjoying copying religious frescoes when he was young, it was the natural path to pursue the studies of an icon painter, inspired by various principles and Russian folk traditions as the woodcut or lubok – popular print with simple graphic depicting characters from literature, religious or popular tales. His experience at sea was recorded in the early Self-portrait (1911) as a sailor, where is the more important his interest in mixed media. Combining different textures of paint which were in certain areas applied in thin strokes and in the others showed multiple layers, his approach and the way of placing the background figures relative to the subject of the paint, reflected the influence of religious icons. From 1902 to 1904, he attended the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, continuing his education at the Penza School of Art, under Aleksey Afanas’ev, his great role model because of his progressive ideas that addressed the social and political concerns of contemporary Russia. Deciding to resume his studies at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, Tatlin found himself in the company of the leading avant-garde artists, such as Vesnin brothers, David and Vladimir Burluk, Mikhail Larionov, and Natalia Goncharova with whom he developed the close friendship[1]. Getting familiar with Larionov’s movement Rayonism that followed the ideas of Futurism advocating the fragmentation of the object through the reflected rays and its relation to the spatial environment, he started to apply these principles onto his non-utilitarian sculptures. His work, exhibited in Odessa, Moscow, and St. Petersburg has been met with an acceptance by both critic and audience. The year 1913 was the milestone of his artistic ideas, when he, during his visits to Berlin and Paris, met Pablo Picasso and comprehended his Cubist analysis of form which left a great impact on the artist which was reflected in his collage and assemblage works composed of industrial materials. His relief The Bottle (1913) represents the transitional piece, something he called “painterly relief”, with visible Picasso’s influence, but still not completely abstract and three-dimensional. Combining the various industrial materials with analysis of form, he produced the piece that has not been totally liberated from the painterly surface. But next year, he already started to make “counter-reliefs”, more focused on the materials and spatial occupation, closer to abstraction and placed in the room corners with the aim of resembling architecture. The most important innovation that he announced was the use of space as the part of the construction. These pieces embodied artist’s motto “art into life”.

Tatlin’s counter-reliefs were closer to Abstract art and more focused on the materials and spatial occupation

 tatlin's relief works were shown on more than one exhibition around the world
Vladimir Tatlin – Relief, 1913 (Left) / Counter-Relief, 1914-15 (Right) – Images via wikiart.org and arthistoryarchive.com

Artworks in the Service of the Communist Regime

His earliest influences of religious icons, folk art, and Impressionist artists that he had a chance to see in Moscow collections are visible in his paintings such as The Nude (1913) that emphasized the volume and skewed perspective and also materiality of the paint which was the core of his later experiments with industrial materials and their natural properties. Although apolitical and indifferent to everything that has nothing to do with art, over the time Tatlin’s work started to address social concerns assimilating the artist and proletarian and, due to that, his work with mass-produced goods. The artist became obsessed with the proclamation of social change through innovative works designed for everyday life. As the culmination of his earlier counter-reliefs, his biggest, and at the same time unrealized project Monument to the Third International (1919-1920), also known as Tatlin’s Tower, symbolized the ideal communist society of the new modern age. Designed to be a functional object, conference and propaganda center for the Communist Third International, this 1,300 feet tall spiral steel construction was supposed to be the highest structure in the world, more functional and prettier than the Eiffel Tower[2]. The space for meetings was divided into three rotary glass units, a cube, cylinder, and cone. His choice of steel and glass as the symbols of industry, technology, and the machine age is in accordance with mobile geometrical shapes that embodied the dynamism and modernity. The project was displayed at the VIII Congress of the Soviets and later became the main feature of the Soviet Pavilion at the 1925 Exposition of Decorative Arts in Paris.

During the early 1920’s, besides his monumental Constructivists projects, Tatlin worked in the Department of Material Culture in St. Petersburg creating clothing designs for the working class, practical and comfortable garments convenient for all seasons. He has also participated in a campaign to restructure the society by designing household devices and furniture more convenient for modern life. Becoming interested in teaching and sharing his thoughts to the next generations, Tatlin accepted the professorial position at Svomas in Moscow and St Petersburg where he also established the Museum of Artistic Culture for the experimental study of art. Considering theater as an important part of the avant-garde actions where the wider audience could experience progressive strivings, Tatlin designed and performed Velimir Khlebnikov’s poem Zangezi, creating mechanized geometric planes following the poem’s trans-rational word constructions. With the constructivist industrial design work as the new art form, the group of artists from the Moscow Institute for Art Research (INKHUK), including Rodchenko, Lyubov Popova, El Lissitzky, Stepanova, and Alexei Gan founded the First Working Group of Constructivists, also known as artists-engineers. Alexei Gan, the theorist, was the author of the Constructivist Manifesto published in 1922, in the same year when INKHUK promoted the Theory of Productivism that advocated the abandonment of traditional art, putting all kind of artists into the service of industrial design[3]. Tatlin’s last major work that also marked the end of his career dedicated to the Constructivist thought, Letatlin (1929-1932), represented a human-powered flying machine. Exploring the bird’s flight and the structure of the wings, even dissecting them to the purposes of better understanding, his visionary project was directed toward constructing the mechanism that would allow people to fly.

In the purpose of creating the flying machine, Vladimir Tatlin explored the bird’s flight and the structure of their wings

 tatlin's moved from painting toward usefull constructions shown at exhibition
Vladimir Tatlin – Letatlin, 1930-1932 – Image via wikiart.org

End of Constructivism and Russian Avant-Garde

In the early 1930’s emerging Social Realism became the official and only appropriate style of the new Soviet state regime, so the Constructivism as the rest of avant-garde vanished out of the cultural scene. Retreating from innovative artworks, Tatlin remained active until his death but dedicated to the oil painting limited to still lifes processed in an expressionist manner. Vladimir Tatlin died in obscurity, on May 31, 1953, and was buried at Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow. Although awarded the title of Honored Art Worker of the Soviet Union, he was never accepted by the Stalinist administration. He remained remembered as the leading person of the Russian avant-garde who was the author of the most influential pieces of Constructivist ideology. The greatest proof of his magnificence is the fact that his Tower, even never realized became the icon of modernity and inspiration for further generations. His corner counter-reliefs changed the relation of the sculpture and its surrounding and his ideas made a long-lasting impact on the several art movements of the second half of the 20th century by introducing the new artistic forms.

Sources:

  1. Anonymous. Vladimir Tatlin, Russian Architect, Painter, and Sculptor, The Art Story [August 24, 2016]
  2. Alekseevna Zhadova, L. Tatlin, Rizzoli International Publications, 1988
  3. Anonymous. Vladimir Tatlin (1885-1953), Visual Arts Cork [August 24, 2016]

Featured image: Vladimir Tatlin – Artist’s portrait – Image via wikipedia.org

YearExhibition titleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016Facing The Future, Art In Europe 1945 Palais des Beaux Arts (BOZAR), BrusselsGroup
2015Auf Der Suche Nach 0,10, Die Letzte Futuristische Ausstellung Der Malerei Fondation Beyeler, RiehenGroup
2015Wir müssen den Schleier von unseren Augen reißen Kunstmuseum Dieselkraftwerk Cottbus,CottbusGroup
2015The Written City, Politics and the production of space Cultuurcentrum Brugge, BrugesGroup
2015Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915 2015 Whitechapel Art Gallery, LondonGroup
2014Geometric Perspectives on Japanese Abstraction BTAP (Beijing Tokyo Art Projects), Tokyo,TokyoGroup
2014Kasimir Malewitsch Und Die Russische Avantgarde Kunst und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, BonnGroup
2013Eine Ausstellung mit abstrakten und surrealistischen Werken aus der Sammlung Viktor und Marianne Langen Langen Foundation, NeussGroup
2013Kazimir Malevich And The Russian Avant Garde Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, AmsterdamGroup
2013Die Welt Von Oben, Die Vogelperspektive In Der Kunst Zeppelin Museum, FriedrichshafenGroup
2013Russian Avant-Garde, Visions of a Future Moderna Museet Malmö, MalmöGroup
2013Dialog Über Grenzen, Die Sammlung Riese KOG, Kunstforum Ostdeutsche Galerie,RegensburgGroup
2012Tatlin. neue Kunst für eine neue Welt Museum Tinguely, BaselSolo
2012Inventing Abstraction, 1910 1925 MoMA, Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NYGroup
2012The Small Utopia. Ars Multiplicata Fondazione Prada, VeniceGroup
2012From Malewich to Kandinsky National Art Museum of China, NAMOC, BeijingGroup
2011The Endless Cup Of Great. Dedication To Vladimir Tatlin The State Tretyakov Gallery, MoscowSolo
2011Monument to the Third International Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York City, NYSolo
2011Rewriting Worlds: Dada Moscow ARTPLAY Design Center, MoscowGroup
2011rewriting Worlds: Dada Moscow A Special Project Of The 4th Moscow Biennale Barbarian Art Gallery, ZurichGroup
2011Construir la revolución. Arte y arquitectura en Rusia (1915 1935) CaixaForum Madrid, MadridGroup
2011L’abstraction en Europe : le choix d’un collectionneur allemandFondation Maeght, Saint PaulGroup
2011Chagall et l'avant garde russe Musee de Grenoble, GrenobleGroup
2010Contrepoint, l’art contemporain russe, De l’icône à l’avant-garde en passant par le musée Musée du Louvre, ParisGroup
2010Utopia Matters: From Brotherhoods to Bauhaus Deutsche Guggenheim, BerlinGroup
2010Utopia Matters: From Brotherhoods to Bauhaus Peggy Guggenheim Collection, VeniceGroup
2009Von Rodin bis Giacometti, Plastik der Moderne Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, KarlsruheGroup
2009The Great Experiment: Russian Art Annely Juda Fine Art, LondonGroup
2009The Spring Time of Russian Avant garde Museum of Modern Art Saitama, SaitamaGroup
2008Von der Fläche zum Raum. Malewitsch und die frühe Moderne Staatliche Kunsthalle BadenBaden, BadenBadenGroup
2008The Springtime of Russian Avant-Garde from the Collection of the Moscow Museum of Modern Art Suntory Museum, OsakaGroup
2008Sonsbeek 2008, Carried Away Procession in Art Museum voor Moderne Kunst Arnhem Group
2008Five Seasons of the Russian Avant Garde Museum of Cycladic Art, AthensGroup
2008Suprematismus und Konstruktivismus, Vom Potenzial geometrischer Formen SNZ Galeries GmbH, WiesbadenGroup
2008Celebrating a Transforming Legacy: Russian Art from the Collection of Thomas P. Whitney, Class of 1937 Amherst College, Amherst, MAGroup
2008Russian Art from the Collection of Thomas P. Whitney, Class of 1937 In Memoriam of Thomas P. Whitney, Class of 1937 Amherst College, Amherst, MAGroup
2008From Russia: French and Russian Master Paintings 1870 1925 from Moscow and St Petersburg Royal Academy of Arts, LondonGroup
2007Modernism, Designing a New World 1914 - 1939 The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DCGroup
2006Von Kandinsky bis Tatlin, Konstruktivismus in Europa Kunstmuseum Bonn, BonnGroup
2005Light and colour in Russian Avant Garde Greek State Museum of Contemporary Art,ThessalonikiGroup
2004Licht und Farbe in der Russischen Avantgarde Martin Gropius, BerlinGroup
2004Archiskulptur Fondation Beyeler, RiehenGroup
2004Arte & Architettura. 1900 - 2000 Palazzo Ducale, GenoaGroup
2004Knave of Diamonds Mickhailovsky Palace, St. PetersburgGroup
2003Berlin, Moskau Moskau Berlin 1950 2000 Neue Nationalgalerie, BerlinGroup
2003Art + Utopia Greek State Museum of Contemporary Art, ThessalonikiGroup
2003Cubisme, ???N?M Kubismus Sprengel Museum Hannover, HannoverGroup
2003The conquest of the air: an adventure in 20th century art Greek State Museum of Contemporary Art, ThessalonikiGroup
2002Artists Imagine Architecture ICA, Institute of Contemporary ArtBoston, Boston, MAGroup
2002Metropolis In The Machine Age Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DCGroup
2001Vladimir Tatlin Greek State Museum of Contemporary Art, ThessalonikiSolo
2001Mit voller Kraft, Russische Avantgarde 1910 1934 MKG, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, HamburgGroup
2001Painting Revolution, Kandinsky, Malevich, and the Russian Avant Garde Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis, MNGroup
2000Forbidden Art: The Postwar Russian Avant Garde McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College,Chestnut Hill, MAGroup
2000Kandinsky et la Russie Fondation Pierre Gianadda, MartignyGroup
2000Group Exhibition: Four Sculptures D'Amelio Terras, New York City, NYGroup
1999THE PURE ART OF PAINTING, Russischer Konstruktivismus und Suprematismus Stadtgalerie Klagenfurt, KlagenfurtGroup
1998L'avant garde russe et la scène 1910- 1930 Musée d'Ixelles, BrusselsGroup
1996Die Russische Avantgarde, Sammlung Costakis Haus der Kunst München, MunichGroup
1995Tatlin Museo Picasso, BarcelonaSolo
1994Europa, Europa, Das Jahrhundert der Avantgarde in Mittel und Osteuropa Kunst und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, BonnGroup
1993Vladimir Tatlin, Retrospektive Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden BadenSolo
1993Wladimir Tatlin Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Dusseldorf Solo
1992The Great Utopia: the Russian and Soviet avant-garde, 1915 - 1932 Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City, NYGroup
1992The Non-Objective World Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, CambridgeshireGroup
1992The Great Utopia: the Russian and Soviet avant-garde, 1915 1932 Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, AmsterdamGroup
1992The Great utopia: the Russian and Soviet avant-garde, 1915,193U Schirn Kunsthalle,Frankfurt am MainGroup
1990Art Into Life, Russian Constructivism 1914 - 1932 Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MNGroup
1990Art Into Life, Russian Constructivism 1914 1932 Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington,Seattle, WAGroup
1989Dada y constructivismo Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, MadridGroup
1988Dada and Constructivism The Seibu Museum of Art, TokyoGroup
1986Trends in Geometric Abstact Art Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel AvivGroup
1986Icarus: The Vision of Angels Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Inc, New York City, NYGroup
1986Die Maler und das Theater im 20. Jahrhundert, Painters and Theater in the Twentieth Century Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt am MainGroup
1986Point, ligne, plan Musée d´art contemporain de Montréal, Montreal, QCGroup
1985Contrasts of Form: Geometric Abstract Art 1910 1980 MoMA, Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NYGroup
1984Constructivism and the Geometric Tradition: Selections from the McCrory Corporation Collection Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, Sapporo, HokkaidoGroup
1984Constructivism and the Geometric Tradition: Selections from the McCrory Corporation Collection National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo (MOMAT), TokyoGroup
1984Constructivism and the Geometric Tradition: Selections from the McCrory Corporation Collection Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Ithaca, NYGroup
1984Constructivism and the Geometric Tradition: Selections from the McCrory Corporation Collection Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA), Indianapolis, INGroup
1983Constructivism and the Geometric Tradition: Selections from the McCrory Corporation Collection Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, OHGroup
1983Constructivism and the Geometric Tradition: Selections from the McCrory Corporation Collection New Orleans Museum of Art NOMA, New Orleans, LAGroup
1983Constructivism and the Geometric Tradition: Selections from the McCrory Corporation Collection San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, TXGroup
1982Constructivism and the Geometric Tradition: Selections from the McCrory Corporation Collection Denver Art Museum, Denver, COGroup
1981Medio Siglo de Escultura: 1900 1945 Fundación Juan March, MadridGroup
1981Art of the avant-garde in Russia : selections from the George Costakis Collection Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City, NYGroup
1981Constructivism and the Geometric Tradition: Selections from the McCrory Corporation Collection Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WIGroup
1981Constructivism and the Geometric Tradition: Selections from the McCrory Corporation Collection The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MIGroup
1981Constructivism and the Geometric Tradition: Selections from the McCrory Corporation Collection The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MOGroup
1980The Avant-Garde in Russia, 1910 - 1930: New Perspectives Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DCGroup
1980Constructivism and the Geometric Tradition: Selections from the McCrory Corporation Collection Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburg, PAGroup
1980Constructivism and the Geometric Tradition: Selections from the McCrory Corporation Collection Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WAGroup
1980The Avant Garde in Russia, 1910 - 1930 : New Perspectives Los Angeles County Museum of Art, LACMA, Los Angeles, CAGroup
1980Constructivism and the Geometric Tradition: Selections from the McCrory Corporation Collection La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla, CAGroup
1980Constructivism and the Geometric Tradition: Selections from the McCrory Corporation Collection San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, SFMOMA, San Francisco, CAGroup
1980Constructivism and the Geometric Tradition: Selections from the McCrory Corporation Collection Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TXGroup
1979Constructivism and the Geometric Tradition: Selections from the McCrory Corporation Collection Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NYGroup
1979The Planar Dimension: Europe, 1912 1932 Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City, NYGroup
1978Russia: The Avant Garde MoMA, Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NYGroup
1970Wladimir Tatlin Kunstverein München, MunichSolo
1969Vladimir Tatlin Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, EindhovenSolo
1968Vladimir Tatlin Moderna Museet, StockholmSolo
1968The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age MoMA, Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NYGroup
1937Cubism and Abstract Art GRAM, Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids, MIGroup
1937Cubism and Abstract Art The RISD Museum, University of Rhode Island, Providence, RIGroup
1937Cubism and Abstract Art The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MDGroup
1937Cubism and Abstract Art The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OHGroup
1936Cubism and Abstract Art The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MNGroup
1936Cubism and Abstract Art Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OHGroup
1936Cubism and Abstract Art San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, SFMOMA, San Francisco, CAGroup
1936Modern Painters and Sculptors as Illustrators MoMA, Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NYGroup
1936Cubism and Abstract Art MoMA, Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NYGroup
1929Abstrakte und surrealistische Malerei und Plastik Kunsthaus Zürich, ZurichGroup
19221. Russische Kunstausstellung Galerie van Diemen, BerlinGroup
1915Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings 0.10 Dobychina Gallery, St. PetersburgGroup