Khrushchev on the Lofty Calling of Soviet Art

Nikita Khrushchev, The Lofty Calling of Soviet Art is to Serve the People and the Cause of Communism. December 2, 1962


Original Source: Pravda, 2 December 1962, p. 1; Izvestiia, 4 December 1962.

On Dec. 1 leaders of the Party and the government visited the Exhibition of Works by Moscow Artists that is being held in the Central Exhibition Hall in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Moscow branch of the Artists’ Union.

More than 2,000 paintings and works of graphic art and sculpture are on display.

The exhibition includes works created by Moscow artists during the past 30 years. They vary in theme and genre, technique and style. There are well-known canvases, works of sculpture, drawings, posters, cartoons and works of applied and decorative art. Many of the works on exhibit deal with the events of the revolution, the restoration of the economy and peaceful construction, the heroic themes of the Great Patriotic War and the labor exploits of the people in the struggle for communism. The exhibition includes works by such well known masters as N. Andreev, F. Bogorodskii, E. Belashova, S. Gerasimov, I. Grabar, A. Deineka, B. Ioganson, K. Istomin, S. Konenkov, P. Konchalovskii, P. Korin, the Kukryniksy, A. Matveev, G. Nizkii, A. Osmerkin, A. Plastov, B. Prorokov, F. Reshetnikov, J. Romas, V. Serov, P. Shukhmin, K. Iuon and others.

The graphic arts are richly represented. Along with works by such great masters as V. Favorskii, Deni, Moor and D. Shmarinov, there are also works by B. Efimov, A. Goncharov, D. Dubinskii and P. Miturich, as well as by the young graphic artists G. Zakharov and I. Golitsyn, among others.

The exhibition has aroused great interest and lively discussion. More than 100,000 people have visited it since it opened less than a month ago.

The works of a number of previously unknown artists are of interest. There are arguments and discussions in front of the works of those artists who deviate from the tradition of Russian, Soviet socialist art. There is also lively discussion in front of works by realist artists who have a distinctive style by such diverse masters as, say, A. Deineka, A. Plastov and A. Laktionov. Each of these artists solves in his own manner the problem of creating works about the life of our people. Some viewers do not care for the detailed drawing that marks the style of A. Laktionov, considering it overly photographic. Others welcome his works for the clarity of their content and form.

There are works at the exhibition that occasion displeasure and serious objections. This applies to certain masters of the older generation, as well as to a number of younger artists. Some works by R. Val’k (“Nude,” “Still Life”), A. Drevin, A. Vasnetsov, P. Nikonov (‘The Geologists”) and A. Pologova (“Motherhood”) show clearly formalistic tendencies, and the people depicted in them look deformed and debased.

In the course of their visit to the exhibition, Comrade N. S. Khrushchev and the Party and government leaders expressed several fundamental propositions concerning the lofty calling of the Soviet fine arts, which must by diverse means truthfully reflect the life of the people, inspire people to the building of communism and instill in man the finest and loftiest sentiments and a profound sense of the beautiful. Our party and its new Program have been prompting and are prompting the workers of the arts to do just that. The best works of Soviet artists at the exhibition successfully solve these creative tasks.

At the same time there are some among the artists whose works show incorrect tendencies. They do not perceive the new phenomena in our life, and, lacking love or respect for man, they create pictures that are indifferent and cold, in a spirit of imitation of formalistic models in painting and sculpture.

Looking at such pictures as A. Vasnetsov’s “Breakfast,” P. Nikonov’s “The Geologists” and others, Comrade N. S. Khrushchev said:

“A picture must elevate man, must inspire him and lead him to noble exploits. Can pictures like these fulfill such lofty social tasks?”

During his talk N. S. Khrushchev pointed out that some artists display arrogance toward and contempt for the public’s response to their works, and he said that if a work is comprehensible only to the artist and is not understood by the people, then such a work cannot be considered true art.

Asked by officials of the Moscow artists’ organization for an evaluation of the exhibition as a whole, Comrade N. S. Khrushchev answered:

“As at any exhibition, good, mediocre and poor works are to be seen here. In a number of cases it would appear that the organizers of the exhibition have fallen under the sway Of those who defend weak and unacceptable works, who have manifested liberalism. Such a policy cannot lead to a further upsurge Of the Soviet art of socialist realism. In guiding art we need ideological consistency and devotion to principle, clarity, precision and implacability toward any vacillations and deviations from the main line of development of our art-the art of a people building communism.”

The artists and sculptors thanked N. S. Khrushchev and the Party and government leaders warmly for visiting the exhibition and for their attention to creative work and their valuable suggestions and critical comments and said they would take these suggestions and comments into account in their creative work.

On the same day the Party and government leaders inspected some works by so-called abstractionists.

It is impossible to behold these daubings, devoid of all meaning, content or form, without a feeling of bewilderment and indignation. These pathological eccentrics offer miserable imitations of the depraved formalistic art of the bourgeois West.

N. S. Khrushchev asked the creators of the works on exhibit what their paintings and sculptures represented and what meaning they were intended to convey to the viewer. The answers consisted merely of incoherent babbling that attested to the spiritual poverty of the creators of the “works.”

“Such ‘creative work’ is alien to our people; they reject it,’ N. S. Khrushchev said. “This must be pondered by people who call themselves artists but who create ‘pictures’ that make you wonder whether they were painted by the hand of a man or daubed by a donkey’s tail. They must understand their mistakes and work for the people.”

These words of Nikita Sergeevich’s found approval among the Soviet artists who were participating in the inspection of the abstract works.

In conclusion N. S. Khrushchev, addressing those present, emphasized that Party and Young Communist League organizations, the creative unions, the Ministries of Culture and agencies of the press, radio and television must take a deep inter in and show daily concern for questions of the development of the arts and for the esthetic upbringing of the working people. These are important questions of ideological work that all of us, following the instructions of V. I. Lenin, must keep constantly in the center of our attention.

The following persons took part in the inspection of the Exhibition of Works by Moscow Artists, to which several hours was devoted: Comrades A. P. Kirilenko, A. N. Kosygin, D. S. Polianskii, M. A. Suslov, N. S. Khrushchev, L. N. Efremov, Yu. V. Andropov, P. N. Demichev, L. F. Il’ichev, V. I. Poliakov, A. P. Rudakov and A. N. Shelepin. Also present were N. G. Egorychev, First Secretary of the Moscow City Party committee; S. P. Pavlov, First Secretary of the YCL Central Committee; D. A. Polikarpov and E. M. Chekharin, directors Of departments of the Party Central Committee; E. A. Furtseva, USSR Minister of Culture; P. A. Satiukov, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Pravda; A. I. Adzhubei, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Izvestiia, and others.

During the inspection of the exhibition, explanatory comments were supplied by S. V. Gerasimov, First Secretary Of the Board of the USSR Artists’ Union; B. G. Ioganson, President of the USSR Academy of Arts; E. F. Belashova, Secretary of the Board of the USSR Artists’ Union; V. A. Serov, First Secretary of the Board of the Russian Republic Artists’ Union; D. K. Mochal’skii, chairman of the Moscow branch of the Artists’ Union, and other artists and sculptors.

Source: Current Digest of the Soviet Press, Vol. XIV, No. 48 (1962), p. 20.

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