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Eduard Steinberg (1937-2012)

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Eduard Steinberg is the first Steinberg i write a blog about. He is far lesser known than his brother in art Saul Steinberg, but for me personally he is the better artist. Where Saul Steiberg leans towards art & illustration, Eduard Steinberg is the abstract artist who “invents” and impresses me much more.

A creator of geometrical abstract paintings, Eduard Steinberg was born into the family of poet, translator, and artist A.A. Steinberg.
Shortly after his birth, his father was arrested by the Stalin regime and thrown into prison. Upon his release, the family settled in Tarusa and Eduard helped his parents in their pursuits, though he had no professional artistic education. He lived in Tarusa from 1957 to 1961, teaching himself to paint by making copies of still lives, portraits and landscape paintings of Tarusa.
Moving to Moscow in 1962, he actively participated in the nonconformist movement.
In the 1970s Steinberg began creating his own version of geometrical abstraction (meta-geometry), where a plastic construction is seen as a consequence of a spiritual impulse.

I did not see the exhibition he had at the Josef Albers Museum and think it is a pity, because exhibitions on Eduard Steinberg are rare occasions. Still www.ftn-books.com has the signed exhibition poster of this important Steinberg exhibition.

steinberg bottrop z

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Lubov Popova (1889-1924) … pure Russian Avant Garde

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She only had a short career in art, but for me Popova is one of the most authentic of all Russian Avant Garde artists. Painter, sculptor, designer and costume designer she is multi disciplined , but personally i think the most attractive of all her art is her “Spatial force constructions” . (The Adler catalogue with these works is available through www.ftn-books.com) In theseworks she shines and if you look closely you will find parallels with Morellet and his art and they look far more contemporary than het her other constructivist paintings.

left Popova and on the right Morellet

Popova was born into a wealthy family of Moscow factory owners, which secured her a quality art education. After studying in the studios of Stanislav Zhukovsky and Konstantin Yuon in Moscow from 1907 to 1909, she traveled to Italy, where she was strongly drawn to the monumental art of the early Renaissance. She then traveled to Pskov and Novgorod to study iconography. In 1912 Popova met some of the leading masters of the Moscow avant-garde gathered around Vladimir Tatlin, and for some time she worked at his studio, together with Nadezhda Udaltsova, with whom she was to develop a close friendship, and Aleksandr Vesnin (see Vesnin brothers). Popova, Udaltsova, and Vesnin developed close creative and personal friendships and love that would last throughout Popova’s short lifetime. During this period Popova visited Sergey Shchukin’s renowned collection of French art and, drawn to Cubism, traveled to Paris with Udaltsova. The Académie de la Palette, where Popova and Udaltsova studied Cubism with Henri Le Fauconnier and Jean Metzinger, was to prove a crucial step in Popova’s artistic development.

After another trip to France and Italy in 1914, Popova returned to Moscow as a full-fledged artist, her predilection and interest now centring on Art Nouveau. She organized “weekly gatherings on art” at her house, which attracted the forerunners of the Moscow artistic avant-garde, and participated in avant-garde exhibitions, such as Jack of Diamonds exhibitions of 1914 and 1916, “0.10” (1915), and “The Store” (1916).

The mid-1910s were a turning point for Popova. After successful experiments in Cubism (such as Composition with Figures, 1913), Popova created a series of “plastic paintings,” such as Jug on Table(1915), in which there is a synthesis of painting and relief work using plaster and tin. In 1916 she joined the Supremus Group founded by Kazimir Malevich. Inspired by Malevich’s ideas about abstraction and Suprematism (an art form he invented), Popova developed an individual variation of nonobjective art in which traditional principles were dynamically combined with the flatness and linearity of medieval Russian art and the most innovative avant-garde techniques. She classified her work, with its rhythmical syntheses of coloured planes, as “Painterly Architectonics.”

Popova’s painting gradually began to evolve into Constructivism; her compositions of the early 1920s bear titles such as Construction and Spatial-Force Construction. Thus, her departure from painting and her turn to “practical art” in 1921 was a logical step in her artistic evolution. During this period Popova connected teaching and theoretical work (at, for example, the Moscow Institute of Artistic Culture) while creatively she moved toward the applied arts, working with textile designs, posters, and book covers. Her most interesting work was in the field of set design. She created innovative Constructivist sets around which the action developed. She worked with the Kamerny Theatre of Aleksandr Tairov and Vsevolod Meyerhold. Popova died at the peak of her artistic powers two days after the death of her son, from whom she had contracted scarlet fever.

popova adler

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Vladimir Tatlin (1885-1953)

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I always have liked the works by Tatlin. Being one of the first true constructivist artists he has always interested me as an artist. Inspired by Pablo Picasso he soon began to experiment with cubistic patterns, but eventually ended making pure abstract constructions. One of this constructions is only realized as a maquette because the actual work was never executed.  He began creating objects that sometimes seem poised between sculpture and architecture. Initially trained as an icon painter, he soon abandoned the traditionally pictorial concerns of painting and instead concentrated on the possibilities inherent in the materials he used – often metal, glass, and wood. He wanted above all to bend art to modern purposes and, ultimately, to tasks suited to the goals of Russia’s Communist revolution. He is remembered most for his Monument to the Third International (1919-20).

A design for the Communist International headquarters, as said it was realized as a model but never built. It crystallized his desire to bring about a synthesis of art and technology, and has remained a touchstone of that utopian goal for generations of artists since. The arc of his career has come to define the spirit of avant-gardism in the 20th century, the attempt to bring art to the service of everyday life.

www.ftn-books.com has some Tatlin titles available

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El Lissitzky (1890-1941)

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Here is an artist who’s works were very well known from the very first beginning of his career. Suprematism being one of the key collection parts of the Stedelijk Museum, El Lissitzky soon became part of this great and important collection. Because of this large collection part, an interest in his works was aroused from the very first beginning resulting in some purchases by important collectors and acquiring works by museum for their collections. Among them; Stedelijk Museum, Haags Gemeentemuseum, Boymans van Beuningen and the van Abbemuseum.

There is so much to be told about El Lissitzky as an artist because he was a true multi talented artist. A Painter, sculptor , architect and designer all within the same person. One aspect of his career i would like to mention specially. His graphic design.

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El Lissitzky is the 9th person from the left

During his stay in Germany Lissitzky also developed his career as a graphic designer with some historically important works such as the books Dlia Golossa (For the Voice), a collection of poems from Vladimir Mayakovsky, and Die Kunstismen (The Artisms) together with Jean Arp. In Berlin he also met and befriended many other artists, most notably Kurt Schwitters, László Moholy-Nagy, and Theo van Doesburg. Together with Schwitters and van Doesburg, Lissitzky presented the idea of an international artistic movement under the guidelines of constructivism while also working with Kurt Schwitters on the issue Nasci (Nature) of the periodical Merz, and continuing to illustrate children’s books. The year after the publication of his first Proun series in Moscow in 1921, Schwitters introduced Lissitzky to the Hanover gallery kestnergesellschaft, where he held his first solo exhibition. The second Proun series, printed in Hanover in 1923, was a success, utilizing new printing techniquesLater on, he met Sophie Küppers, who was the widow of Paul Küppers, an art director of the kestnergesellschaft at which Lissitzky was showing, and whom he would marry in 1927.

There are some really nice El Lissitzky publications available at www.ftn-books.com.