Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Fire in the hole!

Let’s work, and build and never whine!
Alexander Deyneka, 1933

What a great poster it is. It was created by Alexander Deyneka – one of the most famous modernist and socialist realism artists of the twentieth century.

In the thirties physical culture was being promoted widely in the Soviet Union. There were two reasons for this. The first one was that the party was trying to control all the aspects of life, by enlisting citizens in various societies and communities. And the other was that physically fit people could be better soldiers, thus improving the defense potential of the country. This explains the choice of sports disciplines on the poster: a discus thrower woman on the foreground is accompanied by a sniper, a group of runners and several motorcyclists. Discus throwing is actually a very useful skill on the battle field as it provides for accurate grenade throwing. Sharpshooting is obvious, running adds power during the battle-marching and motorcycle racing impies not only excellent riding skills (many racers served as messengers during WW2), but also mechanical engineering necessary for fixing the machinery during the war.

The verse to the right says:

Let’s work, and build and never whine –
The way to new life has been shown:
You’re not obliged to be an athlete,
But sports are what you should be doing.

Note the composition of the poster: the foreground and the background meets in a way typical for photomontage. Deyneka was always famous for his composition, one of his works showed the close-up of a shot German ace just before he hit the ground. Definitely a Daliesque kind of painting.