Soviet Posters

The Russian Revolution of 1917 forever altered global politics. Communist propaganda – of which we have several examples – played a crucial role. But into the 1920s, Russian Constructivist artists further revolutionized the aesthetic possibilities of poster art. Principal among them are the Stenberg Brothers, of whom we have 6 rare examples.

72. Economic Assistance. ca. 1922.
72. Economic Assistance. Ca. 1922.
Artists: Dimitri S. Moor & Dobrokovsky
40 3/4 x 26 3/4 in./103.5 x 68 cm
Est: $1,400-$1,700.

At the end of World War I, German militarism and Communist revolution had made Germany and Russia international pariahs – and natural partners, despite Bolshevik attempts to inspire revolution in Germany. In 1922, the Treaty of Rapallo was signed, making Weimar Germany the main trading and diplomatic partner of the Soviet Union. This propaganda poster seems to advocate for the trade alliance: Soviet wheat to Germany, German farming tools and machinery to the Soviet Union – trade inhibited only by the ’empty’ expanse of Poland and defensive barriers. To a large extent, the policy was cover for the re-arming of both Germany and the Soviet Union.

83. Moulin Rouge. 1929.
83. Moulin Rouge. 1929.
Artists: Stenberg Brothers
24 1/8 x 37 in./61.2 x 94 cm
Est: $17,000-$20,000.

It’s so startling and magical to see a Russian Constructivist / Art Deco interpretation of the Moulin-Rouge, if one is conditioned to see the venue through the eyes of Toulouse-Lautrec and Chéret. Here, the Stenberg Brothers are promoting a 1928 British silent (though musical) film starring the Russian Olga Tschechowa, as well as Eve Gray and Jean Bradin. In addition to the smoldering image of Tschechowa, we’re treated to a photomontage of Paris’s Cafe de la Paix.

85. Thirty Days. 1929.
85. Thirty Days. 1929.
Artists: Stenberg Brothers.
13 3/4 x 21 1/4 in./35 x 54 cm
Est: $7,000-$9,000.

Guy de Maupassant’s penetrating eyes emerge from the bands and blocks of Cyrillic in the Stenberg Brothers’ fascinating work for Thirty Days, a literary journal. It’s apparently a consolidated advertisement for the journal and its associated publications: 24 volumes of De Maupassant’s short stories, translated; 8 books from their library of modern writers: a “Who’s Who” of both Proletariat and Dissident writers of the 1920s (Volnov, Gladkov, Kataev, Libedinsky, Novikov-Priboy, and Olesha); the “Poetry of Nowadays,” plus 4 films written by Neverov. It was 14 rubles for a year’s subscription, and we wish we could order it now.

81. The Stigma of Crime. Ca. 1927.
81. The Stigma of Crime. Ca. 1927.
Artists: Grigori Borisov & Nikolai Prusakov
28 1/4 x 42 in./71.6 x 106.5 cm
Est: $7,000-$9,000.

Called “The Fatal Plunge” for its original American release in 1924, this film was retitled “The Stigma of Crime” when it debuted in the Soviet Union about three years later. Phone-callers and demon drivers deliver a superb sense of onrushing crisis. There’s little doubt it was a thrill-a-minute. The film traces its origins from a 1919 serial novel in 15 chapters called “The Great Gamble.” The Soviets apparently made cuts to the film equal to about half its original running time, so all of the action must have been condensed into a breathtaking blur. This poster was created in the Soviet Republic of Georgia.

89. Two Straight. 1937.
89. Two Straight. 1937.
Artist: Anonymous
24 1/2 x 35 3/8 in./62.2 x 90 cm
Est: $3,500-$4,000.

A formidable image out of Stalin’s Soviet Union, this is actually an advertisement for a public lecture on the subject of memory training – “mnemo-technics,” as the blindfold reads – held at the Union of Leningrad State Performing Arts. The magnificent mnemotechnical duo go by the name of “Two Straight.”

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