Socialist realism is unmistakable. The stark political messaging, most notably developed in the two decades after the Russian Revolution in 1917, is simultaneously impressive and intimidating.
The style was also intended as inspirational for the purpose of political propaganda amid the social, industrial and economic turmoil within the Soviet Union under Stalin. Posters with spacemen, soldiers, workers, women and children, doves of peace showed Stalin’s desire to portray the Soviet Union as a forward-looking workers’ state.
BHC member Colin Evans, in the latest of his German art talks, was an educative and illuminating curator of an illustrated online talk about socialist realism to 24 members and friends on January 28.
As Colin explained it:
Socialist realism is an art form that served as political propaganda mostly, but not only, in Communist countries during the post WW2 era. It did not follow trends in art towards expression but adhered to the objective of conveying straightforward motivational messages that everybody could understand. It was initially idealistic but later morphed into a cover-up for the many failings of authoritarian government.
Poster from Kazakhstan
[Among] examples of particular interest [are] those from the German Democratic Republic. These show characteristics suggesting that the creativity that has put Germany at the forefront of contemporary art was evident on both sides of the border.
Way of the Red Flag, Dresden
Colin chose the work of Walter Womacka as a major exemplar of the development of socialist realism in post-war East Germany. Much of the artwork of that era has been erased. Still enjoying pride of place in post-Wende Berlin, however, is Womacka’s frieze wrapped around the Haus des Lehrers on Alexanderplatz (below).
The theme was the benefit of education – from which Colin’s audience also benefited.