Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin (1878-1939) was a self-taught painter and multitalented individual, born to a shoemaker and maid. Petrov-Vodkin was a son of his times since his interests varied from Russian Icons to Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the Russian Revolution. Considered one of the most original Russian artists of the firs decade, Petrov-Vodkin’s work caused fierce controversy. After his death, Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin’s name was eradicated from the Soviet art world and in the following quarter century his work disappeared from museum collections. However, his work once again received recognition in the latter half of the 1960s within Russian culture.
The political historical context of the painting marks the first anniversary of the October Revolution with the painting The Year 1918 in Petrograd or more commonly referred to as Petrograd Madonna. The October Revolution was a deliberate event, orchestrated by a few that overturned the interim provisional government. At secret meeting of the Bolshevik Central Committee on the 23rd of October 1917, Vladimir Lenin urged the Bolsheviks to take action before the elections for the Constitution Assembly. On the night of 24th October 1917, orders were given for the Bolsheviks to begin to occupy railway stations, the telephone exchange and the State Bank. The following day, the Red Guards surrounded the Winter Palace, where inside was most of the country’s cabinet. Although the palace was weakly defended, most of the Bolshevik soldiers were unwilling to fire upon fellow Russians. A small group of the Red Guards entered the palace and convinced the Cabinet minsters to surrender. Some accounts claim a few shots were fired, little or no violence or damage arose. On 26th October 1917, the All-Russi...
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...onvey emotions concerning the Revolution. However, the painting has a creator with a bias point of view that wanted to create a desired effect. By embodying the human experience of the revolution into religious symbolism and iconography, Petrov-Vodkin was intentionally elevating the aims of the Bolsheviks and the outcome of the Revolution. He understood the Revolution as an historical phenomenon that opens to people a path to perfection. It was a turning point in the history of Russia, which, according to Petrov-Vodkin, had to be perceived as a “cosmic and universal” interpretation of reality. Thus this artwork is part of the technology in service of the revolution and should be taken as biased opinion of the event. The painting captures a moment in history to tell a story in order to connect people of a similar mindset while reflecting political and social change.
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