I've scanned some images from a book I picked up at Strand called Images of Revolution: Graphic Art from 1905 Russia. When it comes to scavenging old illustrations, my taste is usually of the cute/adorable variety, but these images are straight-up badass in their darkness, their uncanny surrealism, and their political and allegorical power.

From David King and Cathy Porter's text: "For a few brief months before the 1905 upheaval was smashed, at least 380 satirical journals flooded the streets of Moscow and Saint Petersberg, speaking with a rage that neither arrest nor exile could suppress. The tsar, his ministers, the government, the church, the army: the journals constantly expanded their territory and their targets, demolishing one victim after another and thriving on the massive censorship intended to silence them. An explosive underground language of popular protest emerged, veiled in symbol and allegory."

I love the juxtaposition in these drawings of humor, typical of the political cartoon, with their haunting invocations of Russian folklore, demons and death. If you find a copy of this book in a shop or online I highly recommend picking it up.

'Nightmare' by Pyotr Dobrynin. 'Leshii' No. 1, 1906. Aftermath of Cossack 'punitive expedition'.

'Leshii' No.3, 1906. Drawing by Alexander Kudinov. I love this image of a giant reptilian beast with a man's face crawling over the hills and blending in with the landscape.

'Full Amnesty' by Alexander Kudinov. 'Leshii' No.4, 1906. The colors, composition, and border here reminds me of a tarot card. I love how much mystery this image posesses.

'Varon' (Raven) No.1, 1907. Back and front cover. The raven was a frequent symbol seen in this movement.

'Ovod' (Gladfly) No.2, 1906. Cover. Artist unidentified.

Demons. This book contains many small images resembling bookplates, which aren't associated with any particular artist or journal as far as I can tell.

'Tsarist Army Returning from the Russo-Japanese War,' 'Burya' (Storm), No.4, 1906.

'Sprut' No.15, 1906. Back cover. Quote by Gogol, artist unidentified. The design geek in me can't help but be reminded by this black-and-green color scheme of both the Marber Penguin Crime series and the Rosemary's Baby poster. This is so awesome.

'The View of Earth from the Moon.' 'Sprut' (Octopus) No.8, 1906.

"Leshii' No.1, 1906. Drawing by Pyotr Dobrynin. Click to enlarge this image of a sinister meeting of owls. I love that some of them have their heads turned, looking at us looking at them.

Just badass. 'Has He the Strength...?'. 'Zarevo' No.3, 1906.

Another uncredited miniature illustration, seemingly of some cats checking out a severed head.

'Count Ignatiev' by Boris Kustodiev. 'Adskaya Pochta' (Hell-Post) No.3, 1906. I'm not sure who this Count Ignatiev is, but I'm assuming this is a political caricature of some kind, and a great one at that. Another mini down below of a person eating a bowl of skull soup.

'The Apotheosis of 17 October'. 'Strely' (Arrows), No.9, 1906.

'Pacification' by Mstislav Dobuzhinsky. 'Zhupel' (Bugbear) No. 2, 1905.

And the first image at the top of this post, one of my favorites, is titled 'New Year' by Boris Anisfeld, from 'Zhupel' No.3, 1906.

There's so much more where this came from; to see some additional images from this book, check this post at ephemera assemblyman. I'm anxious to read the lengthy text of this book to try to absorb more of the historical story behind this visionary art. If anyone has any comments or context to offer, please leave a comment.


Matthew said...

Love to see the book and talk Revolution of 1905 sometime. Let's do it.

Steven H said...

I just bought it!

There's some incredibly gruesome and dark stuff in there. But I particularly like the art that shades into the mystic, like the one that opens your post. It's incredibly good - I take the scaly figures to be the ruling classes, looking down on a burning Russia from their isolated and priviliged positions...Like they're hideous Greek Gods in some bleak Mt Olympus.

I was also really impressed by the piece that was on the opposite page, "Just One More Step". It's child-like but profoundly dark and grotesque too.

I suppose great adversity produces great satire.