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The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and the Quest for the New Art: the Proletarian Art Enigma

A talk by Natalia Murray

The 1917 Bolshevik revolution aimed to destroy the old bourgeois society and to build a new homogenous socialist state, which was unprecedented and needed a new founding myth. Vladimir Lenin proclaimed that culture should support political needs, this effectively meant that all culture was now viewed as propaganda.

Like Lenin, Trotsky believed that ‘the essence of the new culture will be not an aristocratic one for a privileged minority, but a mass culture, a universal and popular one.’ But he also felt that ‘before the proletariat will have passed out of the stage of cultural apprenticeship, it will have ceased to be a proletariat’.

So could proletarian art ever be a reality?
tl_files/images/events/2013/October/Natalia Murray portrait format portrait.jpeg Natalia Murray was born in St Petersburg where she read Art History at the Academy of Fine Arts before taking the PhD course at the Hermitage Museum. In 1998 she moved to England; over the past five years she has been lecturing on XIX-XX c. Russian Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art.Natalia’s biography of Nikolay Punin, The Unsung Hero of the Russian Avant-Garde. The Life and Times of Nikolay Punin (1888-1953) , was published by Brill Academic Publishers in June 2012. It will be also translated into Russian and published in Moscow next year. At present she is teaching at the Courtauld and curating three exhibitions of Russian Art which will take place at the Courtauld Gallery (2014) and the Royal Academy of Arts (2017). Natalia is also writing her next book on the development of proletarian art in Russia and its expressions in the street decorations of Petrograd in 1917-1920.

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