(Russia 1902 – 1987)
21.4 x 11.1 cm image; 22.9 x 15.3 cm sheet
Valentina Kulagina trained as a painter and graphic designer, however by 1925 she was also constructing photomontages like El Lissitzky and her husband Gustav Klutsis. In 1928 she was one of the designers to work with Lissitzky on his installation at the Köln International Pressa exhibition. The Soviet pavilion was created as a ‘gesamtkunstwerke’ (total work of art) with photomurals and texts that slashed across the walls, alongside film and sound works. Kulagina and Klutsis also worked on street murals and posters in the service of the state. They were dedicated to the revolution and the party and worked for it throughout their lives. When Klutsis was arrested and shot under the Stalin regime in 1938, Kulagina believed the official story that he had died of natural causes. However, recent KGB research shows that Klutsis was arrested along with other former members of the Latvian rifles who had witnessed events that contradicted Stalin’s rewriting of his own heroic role in the revolution. Kulagina made a series of photomontages for the anniversary of the revolution, such as the 1935 album ‘Metro est’ and the panel ‘Unas’ which she prepared for the 7th Party congress in 1932. She was also an active trade unionist.
Although Kulagina started out working with the constructivists, and her photomontage works developed from that source, she went on to adopt Stalin’s view that art should be accessible to the masses by following a social-realist style. Her work therefore became a peon to the march of progress under Stalin and celebrated the healthy life of peasants under the regime, despite the terrible realities of Stalin’s disastrous plans. This depiction of beekeepers working under the shade of fruit trees in an idealised rural landscape typifies the direction of her work.
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
Anthony Bond, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'International modernism', pg.93-111, Sydney, 2007, 101 (illus.).
Glaube, Hoffnung - Anpassung: Sowjetische Bilder 1928-1945: