Industry and art : the July 2020 Slavonic item of the month

This lovely item is still waiting for me to complete its catalogue record in the UL, but happily I captured many of its contents in photographs on a memory card I brought home on our last day in the Library.

Ugol’, chugun, stal’ (Coal, cast iron, steel) was bought with the help of Special Collections now some time ago.  It is a loose-leaf album of 40 works by the artist Nikolaĭ Fedorovich Denisovskiĭ (often romanised as Denisovsky), 1901-1981, which was published in 1932.  The subject of his work is heavy industry, and each of the 40 monochrome illustrations held within the album depict workers and industrial structures in striking and quite beautiful images.  Below are 15 of the 40.

Images from the new acquisition.

Denisovskiĭ was a poster artist first and foremost.  He worked with Vladimir Maiakovskiĭ (Mayakovsky) on early Soviet agitprop posters including the famous ROSTA windows (see John Milner’s Agitprop article in Oxford Art Online).  During World War 2, he worked on the propaganda TASS posters: a book chapter in one of Cambridge’s most recently acquired eresources, A&Ae Portal, about TASS is illustrated with a poster painted by Denisovskiĭ and Pavel Petrovich Sokolov-Skalia.  The chapter, Under a watchful eye: the conservation of Soviet Tass-window posters (by Harriet K. Stratis and Peter Zegers), can be accessed here.  The UL’s sole other Denisovskiĭ book is in fact a catalogue of TASS posters compiled by the artist (CCF.54.11).  It came to us as part of the Catherine Cooke collection, which this latest acquisition was bought to complement.

Denisovskiĭ was also an accomplished satirical artist.  Readers with Raven access can search for him (in Cyrillic (Денисовский)) in the online backfile of Krokodil which can be accessed here.  In this page, for example, from issue 12 (1925), is a “botanist’s guide” to “weeds growing on the peasant’s field” – undesirable elements (such as drunk policemen, top right, shown as henbane) which need to be removed with the hammer and sickle…

Ugol’, chugun, stal’ appears in iDiscover but will not receive its final classmark until cataloguing services return to normal in the next few weeks and months.  Not too very long now, we hope!

Mel Bach

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