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Vladimir Tatlin


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A central figure in the development of Russian Constructivism, artist, designer, and theorist Tatlin was born into a family with an engineer father and poet mother. He studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture from 1902 to 1903 before moving on to the School of Fine Arts at Penza from 1905 to 1910, when he returned to Moscow. Over succeeding years he became increasingly involved with the Russian artistic avant‐garde and its growing interest in Futurism and Cubism. He was acquainted with the latter at first hand in Paris in 1913 and soon began experimenting in three‐dimensional abstract reliefs, some of which were shown in the Futurist Exhibition in Petrograd in 1915. In 1917 this interest in materials and form evolved further in a commission for the interior decoration of the Café Pittoresque, a bohemian avant‐garde Moscow theatre‐cabaret, on which he worked alongside Rodchenko and Yakulov in the construction of a dynamic environment of abstract forms in wood, metal, and cardboard. A leading artistic figure in the post‐Revolutionary period, he became involved in Soviet propaganda, a highly significant project being the gigantic Monument to the Third International, commissioned in 1919. It was intended to be a massively tall, dynamic spiral structure, built in glass and iron, with core elements revolving at different speeds (annually, monthly, and weekly). Each had distinct functions, such as conference halls, meeting rooms, and information centre that, combined with new forms, technologies, and materials, symbolized the utopian aspirations of the immediate post‐Revolution years. Revolutionary messages were to be projected into the sky and the news and propaganda broadcast by radio and loudspeakers. Although the project never materialized beyond scale models, its use of industrial materials and contemporary technologies revealed the utilitarian ethos that increasingly characterized Tatlin's work. This was evidenced in his 1920 Programme of the Productivist Group and his 1920s designs for practical and ergonomically designed workers' clothing, ceramics, metalware, and furniture. He taught industrial design at the Vkhutemas in Moscow from 1927 to 1931 but, following its liquidation in 1931, together with a marked change in the political and aesthetic climate, returned to practise in the fine arts.

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