AKhR/AKhRR - Assotsiatsia Khudozhnikov Revolutsii - АХР - Ассоциация Художников Революции / Assotsiatsia Khudozhnikov Revolutsionnoi Rossii - АХРР - Ассоциация Художников Революционной России
1922 - 1932, Member List
The movement AKhRR (Assotsiatsia Khudozhnikov Revolutsionnoi Rossii - Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia) was created in Moscow in May 1922. In 1928 it was renamed into AKhR (Assotsiatsia Khudozhnikov Revolutsii - Association of Artists of the Revolution). This was the largest of all the movements, groups and associations in the 1920s, thanks to its ideology, thoroughly supporting the ideological line of the newly-formed USSR. Like all the rest, it was dispersed in 1932, and was the basis for the future Union of Artists.
The leadership of AKhRR, 1926:
Ye.A.Katzman, I.I.Brodsky, Yu.I.Repin, A.V.Grigoriev, P.A.Radimov.
What spurred the Association into being was a speech made by Pavel Radimov, the last head of the Fellowship of Peredvizhniks, at the closing of the last, 47th exhibition of this Fellowship, in 1922. This speech was called "About the reflection of daily life in art", and placed an emphasis on taking cue from the realism of the late Peredvizhniks in order to recreate "today: the daily life of the Red Army; the daily life of workers, peasants, revolutionary activists and labor heroes, which the people masses can connect to". This report was brutally attacked by the whole "leftist" art front, Avant-garde artists who have also supported the revolution, and served to create the AKhRR movement, with Pavel Radimov at its head. Other key members were A.V.Grigoriev, E.A.Katzman, P.Yu.Kiselis, S.V.Malyutin. The Avant-garde trends, on the other hand, were declared "unhealthy thinking".
Journal "Art for the Masses",
1929, # 5-6.
The exhibition considered as the first exhibition of the AKhRR movement was opened May 1st 1922 and called "Exhibition of paintings for helping the victims of famine". From the very first AKhRR enjoyed solid financial support from Voroshilov, the leadership of the Red Army.
The Fellowship of Peredvizhniks has practically merged with AKhRR, and later other mature painters who rejected the Avant-garde joined the movement as well: A.Arkhipov, V.N.Baksheyev, V.K.Byalynitzky-Birula, N.A.Kasatkin, N.D.KRandiyevskaya, M.G.Manizer, S.D.Merkurov, V.N.Meshkov, K.F.Yuon. Still later more established artists joined them: I.I.Brodsky, B.M.Kustodiev, E.E.Lancere, Ph.A.Maliavin, I.I.Mashkov, K.S.Petrov-Vodkin, A.A.Rylov etc. In addition, lesser movements were gradually absorbed into AKhRR: in 1924 the New Association of Painters joined the movement; in 1926 - the Jack of Diamonds movement and the whole Moscow Painters group; in 1929 - painters from the group "Bytie" (Being); in 1931 - the Circle of Artists and a number of member of the OMKh movement.
Journal "Art for the Masses",
1930, # 2.
As a result, this movement was growing large with dizzying speed. By mid 1923 the group numbered around 300 members. Numerous branches all over the country began to appear. In 1924 a publishing bureau was established headed by V.N.Perelman; in 1925 - informational bureau and central bureau of the various branches.
It seems that by the end of 1920s the now named AKhR movement was at a stage when it was already falling apart. Groups were separating from it. A separate group called OMAKhR (Ob'yedinenie Molodezhi Assotziatzii Khudozhnikov Revolutzii - Youth Society of the Association of Artists of the Revolution), which has mostly combined with the group RAPKh (Rossiiskaya Organizatziya Proletarskikh Khudozhnikov - Russian Organization of Proletarian Artists). In 1930 a number of former leaders have formed their own "Union of Soviet Artists". In April 1932, along with all the other groupings, AKhR was terminated, and the underlying principles of its manifest were taken as basis for the single SSKh (Soyuz Sovetskikh Khudozhnikov - Union of Soviet Artists).
Poster for exhibition of AKhR and OMAKhR,
by the name of "Art for the Masses"
In terms of artistic principles, the leading understanding of AKhR was declared to be realistic simplicity which may be comprehended by the masses. The art must be accessible to the large (and largely uneducated) public, as well as party leaders, many of whom were not known for their artistic education and exquisite taste; therefore great emphasis was made on creating paintings which would not be rejected because of their artistic complexity. And so the first major component was absolute realism, and the second - the choice of subject, which must lean on the social and ideological order: reflect the daily life of said masses, depict the revolution and Soviet labor. The movement's central slogans have become "Artistic documentalism" and "Heroic realism". It may be said that the AKhR members have seen themselves, the artists, as just a different kind of specially-qualified workers, and therefore their sole mission was simply reflecting the political slogans of the moment, translating them for the masses.
To achieve this, the most widely acceptable method was going to paint "from nature". The artists went to plants and factories, to Red Army barracks, to observe and make studies of their subjects' daily life. They joined scientific and geological expeditions and working and construction camps in the most remote corners of the land for this purpose.
The AKhR members battled all the "leftist" movements, who proclaimed it their goal "to help realism and easel painting die"; they opposed the idea of "art for the sake of art" and what they labeled as "formalism", striving to prove the sole necessity for easel realistic genre painting. They have won this battle, laying the foundation for the later Socialist Realism norm in Soviet art, and had several times "purged" itself of ideologically-wrong artists, banishing them from among its members. In addition, its competition with the OST movement, close in many ways to the AKhR artistic ideology, must also be noted.
The AKhRR/AKhR movement has organized about 70 exhibitions, 13 of the largest and most well-known in Moscow, usually carrying a certain theme, like "Life in the Red Army"; "Life of the workers"; "Revolution, daily life and labor" etc. This new phenomenon was very successful with the public.
In addition, AKhR has mass-published postcards (total about 800), reproductions, albums with their works as well as classics from the Hermitage and other artists. They published a journal "Art for the masses" in 1929-30.