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Posters of the Russian Revolution 1917-1921 from the Lenin Library at Nassau County Museum of Art
Viktor Deni, Comrade Lenin Purging the Unclean from the Earth, 1920. Color Lithograph. The Arnold A. Saltzman Family Collection.

ROSLYN HARBOR, N.Y.- In the stormy period that began with the 1917 October Revolution, poster art became a principal means of communicating the ideals of Communism to the largely illiterate peasantry of Russia. Graphic, inexpensively produced posters carried the Revolution’s message and served to capture the minds and souls of the masses. These vibrant posters, depicting the new collective means of production in mines, fields and factories, were designed and executed by some of the foremost Russian artists of the time, among them Dmitry Moor, El Lissitzky, and Viktor Deni. The works in Posters of the Russian Revolution 1917-1921 are on loan from The Arnold A. Saltzman Family Collection. The exhibition is on view at Nassau County Museum of Art through May 8, 2011.

The early posters of 1917-18 mirror the conflicts and concerns of the Revolutionary struggle: exploiters and exploited, the call to arms, the appeal for workers to unite, along with efforts to eliminate illiteracy and improve the status of women. With the outbreak of the Russian Civil War in 1918, following the Revolutionary period, posters turn their attention to new personalities and causes: foreign interventionists, anti-Communist White Guards, and the recruitment of more troops. With the end of the Russian Civil War in 1923, the focus turns to reconstruction, education, trade unions, illiteracy, help for the needy, and celebrations, especially the May Day celebration of labor and industry.

Artists’ styles are as varied as the subject matter. The graphic minimalism of Dmitry Moor’s powerful Help composed in response to a famine in 1921 that affected almost 30 million people contrasts with Viktor Deni’s satirical caricature, Comrade Lenin Cleans the World of Garbage. The realism of Alexander Apsit’s Chests Forward in Defense of Petrograd stands in sharp contrast to the radical novelty of El Lissitzky’s Drive a Red Wedge Into the Whites. Each of these posters was printed in editions of 5,000 to 50,000. They were seen on walls, on buildings, even on trains, where they had an enormous impact over huge stretches of the Russian countryside. Today, approximately 3,600 of these posters are known to exist. Their powerful imagery reveals a specific time and place in history that permanently changed the geopolitical balance of the world.

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Posters of the Russian Revolution 1917-1921 from the Lenin Library at Nassau County Museum of Art

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