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 Vera Mukhina

Born:   19 July 1889
Deceased:   6 October1953

Queen of Soviet Sculpture


Vera Mukhina was undoubtedly the most famous Soviet sculptor; her sculpture group Worker and Kolkhoz Woman that crowned the building of national Russian pavilion at the International Exhibition in Paris in 1937 is still one of the major sculptures shaping the Moscow city landscape.

Monumental triumph of this composition meeting the concrete task of ideological glorification at the same time expresses general tendencies of the artist’s creativity: the pathos of greatness and power, inclination to might and willful dynamism of shapes, and love of the grandiose. Being in accord with the spirit of the epoch those features let Mukhina become a vivid figure of official Soviet art.



Vera Ignatievna Mukhina was born in Riga on 19 June (1 July) 1889 into a merchant’s family. She spent her childhood and youth years (from1892 to1904) in the seaside city of Theodosia. There the future artist took her first drawing and painting lessons. After finishing classical school she moved to Moscow where she studied in the studio of the famous landscape painter K. Yuon (1909-11), and later shifted to the less academical I. Mashkov(1911-12). Vera Mukhina completed her education in Paris – in the Fine Arts Academy, in F. Colarossi Academies, la Palette and la Grand Chaumiere (in the latter very important were classes of Emile Antoine Bourdelle [French Expressionist Sculptor, 1861-1929]). In spite of all her initial tendency to principles of realistic vision the beginning artist was friends with non-figurative artists, which made for her brief working in the theatre (costume sketches for performances of Moscow Chamber Theatre, such as Alexander Blok’s Rose and Cross and Sem Benelli’s The Feast of the Jesters, all of 1916) and just as brief pursuit in textile design in the 1920s.


Worker and Kolkhoz Woman
In sculpture the shaping of Mukhina’s own language was connected with the plan of monumental propaganda. Out of the four projects created according to this plan – sketches for sculptures Liberated Labour and Revolution (both of 1919) and monuments to V.M. Zagorski (1921) and Y.M. Sverdlov(1923) - the last one is most remarkable. Its symbolical solution ( Flame of Revolution is another name for it) has the motif of surmounting the stagnant flesh; the opposing movements of forms add mighty dynamism to the composition and make it seem monumental (though the project was not implemented, just like the three other). The metaphor of impetuous impulse and overcoming, initially thrown up by experiencing revolution, later reverberated in many Mukhina’s works, such as The Wind(1926-27), A Woman’s Torso (1927), Worker and Kolkhoz Woman (1937), Icarus and Boreas (both of 1938). At the same time hyperbolized sensation of bodily mass typical of her works and most expressly conveyed in Peasant Woman (1927) with its generalized heavy plastic and later subjected to aesthetization (in Fertility, 1934 and Bread, 1939), created some counterpoise to the flight feeling also inherent in her works. As a result sculptures by Vera Mukhina presented a balance ideal for official soviet art – the balance of statics and willpower, blending of earthly heaviness and transpersonal triumph.

The artist worked in chamber genres as well: in the 1940s she was into art glass, along with vases and cups creating glass portraits ( Portrait of V.I. Kachalov and Portrait of Ballet Soloist S.G. Koren as Mercutio, both of 1947).


All her life Vera Mukhina kept an unfading interest in portrait. She often portrayed her nearest and dearest (A.A. Zamkov, 1918, 1934; V.A. Zamkov, 1934; S.A. Zamkov - Builder, 1934), and yet they were void of lyricism. Mukhina was inclined to generalized solutions and reticent monumentality of plastic art.

In portraits of war heroes, namely those of B. A. Yusupov and I.L. Khizhnyak (both of 1942) her manner became more detailed and exact, yet the feeling of integral shape, as a rule, helped her avoid superfluous narration.

In 1939 Mukhina wrote: "Style is born when the artist doesn’t only with his mind learns the ideals of his time, but when he cannot feel otherwise, when the ideology of his age and his people becomes his personal ideology”. It is in this very sense that she conveyed the style of her epoch. V. M. Mukhina died on 6 October, 1953 in Moscow.

Many of Mukhina’s projects remained unrealized, including the monument to Y. Sverdlov and Lenin. M. Gorky monument intended for Moscow was set up in the city of Gorky (later renamed back to Nizhni Novgorod).

There is a museum of Vera Mukhina in Theodosia and one of the streets in Peredelkino District of Moscow is named after her.

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