cover image Russian Decorative Arts 1917-1937

Russian Decorative Arts 1917-1937

Rizzoli, Vladimir Tolstoi. Rizzoli International Publications, $125 (439pp) ISBN 978-0-8478-1242-4

Though richly illustrated, this survey by a director of the Russian Institute for Science and Art in Moscow is marred by a didactic text and artworks of uneven quality. A broad spectrum of decorative arts is encompassed: film posters, theater sketches, figurines, printed fabrics, toys, rugs, clothing, wood carvings, interior architecture, lacquered miniatures, book illustrations, etc. Introductory chapters on agitprop spawned by the October Revolution are of chiefly historical interest. Separate sections give cursory attention to jewelry, glassmaking, furniture, pottery and metalware. Women's fashions of the period, to judge from the examples shown, were austere and angular. Visual standouts include an Armenian shawl with a flamboyant geometric motif, airbrush-painted abstractions on silk and velvet, and book illustrations by Alexander Rodchenko, El Lissitzky and Kasimir Malevich. (Jan.)