1893, Moscow — 1953, Moscow

Prospectors Writing a Letter to the Creator of the Great Constitution


  • oil on canvas. 249 х 500
  • Ж-5848

  • Received in 1949 via the Committee for Art, Council of Ministers of the USSR

The painting was created for the Industry of Socialism exhibition, the main event in the USSR’s artistic life in 1939. Back in 1935 the party had set the goal of reflecting industrial achievements in fine artworks, stipulating that their main subjects should be “not machines but people educated by the party of Lenin and Stalin to master technology and place machines at the service of socialism”. A “thematic exhibition plan” was published, i. e. strict instructions for artists regarding desired subjects and their permissible interpretation. Among them were five themes connected with Lenin, ten with Stalin and two with Ordzhonikidze. In addition, artists were given specifically formulated tasks to depict the country’s newly-transformed cities and regions, the might of the Red Army’s heavy armaments, the power of Soviet metallurgy and so forth. Vasily Yakovlev was requested to take up the gold prospecting theme and go the Urals to study it. In the Valeryanovsky gold fields in Sverdlovsk Region the artist found the prototype for his composition, which shows a picturesque group of prospectors under the rays of the blinding sun engaged in an animated debate over a letter to Joseph Stalin they’re writing in response to the leader’s appeal to fulfill a gold production plan. The composition is marked by the distinct documentary verisimilitude that typifies Socialist Realist art as a whole. At the same time, the event’s romantic and high-spirited atmosphere fulfils a propagandistic role. Yet hidden behind the mythologized sense of workers’ enthusiasm masterfully created by this major artist lies the back-breaking reality of the gold miners’ labour.

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