Aleksandr Ivanovich Laktionov

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The reproduction of the painting In Summer (1951-1954) by A. Laktionov on the postal card issued to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of the painter. Russian Post, 2010. In Summer by A Laktionov Postal card Russia 2010.jpg
The reproduction of the painting In Summer (1951–1954) by A. Laktionov on the postal card issued to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of the painter. Russian Post, 2010.

Aleksandr Ivanovich Laktionov Александр Иванович Лактионов (16 May 1910 15 March 1972) was a Socialist realism painter in the post-war Soviet Union. His meticulous and almost photo-real style was popular, but courted controversy among art critics and other artists.

Socialist realism style of realistic art

Socialist realism is a style of idealized realistic art that was developed in the Soviet Union and was the official style in that country between 1932 and 1988, as well as in other socialist countries after World War II. Socialist realism is characterized by the glorified depiction of communist values, such as the emancipation of the proletariat. Despite its name, the figures in the style are very often highly idealized, especially in sculpture, where it often leans heavily on the conventions of classical sculpture. Although related, it should not be confused with social realism, a type of art that realistically depicts subjects of social concern, or other forms of "realism" in the visual arts.

Laktionov was born in Rostov-on-Don and studied in the Leningrad Academy of Arts from 1926–1929 and later as a postgraduate from 1938-1944. Laktionov was a pupil of the artist Isaak Brodskii and was influenced by his technical and realistic approach, which followed the traditions of the Old Masters.

Rostov-on-Don City in Rostov Oblast, Russia

Rostov-on-Don is a port city and the administrative centre of Rostov Oblast and the Southern Federal District of Russia. It lies in the southeastern part of the East European Plain on the Don River, 32 kilometers (20 mi) from the Sea of Azov. The southwestern suburbs of the city abut the Don River delta. The population is over one million people (1,125,000).

A Letter From the Front on a USSR postage stamp of 1973. 1973 CPA 4262.jpg
A Letter From the Front on a USSR postage stamp of 1973.

Laktionov’s breakthrough work was A Letter From the Front (1947), which captured the prevailing mood among the people of the Soviet Union following the German-Soviet War. It is a highly optimistic work, bathed in a warm glow, which became a motif of Laktionov’s later works and Socialist Realism in general.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Laktionov became most famous for his genre paintings such as Into a New Flat (1952) and Old Age Provided For (1958–60). These painstakingly realistic works paint an overwhelmingly positive picture of Soviet society. Nonetheless, these paintings proved popular among the general public, despite their mixed critical reception. This criticism was leveled mainly at Laktionov’s trademark attention to detail that, they claimed, eschews artistic expression in favor of naturalism.

In spite of this, Laktionov found many supporters in the state cultural bureaucracy, who approved of his nationalistic and optimistic subject matter. This ensured that Laktionov was able to lead a highly successful career and mix in the highest echelons of Soviet society. Throughout his later years he was commissioned to paint numerous portraits of leading Soviet actors, surgeons, soldiers, politicians and cosmonauts, including a portrait of Joseph Stalin.

Joseph Stalin Soviet leader

Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was a Georgian revolutionary and Soviet politician who led the Soviet Union from the mid–1920s until 1953 as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1922–1953) and Premier (1941–1953). Initially presiding over a collective leadership as first among equals, by the 1930s he was the country's de facto dictator. A communist ideologically committed to the Leninist interpretation of Marxism, Stalin formalised these ideas as Marxism–Leninism, while his own policies are known as Stalinism.

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