Christina Lodder presented at the Modern Design History Seminar on Wednesday, November 15, at 6 pm. Her talk was entitled “Russia’s Revolutionary Art School: The Moscow Vkhutemas.”

In the wake of October 1917 and the setting up of the Department of Fine Arts within the Commissariat for Enlightenment, in early 1918, avant-garde artists took over running artistic affairs on behalf of the new regime. Among their various responsibilities was art education, which they proceeded to revolutionize. The Imperial Academy was abolished along with the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and the Stroganov School of Applied Arts. In their place, the State Free Art Studios (or Svomas) were set up—which accepted all students, irrespective of their previous educational achievements, and where students could train with whomever they wished. By 1920, this rather chaotic system was held to be untenable, and the Moscow Vkhutemas, or to give it its full title the Higher State Artistic and Technical Workshops (Vysshie gosudarstvennye khudozhestvenno-teknicheskie masterskie), was established in December that year “to prepare highly qualified master artists for industry, as well as instructors and directors of professional and technical education.” The new school became an important center of experimentation and radical innovation in art education during the 1920s, formulating the modern concept of design and developing innovative programs for training artists and designers. This talk looked at some of these new ideas and approaches, which embraced the fine arts as well as practical designs for a revolutionary new world.

Christina Lodder is an Honorary Professor of the History of Art at the University of Kent, President of the Malevich Society, and co-editor of Brill’s Russian History and Culture series. Her numerous publications on Russian art of the early twentieth century include articles, books, and translations, most notably Russian Constructivism (1983); Constructing Modernity: The Art and Career of Naum Gabo (co-author with Martin Hammer, 2000); Gabo on Gabo (co-editor with Martin Hammer, 2000); Constructive Strands in Russian Art (2005); Rethinking Malevich (co-editor with Charlotte Douglas, 2007); Utopian Reality: Reconstructing Culture in Revolutionary Russia and Beyond (co-editor with Maria Kokkori and Maria Mileeva, 2013); and a translation and introduction to Aleksei Gan’s Constructivism (2013).