Sunday photo: Rodchenko’s portrait of Lilya Brik

by Chris Bertram on November 1, 2009

We announced a while back that we’d be doing a regularish photo slot on Sundays, so here’s an offering for today, sparked by no better reason than that I was leafing through a large compendium of photos of the 20th century yesterday (some famous, some not) and I was arrested by Aleksander Rodchenko’s portrait of Lilya Brik. Reused, recycled, copied, imitated, parodied, the original still has the capacity to make me stop and wonder at it. Such energetic, dynamic composition in the picture, and such optimism and vigour in the woman depicted.




belle le triste 11.01.09 at 8:51 pm

I always think of this picture complete with speech bubble — is that because it’s used as part of a Constructivist collage at some point which has one, or did I just draw one in in my head?


Chris Bertram 11.01.09 at 8:54 pm

That’s right – just google Rodchenko to see the speech-bubble version.


kid bitzer 11.01.09 at 9:04 pm

nice teeth. i miss having teeth.


Alex 11.01.09 at 9:43 pm


Actually, isn’t the Rodchenko version an advert for BOOKS?


Keir 11.01.09 at 10:52 pm

Yep. Art at the service of the Revolution, via consumption.

(It wasn’t anything about books as books that was particularly important, it was the need to get the state-run economy going. See also cigarettes, Musselprom, matches, anything pretty much.)

(Not entirely sure if that’s fair in this case, some of this stuff was political, but an awful lot was straight-up Madison Ave style advertising.)


purplish 11.02.09 at 11:26 am

What was the exact date that Americans accepted propaganda being used against them as if they are an enemy to mislead rather than liberated citizens to inspire?


alex 11.02.09 at 12:30 pm

Always interesting to see what one reads into an image. “Optimism and vigour”… or maybe she’s yelling ‘Show us yer arse!’ Which is a different kind of optimism and vigour, I’ll grant.


Ginger Yellow 11.02.09 at 1:00 pm


So, did the Brits here go to the constructivism exhibition at the Tate? I loved it. But I’m a sucker for early 20th century Russian art and design. Death to wallpaper!


Ginger Yellow 11.02.09 at 1:10 pm

It wasn’t anything about books as books that was particularly important, it was the need to get the state-run economy going

But Lengiz has books in every field of knowledge! That must be good for the betterment of the proletariat.


Richard J 11.02.09 at 2:40 pm

OK, playing the depressing game you can do with early revolutionary figures, having a husband get shot, and being physically crossed off a list of those to be shot, is about par for the course, isn’t it?


Matt McGrattan 11.02.09 at 3:27 pm

I missed the constructivist exhibition at the Tate, but I did go to the big Rodchenko solo show at the Hayward, last year.

I found it slightly disappointing. Some of the photography is stunning, but the prints themselves are not. The collage/photomontage originals were great, though. I’d had no idea how small and shoddy [in a charming way] they’d looked when compared to the finished reproductions.

Comments on this entry are closed.