Mukhina, Vera Ignat’evna
Born June 19 (July 1), 1889, in Riga; died Oct. 6, 1953, in Moscow. Soviet sculptor. People’s Artist of the USSR (1943). Became a member of the Academy of Arts of the USSR in 1947.
Mukhina studied in Moscow under K. F. Iuon and I. I. Mashkov from 1909 to 1912 and in Paris under E. A. Bourdelle from 1912 to 1914. In 1909 she became a resident of Moscow. Mukhina taught at the Moscow Higher School of Industrial Arts from 1926 to 1927 and at Vkhutein (Higher Art and Technical Institute) from 1926 to 1930.
Mukhina’s early works, somewhat influenced by cubism, soon developed elements of monumentality and plastic simplicity (The Piéta, clay, 1916, not preserved). After the October Revolution of 1917, the artist helped implement Lenin’s plan of monument propaganda (model of a monument to N. I. Novikov, clay, 1918, not preserved). In the 1920’s, Mukhina designed monuments that were romantic and expressive of stormy movement (monument to V. M. Zagorskii, 1921; Flame of the Revolution, 1922–23 —both in plaster of paris, Museum of the Revolution of the USSR, Moscow) and smaller sculptures, with pronounced contours that express inner strength (The Wind, 1926–27, The Peasant Woman, 1927—both in bronze, Tret’iakov Gallery).
Beginning in the 1930’s, Mukhina modeled her works in greater detail, combining an understanding of the properties of her medium with a true-to-life rendering of her subject. As a portraitist, Mukhina sometimes exaggerated her sitter’s most distinctive features (Portrait of S. A. Kotliarevskii, bronze, 1929, Tret’iakov Gallery), but more often created typifications, generalized images of her contemporaries (Portrait of S. A. Zamkov, marble, 1935, Tret’iakov Gallery). At the same time, the artist never lost a sense of immediacy toward her subject.
In the 1930’s, Mukhina became increasingly involved in problems of artistic synthesis. The work which best reflects this interest is the 24-meter-high sculptural group The Worker and the Female Kolkhoznik, which topped the Soviet pavilion at the Paris World’s Fair of 1937 (at present it stands at the northern entrance of the Exhibition of the Achievements of the National Economy of the USSR, Moscow; stainless steel, 1935–37; State Prize of the USSR, 1941). The work’s diagonal composition reflects the upward rhythm of the building that serves as its pedestal (architect B. M. Iofan). The monument’s spatially differentiated forms are unified by a feeling of impetuously accelerated movement, resulting in compositional harmony and a light silhouette. The figures of a young man and a young woman, carrying a hammer and sickle, became not only an epic work of socialist realism but also a world-famous symbol of the new society on the road to communism.
Mukhina’s works of the period leading up to the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45 included a monument to M. Gorky, permeated by the revolutionary and romantic spirit of the writer’s early works (architects V. V. Lebedev and P. P. Shteller, bronze and granite, 1938–39; erected 1952, in the city of Gorky), and the decorative group Bread, whose harmoniously graceful, “singing” rhythms reflect the physical and spiritual beauty of the laboring people (bronze, 1939, Tret’iakov Gallery).
During the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45, Mukhina worked primarily as a portraitist. She never failed to show a connection between national destiny and the personality of her subjects, thus making it possible to grasp the heroic fervor of the time. With stark realism she depicted Soviet soldiers (B. A. Iusupov and I. L. Khizhniak, both plaster of paris, 1942; bronze, 1947; Tret’iakov Gallery; State Prize of the USSR, 1943). She also did portraits of scientists and cultural figures (Surgeon N. N. Burdenko; plaster of paris, 1943; bronze, 1947; Tret’iakov Gallery; and Academician A. N. Krylov, wood, 1945, Tret’iakov Gallery; State Prize of the USSR, 1946). Mukhina produced a generalized symbolic image of a Soviet girl, expressing hatred of the enemy and an unconquerable faith in victory (The Girl Partisan, plaster of paris, 1942, Bekhzad Republic Museum of History, Local Lore, and Fine Arts, Dushanbe; bronze, 1951, Tret’iakov Gallery).
After the war, Mukhina once again took up monumental sculpture. She carried out I. D. Shadr’s design of a monument to Gorky in Moscow (with N. G. Zelenskaia and Z. G. Ivanova, architect A. M. Rozenfel’d, bronze and granite, 1951; State Prize of the USSR, 1952). She also collaborated on the many-figured composition We Demand Peace! (with N. G. Zelenskaia, Z. G. Ivanova, S. V. Kazakov, and A. M. Sergeev; plaster of paris, 1950, Russian Museum, Leningrad; State Prize of the USSR, 1951) and on a monument to P. I. Tchaikovsky in Moscow (with Zelenskaia and Ivanova, architect A. A. Zavarzin, bronze and granite, from 1945; unveiled in 1954).
Seeking to enrich the artistic vocabulary of Soviet art, Mukhina often presented her theories on sculpture, experimented with new materials, and developed a technique of polychromatic sculpture. An extremely versatile artist, she decorated exhibitions, made industrial drawings, and designed clothes, textiles, porcelain (the statuette of S. G. Koren’ in the role of Mercutio, 1949) and theatrical costumes (sketches of costumes for Sophocles’ Electra, 1944, E. Vakhtangov Theater, Moscow). Mukhina was among the initiators of the movement to improve Soviet artistic glassware and worked in this field from 1938 to 1953 (Woman’s Torso, 1929–52). Her drawings, which with an economy of means render the various forms of nature, have an artistic importance all their own.
Mukhina was awarded two orders and various medals. The Leningrad Higher School of Industrial Arts was named after her in 1953.
WORKSKhudozhestvennoe i literaturno-kriticheskoe nasledie, vols. 1–3. Moscow, 1960.
REFERENCESTernovets, B. Vera Mukhina. Moscow-Leningrad, 1937.
Abolina, R. V. I. Mukhina. Moscow, 1954.
Klimov, R. “Tvorcheskie iskaniia. K voprosu ob evolutsii khudozhestvennogo mirovozzreniia V. I. Mukhinoi.” Iskusstvo, 1959, no. 12, pp. 12–22.
Suzdalev, P. K. Vera Mukhina. Moscow, 1971.
I. M. SOKOLOVA