Art Education in the USSR

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Art Education in the USSR


the system for training specialists in the representational, decorative applied, and industrial arts, as well as architects, art scholars, and art teachers.

In Rus’, individual training was given in workshops to icon painters, specialists in monumental painting, and carvers. In the 17th century, the Armory in Moscow became the country’s center of icon painting and carving. In the 18th century, the Drawing School founded by Peter I at the St. Petersburg Printing House contributed to the development of art education. Pupils at the school copied sculptures and pictures and also drew from nature. The painting team of the Office of Construction became an important art school in the first half of the 18th century. Many well-known painters, including I. Ia. Vishniakov and A. P. Antropov, studied and taught there. In the mid-18th century, the Drawing Chamber at the Academy of Sciences was founded, and art classes were offered in the raznochintsy division of the Gymnasium of Moscow University.

The Academy of Arts, founded in 1757 in St. Petersburg, became the most important center of art education in Russia, playing a progressive role in the development of Russian art in the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century. Its students represented many of Russia’s nationalities. The academy’s teaching system, which was based on the study of works of classical art, took final shape in the early 1770’s. Drawing was stressed at all stages of learning. One of the founders of Russian art education was the painter A. P. Losenko, who stressed strict adherence to a fixed curriculum and developed a method of drawing instruction. A school for training in art education was also founded at the academy. The academy mainly taught the historical genre in the 18th century; however, training in portraiture and landscape painting was developed in the 19th century.

In the mid-19th century, a conflict arose between the academy’s reactionary leadership, who cultivated a routine academicism, and progressive artists, who aspired to realism and a democratic ideology. Thanks to a number of important teachers who advocated realism in art, the academy preserved its importance as a school offering training of high professional quality. In the late 19th century students at the academy included the realist artists A. A. Ivanov, K. P. Briullov, O. A. Kiprenskii, and P. A. Fedotov, as well as the future peredvizhniki (the “wanderers,” a progressive art movement) N. N. Ge, V. M. Vasnetsov, I. N. Kramskoi, G. G. Miasoedov, V. D. Polenov, I. E. Repin, V. A. Serov, V. I. Surikov, and I. I. Shishkin.

Along with painters and graphic artists, the academy trained prominent masters of plastic art, such as M. M. Antokol’skii, F. G. Gordeev, M. I. Kozlovskii, I. P. Martos, S. S. Pimenov, I. P. Prokof ev, and F. F. Shchedrin. Architects who studied at the academy included V. I. Bazhenov, A. D. Zakharov, I. E. Starov, and A. V. Shchusev. As a result of a reform of the academy in 1893, the teaching program was modernized and the most important peredvizhniki, including Repin, were engaged as instructors.

In the 19th century, secondary schools of art appeared in Russia. A school was opened in Arzamas in 1809 by A. V. Stupin, who based his system of training on the principles he had learned as a pupil of the academy. In the 40 years of the school’s existence, more than 150 young artists were trained in Stupin’s school. The school founded by A. G. Venetsianov in the village of Safonkovo, Tver’ Province, in the 1820’s also made an important contribution to art education.

In 1832 the Art Class, a Russian art school, was opened in Moscow; it was reorganized as the School of Painting and Sculpture in 1843, and in 1865, after an architecture department was opened, it was renamed the School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture. The pupils of the Moscow school included people of common, often peasant, origin.

In the 19th century the school produced such prominent artists as A. K. Savrasov, N. V. Nevrev, V. V. Pukirev, V. G. Perov, N. A. Kasatkin, I. I. Levitan, K. A. Korovin, S. A. Korovin, M. V. Nesterov, and S. V. Maliutin. At various times the teaching staff included Savrasov, I. M. Prianishnikov, and A. M. Vasnetsov. In the early 20th century, K. F. Iuon, M. S. Sar’ian, K. S. Petrov-Vodkin, and A. M. Gerasimov studied at the school.

A drawing school was opened in 1839 at the Society for the Promotion of the Arts in St. Petersburg. A number of its pupils, including V. V. Vereshchagin and Repin, continued their studies at the Academy of Arts. In the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th century, art schools were opened in Kiev and Kazan, an industrial arts school was organized in Ekaterinburg, a drafting school was founded in Pskov, and art schools were opened in Odessa, Penza, and Tbilisi.

In the 19th century, more advanced training was offered in decorative applied art. In 1825, S. G. Stroganov founded the School of Drawing for Arts and Crafts in Moscow (now the Moscow Higher Industrial Arts School) for training in painting, woodcarving, metalworking, and related fields. The school organized competitions and exhibitions and introduced new standards into industry. Similar to the Stroganov school was the School of Drafting founded by A. L. Shtiglits in St. Petersburg in 1876 (now the V. I. Mukhina Leningrad Higher Industrial Arts School).

After the October Socialist Revolution of 1917, higher, secondary, and elementary schools of art were opened in all the Union republics. The method of socialist realism was established as the basis for the development of Soviet art and art education. Training is considered an integral process combining ideological upbringing, the development of the pupil’s aesthetic perception, and the mastery of professional realistic skills by means of a profound study of nature.

Pupils who have completed four grades of a general-education school and who exhibit artistic potential are accepted into children’s art schools; such schools numbered approximately 680 in 1977. While continuing to study in the general-education school, these children receive four years of general aesthetic upbringing and elementary training in art. Classes are held two or three times a week. Secondary art schools are also maintained at major institutions of higher education. Such schools, which numbered seven in 1977, offer a program of art studies and general education based on four years of general-education school.

Specialists with a secondary education in art, including artists, masters in various fields of art, and teachers of drawing, are trained in art schools. These schools, which numbered 51 in 1977, include the 1905 Memorial Moscow Art School, the V. A. Serov Leningrad Art School, and schools in Penza, Kazan, Yaroslavl’, Rostov, Odessa, Tbilisi, Tashkent, Alma-Ata, Dushanbe (the Tadzhik Republic Art School), Ashkhabad (the Turkmen Republic Art School), and Yakutsk. In addition, there are six industrial arts schools and nine technicums of decorative applied art, including the M. I. Kalinin Moscow Industrial Arts School, the Abramtsevo and Zagorsk industrial arts schools in Moscow Oblast, and the Krasnoe Selo Industrial Arts School in Kostroma Oblast. Other notable schools include the Kiev Industrial Arts Technicum and the Kaunas Technicum of Applied Arts.

In 1977, 15,000 persons were studying in 66 secondary educational institutions specializing in art. Subjects taught in specialized secondary educational institutions include sculpture, mural painting, stage design, the teaching of drawing and drafting, weaving, artistic design, metalworking, ivory carving, glass blowing, pottery-making, and industrial design. The course of study lasts four years.

Various vocational-technical schools, for example, those in Fedoskino and Mstera, train highly qualified workers in architectural ornamentation and decorative art. The course of study lasts two to four years.

The most highly qualified artists are trained in higher educational institutions, of art, including academies, institutes, and higher industrial arts schools; there were 14 such institutions in 1977. They also study in institutes of architecture, stage design, theater studies, printing, the textile industry, and technology. Specialists in various fields are trained in the All-Union Institute of Cinematography and certain institutes of arts, including the M. A. Aliev Azerbaijan Institute of Arts and the Ufa Institute of Arts.

Higher educational institutions of art and art departments of other institutions accept graduates of specialized secondary art schools and secondary general-education schools of art. They train painters, specialists in applied decorative art and industrial arts, graphic artists, stage and set designers, sculptors, architects, art scholars, and art teachers. The course of study lasts five or six years. Teachers of drawing for secondary general-education schools are trained in departments of graphic arts at pedagogical institutes, of which there were 27 in 1977. Training in specialized disciplines is conducted under the guidance of artist-professors in each field.

Leading Soviet artists have devoted much time and energy to the training and upbringing of young artists in various art schools. Prominent teachers include M. K. Anikushin, I. I. Brodskii, A. M. Gerasimov, S. V. Gerasimov, I. E. Grabar’, A. M. Gritsai, U. M. Dzhaparidze, T. E. Zalkalns, E. F. Kalnyn’, E. A. Kibrik, G. M. Korzhev, I. M. Kuzminskis, M. G. Manizer, E. E. Moiseenko, D. S. Moor, D. K. Mochal’skii, A. A. Myl’nikov, Iu. M. Neprintsev, Ia. I. Nikoladze, E. K. Okas, V. M. Oreshni-kov, V. B. Pinchuk, T. T. Salakhov, V. A. Serov, and N. V. Tomskii.

Art students who graduate from higher educational institutions receive the title of artist in their field and the right to teach art in specialized secondary educational institutions and general-education schools. Scholars in representative art, decorative applied art, architecture, and industrial design may pursue graduate training in the I. E. Repin Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture in Leningrad, the V. I. Surikov Moscow Art Institute, the Tbilisi Academy of Arts, the Moscow Architectural Institute, the Leningrad and Moscow higher industrial arts schools, and the Leningrad Institute of Theater, Music, and Cinematography, as well as in the research institutes of the Ministry of Culture of the USSR. The Academy of Arts of the USSR plays a significant role in the development of art education.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.