See USSR – Soviet travel posters

Its strange to think of the USSR of the 1920s and ‘30s as a place of free travel and one with a burgeoning tourist industry aimed at foreigners.

Aleksander Zhitomirsky, Georgian Military Highway 1939
Aleksander Zhitomirsky, Georgian Military Highway 1939

New exhibition See USSR will aim to tell the visual story of Soviet-era tourism when it opens at Grad:  Gallery for Russian Arts and Design.

While the USSR’s famous Constructivist propaganda posters tell one story, these posters advocating leisure, travel and general fun, tell an altogether different tale.

Maria Nesterova, USSR Health Resorts, 1930s
Maria Nesterova, USSR Health Resorts, 1930s

The posters were commissioned by Intourist, the organisation responsible for foreign tourism, and while they clearly present a singular perspective, it’s quite a significant one.

Many of the works are in the Art Deco style of the time and espouse a sense of freedom and invitation, while in some cases they present the USSR  as a gateway to the Far East.

The Transiberian Express, unkown
The Transiberian Express, unkown

Of course their glossy attractiveness belies the brief of Intourist to draw in state funds needed for industrialisation.

The artists behind them include Nikolay Zhukov, Sergey Sakharov, and Maria Nesterova – who were well known at the time.

Zhukov in particular was known as a successful painter, portraitist, and illustrator whose services were in huge demand from party officials. 

Aleksander Froloff, See USSR, 1930
Aleksander Froloff, See USSR, 1930

He went onto illustrate the full edition of Lenin’s works and won USSR state prizes for his posters.

See USSR was a slogan on posters of the time and so lends its name to the exhibition, which will also present magazines, ephemera and textiles.

Henry Milner remake of Nikolay Zhukov original
Henry Milner remake of Nikolay Zhukov original

Grad has commissioned artist and model maker Henry Milner to recreate the eponymous See USSR poster, designed by Nikolay Zhukov in 1930. The ‘lost artwork’ will be reprinted and sold as a limited edition print.

See USSR runs from 7 June-31 August 2013 at Grad: Gallery for Russian Arts and Design, 3-4a Little Portland Street, W1W

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  • Barry Davies November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Such evocative imagery, a delight.

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