The Road North brings together over fifty works by leading postwar Soviet painters whose portrayal of traditional life in the small villages and ancient towns of the Russian North stood in stark contrast to the focus on industrialization characteristic of socialist realism.
This thematically consistent sample of post-Stalinist art demonstrates Soviet painters’ openness to exploring broader artistic perspectives in the decades following the dictator’s death in 1953. Artists such as Vasili Stozharov, Igor Popov, Ivan Sorokin, and Viktor Popkov traveled to remote northern settlements to capture the spirit of age-old communities condemned to near extinction through the Soviet government’s harsh drive toward modernization.
Weary of the pervasive optimism of Stalinist art, these artists were fascinated with the mournful beauty of northern landscapes. Their reverent eye for the rough textures of large northern log-houses, the grayness of short autumn days, and the weather-beaten faces of stern northern peasants and fishermen informed the works on display. The Road North identifies, for the first time, a coherent ‘northern’ movement that played a key role in invigorating Soviet art of the post-war period.