Vladimir Lebedev – the master of the Soviet poster

Vladimir Lebedev, in my opinion, is one of the best artists and book illustrators.
Vladimir Lebedev, in my opinion, is one of the best artists and book illustrators.

Vladimir Vasilievich Lebedev (May 14 (26), 1891 – November 21, 1967) – famous Russian and Soviet artist of the twentieth century. The work of Vladimir Lebedev goes far beyond any one style or genre. The author became famous for illustrations for children’s books, satirical drawings and paintings. A difficult period in the author’s biography – work during the Great Patriotic War, when he had to create graphic campaign materials in a short time.

Vladimir Lebedev. M.P. Rith in Blue 1935
M.P. Rith in Blue 1935

Biography of Vladimir Lebedev

Vladimir Lebedev was born on May 14 (26), 1891 in St. Petersburg. According to the recollections of his parents, the boy showed interest in drawing at the age of four to five. But the future painter took his first lessons in art only in 1909. At first he attended private studios, and in 1912 he began his studies at the Academy of Arts.

Vladimir Lebedev in 1918-1919 created cartoons for periodicals. In 1919-1920. worked on posters that were placed in factories and shops. In 1922, the master began to illustrate books for young readers.

Vladimir Lebedev. Portrait of N.S. Nadezhdina 1927
Portrait of N.S. Nadezhdina 1927

By the mid-1920s, Vladimir Lebedev had become a famous art figure, but he received rather contradictory reviews of his work. Some critics considered his works to be skillful, others argued that they did not see emotion in the drawings.

In the early 1930s, the painter created a series of still lifes. Art critic Vera Anikeeva was impressed by these works and believed that each of the works is a separate small world with its own unique mood.

Vladimir Lebedev. Portrait of T. Makarova 1943
Portrait of T. Makarova 1943

In the mid-1930s, the author created a series of ironic drawings that ridiculed Soviet life.

The works were criticized in the press.

In 1941, after the start of the Great Patriotic War, Vladimir Lebedev resumed work on campaign posters. It took a lot of work, as new graphic materials were required every day. In 1942, the painter moved to Moscow to work in the TASS poster workshop.

Vladimir Lebedev. Artist Tatiana Shishmareva 1934
Artist Tatiana Shishmareva 1934

In 1950, Vladimir Lebedev returned to his hometown. Here he continued to paint and create illustrations for books. The artist refused to show his work to the public, considering them unsuccessful. He believed that his best works were created in the 1920s.

In 1966, Vladimir Lebedev was awarded the title of People’s Artist of the RSFSR. In recent years, he lived in a rather secluded manner, communicating only with a few friends and practically not appearing in public. The painter left this world on November 21, 1967 in Leningrad.

Urban motive 1918
Urban motive 1918

The most famous paintings by Vladimir Lebedev

The artist worked both during the change of power and during the war. I had to meet political requirements, while all the works of the author turned out to be quite interesting and atmospheric. Among the most famous paintings by Vladimir Lebedev:

  1. “We have to work, the rifle is nearby” (1920) – propaganda poster. A man is depicted with a saw in his hands, next to him is a rifle. Using the minimum number of lines and simple geometric shapes, the author created the image of a working man who is ready to start a war at any moment Illustration for the cover of Samuil Marshak’s book
  2. “Mustachioed striped” (1930). The artist depicted a girl sitting on a chair. She has a beloved pet on her lap. The work evokes nostalgia for a carefree childhood. Illustration for the cover of the book by Samuel Marshak
  3. Yesterday and Today (1935). At one time, the Soviet government took upon itself the task of “educating a new person.” Various aspects of life, including literature, underwent changes. Illustrations are starting to take up more and more space on the page, because they can help convey social ideas to the smallest readers. “Yesterday and Today” reflects how the old way of life is receding into the past, being replaced by a new, Soviet one.
  4. “Portrait of S. D. Lebedeva” (1936). The author portrayed his first wife, Sarah Dmitrievna. In the picture we see a woman with a serious but benevolent expression on her face. This is exactly what her contemporaries knew – smart and sweet. After parting with Sarah, the painter was married twice more. However, he maintained a warm relationship with his first wife throughout his life. Even this portrait he kept with him until his death.

The life path of Vladimir Lebedev is a good example of how people create masterpieces even in extremely difficult times. Thanks to such creativity, future generations can get to know the history of their people better.

Woman with Mandolin 1927
Woman with Mandolin 1927
Still life with a guitar 1930, Tula Museum
Still life with a guitar 1930, Tula Museum
Workers' department with a briefcase 1937, Omsk Museum
Workers’ department with a briefcase 1937, Omsk Museum
Red Navy 1937
Red Navy 1937
Portrait of K. Georgievskaya 1937
Portrait of K. Georgievskaya 1937