Portrait of Joseph Stalin

Artist: Pavel Filonov
Date: 1936
Media: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 99 x 67 cm
Ownership: Russian Museum, St Petersburg
Property of the artist’s sister, Yevdokia Glebova, Leningrad (until 1978)
Portrait of Joseph Stalin


This work is regarded as an unexpected and forced exception in the art of Pavel Filonov. The portrait appears to have been a modello for a large panel decorating the facade of the Sailors Club in Leningrad, which is mentioned in the artist’s diary.

The 1930s were an extremely difficult period for Filonov and many other Russian artists who failed to paint in the style expected by the Communist authorities. He did not contribute to the official exhibitions and his works were not purchased.

After Filonov was expelled from the Union of Artists, he lacked both commissions and any means of survival. One of the few chances he had to earn money was to help his stepson paint posters and decorate Leningrad on Communist holidays.

Portrait of Joseph Stalin is painted in a generalised manner and ostensibly meets the established canons of Socialist Realism. Nevertheless, the picture contains a hidden subtext, lending an ominous note to this portrait of the Soviet dictator.

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