Heroic realism

Heroic realism is art used as propaganda. Examples include the Socialist realism style associated with Communist regimes, and sometimes the similar art style associated with Fascism. Its characteristics are realism and the depiction of figures as ideal types or symbols, often with explicit rejection of modernism in art (as "bourgeois" or "degenerate").


Both socialist art and Nazi art were explicitly ordered to be heroic,[1] and were in consequence an ideal form of the real, rather than pure realism[2]

Heroic realism designs were used to propagate the revolution in the Soviet Union during Lenin's time. Lenin doubted that the illiterate population would understand what abstract visual images were intended to communicate. He also thought that artists, such as constructivists and productivists, may have had a hidden agenda against the government. Movements such as Cubism were denounced as bourgeois and criticized for its failure to draw on the heritage of art and for rejecting the beautiful on the grounds that it was "old",[3] whereas proletarian culture had to draw on what was learned in the prior times. The artists countered such thinking, however, by saying that the advanced art represented the advanced political ideas.

In literature, Maxim Gorky urged that one obtained realism by extracting the basic idea from reality, but by adding the potential and desirable to it, one added romantism with deep revolutionary potential.[4]

1988 CPA 6017
Worker and Kolkhoz Woman

Stalin understood the powerful message which could be sent through images to a primarily illiterate population. Once he was in power, posters quickly became the new medium for educating illiterate peasants on daily life—from bathing, to farming, the posters provided visual instruction on almost everything. In 1931-2, the early emphasis on the "little man" and the anonymous laboring masses gave way to the "hero of labor", derived from the people but set apart by the scale of his deeds.[5] As a consequence, literature filled with "positive heroes" that were sometimes tedious.[6]

In 1934, a new doctrine called Socialist realism came about. This new movement rejected the "bourgeois influence on art" and replaced it with appreciation for figurative painting, photography and new typography layouts. Writers were explicitly enjoined to develop "heroization."[5] At the Paris World Fair, Vera Mukhina's Worker and Kolkhoz Woman exemplified the ideal New Soviet Man, depicting a man and woman in working clothes, with his hammer and her sickle crossed, in a monumental statue with both striding forward.[7]

When Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, modern art was condemned as degenerate, and largely prohibited. The Nazis promoted a style of art based on classical models, intended to nurture nationalism. Heroic realism was to inculcate values of sacrifice, duty, and devotion.[8] The heroic man, who was bound to blood and soil, acted rather than thought and sacrificed himself.[9] This particularly favored the heroic death.[10]

Nazi theory explicitly rejected "materialism", and therefore, despite the realistic treatment of images, "realism" was a seldom used term.[11] A painter was to create an ideal picture, for eternity.[11] The images of men, and still more of women, were heavily stereotyped,[12] with physical perfection required for the nude paintings.[13] In painting, peasants were popular images, reflecting a simple life in harmony with nature.[14] Sculpture's monumental possibilities gave it a better expression of Nazi racial theories.[15] The most common image was of the nude male, expressing the ideal of the Aryan race.[16] Arno Breker's skill at this type made him Hitler's favorite sculptor.[17] Nude females were also common, though they tended to be less monumental.[18] In both cases, the physical form was to show no imperfections.[13] At the Paris Exposition of 1937, Josef Thorak's Comradeship stood outside the German pavilion, depicting two enormous nude males, clasping hands and standing defiantly side by side, in a pose of defense and racial camaraderie.[7]

See also


  1. ^ Richard Overy, The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, p. 355 ISBN 0-393-02030-4
  2. ^ Richard Overy, The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, p. 356 ISBN 0-393-02030-4
  3. ^ Oleg Sopontsinsky, Art in the Soviet Union: Painting, Sculpture, Graphic Arts, p. 6 Aurora Art Publishers, Leningrad, 1978
  4. ^ R. H. Stacy, Russian Literary Criticism p. 188 ISBN 0-8156-0108-5
  5. ^ a b Richard Overy, The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, p. 259 ISBN 0-393-02030-4
  6. ^ R. H. Stacy, Russian Literary Criticism p. 224 ISBN 0-8156-0108-5
  7. ^ a b Richard Overy, The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, p. 260 ISBN 0-393-02030-4
  8. ^ Herbert Marcuse, Negations, p. 29-30 Beacon Press, Boston 1968
  9. ^ Herbert Marcuse, Negations, p. 2 Beacon Press, Boston 1968
  10. ^ eye magazine: Designing heroes
  11. ^ a b Peter Adam, Art of the Third Reich p. 138 ISBN 0-8109-1912-5
  12. ^ Peter Adam, Art of the Third Reich p. 150 ISBN 0-8109-1912-5
  13. ^ a b Susan Sontag,"Fascinating Fascism"
  14. ^ Peter Adam, Art of the Third Reich p. 132 ISBN 0-8109-1912-5
  15. ^ Peter Adam, Art of the Third Reich p. 177 ISBN 0-8109-1912-5
  16. ^ Peter Adam, Art of the Third Reich p. 178 ISBN 0-8109-1912-5
  17. ^ Caroline Fetscher, "Why Mention Arno Breker Today?", The Atlantic Times, August, 2006. Archived 2012-02-11 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Peter Adam, Art of the Third Reich p. 188 ISBN 0-8109-1912-5


  • Heller, Steven, and Seymour Chwast. Graphic Style from Victorian to Digital. New ed. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2001. 53-57. (This resource provides many good examples of heroic realism and a detailed description of the history.)
  • Hollis, R. (2001). Graphic design: a concise history. World of art. New York: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-20347-4

External links

Aleksandr Gerasimov (painter)

Aleksandr Mikhaylovich Gerasimov (Russian: Алекса́ндр Миха́йлович Гера́симов; 12 August 1881 – 23 July 1963) was a leading proponent of Socialist Realism in the visual arts, and painted Joseph Stalin and other Soviet leaders.

Gerasimov was born on 12 August 1881 in Kozlov (now Michurinsk) in Tambov Governorate. He studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture from 1903 to 1915. There he championed traditional realistic representational art against the avant-garde.

During World War I and the Russian Civil War he served in the army. Subsequently he returned to his hometown to become a stage designer, helping to present plays glorifying the Revolution and the Soviet government.

In 1925, Gerasimov returned to Moscow and set up a studio, combining techniques of academic realism with an Impressionistic light touch. He favored a style known as heroic realism, which featured images of revolutionary leaders such as Vladimir Lenin as larger-than-life heroes. As Stalin tightened his grip on the country, Gerasimov concentrated on official portraits, such as Stalin and Voroshilov in the Kremlin, for which he won a Stalin Prize in 1941. He produced a large number of heroic portraits of Kliment Voroshilov, to the point that Nikita Khrushchev would later accuse Voroshilov of having spent most of his time in Gerasimov's studio, to the detriment of his responsibilities as People's Commissar of Defense.

Gerasimov's leadership of the Union of Artists of the USSR and the Soviet Academy of Arts was criticized as heavy-handed. He was at the forefront of the attacks against cosmopolitanism and formalism during the Zhdanovshchina.

Although his flattering portraits of Soviet leaders and his political activities against artists who would not toe his line have gained him a reputation as a political hack, Gerasimov remained a genuine artist. Even at the end of his career, he continued to follow a moody, almost Impressionistic treatment of landscapes, at odds with the conventional nature of his official portraiture.

Art of the Third Reich

The art of the Third Reich was the government-approved art produced in Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1945. Upon becoming dictator in 1933, Adolf Hitler gave his personal artistic preference the force of law to a degree rarely known before.

In the case of Germany, the model was to be classical Greek and Roman art, seen by Hitler as an art whose exterior form embodied an inner racial ideal. It was, furthermore, to be comprehensible to the average man. This art was to be both heroic and romantic. The Nazis viewed the culture of the Weimar period with disgust. Their response stemmed partly from conservative aesthetics and partly from their determination to use culture as propaganda.

Commissar (film)

Commissar (Russian: Комиссар, translit. Komissar) is a 1967 Soviet film based on one of Vasily Grossman's first short stories, "In the Town of Berdichev" (В городе Бердичеве). The main characters were played by two People's Artists of the USSR, Rolan Bykov and Nonna Mordyukova. It was made at Gorky Film Studio.

Maxim Gorky considered this brief story one of the best about the Russian Civil War and encouraged the young writer to dedicate himself to literature. It also drew favourable attention from Mikhail Bulgakov, Boris Pilnyak, and Isaac Babel.

Ideology of the SS

The ideology espoused by the Schutzstaffel ("Protection Squadron"; SS), a paramilitary force and instrument of terror of the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany, emphasized a racist vision of "racial purity", antisemitism, and loyalty to Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.

SS men were indoctrinated with the belief they were members of a "master race". The ideology of the SS was, even more so than in Nazism in general, built on the belief in a superior "Aryan race". This led to the SS playing the main role in political violence and crimes against humanity, including the Holocaust and "mercy killing" of those with congenital illnesses. After the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, the SS and Nazi Party were found to be criminal organizations at the Nuremberg Trials.

Index of aesthetics articles

This is an alphabetical index of articles about aesthetics.

Karl Albiker

Karl Albiker (16 September 1878 in Ühlingen-Birkendorf – 26 February 1961 in Ettlingen) was a German sculptor, lithographer and teacher of fine arts. Albiker studied with Auguste Rodin in Paris. From 1919 to 1945 he was a professor at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts. His monumental statues, like those of Georg Kolbe, reflected National Socialist heroic realism. Albiker created the relay racers for Berlin's Reich Sports Field and various war monuments, including those in Karlsruhe, Freiburg im Breisgau, and Greiz.

Karl Walther

Karl Walther (born August 19, 1905 in Zeitz; died June 9, 1981 in Seeshaupt) was a painter of the German Post-Impressionist school, and an exponent of plein air painting. His works include portraits, still lifes, cityscapes and landscape paintings.

Mariano Benlliure

Mariano Benlliure (8 September 1862 – 8 November 1947) was a Spanish sculptor, who executed many public monuments and religious sculptures in Spain, working in a heroic realist style.He was born in El Grau quarter of Valencia. His earliest sculptures featured bullfighting themes, modeled in wax and cast in bronze. At the age of thirteen he showed a wax modello of a picador at the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes, 1876. Pursuing the thought of becoming a painter, he went to Paris his expenses paid by his master, Francisco Domingo Marqués. A trip to Rome in 1879, revealing at first hand the sculptures of Michelangelo convinced him to be a sculptor. In 1887 he established himself permanently in Madrid, where in that year's Exposición Nacional his portrait sculpture of the painter Ribera won him a first-prize.Benlliure's style is characterized by detailed naturalism allied to an impressionistic spontaneity. His portrait busts and public monuments are numerous, and include:

the tomb of Práxedes Mateo Sagasta in the Pantheon of Illustrious Men, Madrid

monument to José de San Martín, Lima, Peru

a bronze memorial to María Cristina de Borbón, Madrid

the bronze equestrian statue of Alfonso XII of Spain, in Madrid's Buen Retiro Park, the centerpiece of a memorial designed by architect José Grases RieraHe was depicted on the Spanish 500 ptas banknote in the 1950s, with his sculpture "Sepulchro De Gayarre en el Roncal" on the reverse.

His brothers José and Juan Antonio were also painters.

Music and political warfare

Music and political warfare have been used together in many different political contexts and cultures as a way to reach a targeted audience in order to deliver a specific political message. Political warfare as defined by Paul A. Smith is the "use of political means to compel an opponent to do one's will... commonly through the use of words, images and ideas." Music is useful because it creates an easily recognizable and memorable method of delivery for the desired message. Music is particularly useful medium for the delivery of propaganda. Jacques Ellul stated that for propaganda to be effective it must "fill the citizen's whole day and every day". Since music is often viewed to be a leisure activity, it is often not considered to be as threatening as other propaganda techniques, and as a result messages can often be surreptitiously communicated without being conspicuously noticed.

Paul Wayland Bartlett

Paul Wayland Bartlett (January 24, 1865 – September 20, 1925) was an American sculptor working in the Beaux-Arts tradition of heroic realism.

Propaganda in Nazi Germany

The propaganda used by the German Nazi Party in the years leading up to and during Adolf Hitler's leadership of Germany (1933–1945) was a crucial instrument for acquiring and maintaining power, and for the implementation of Nazi policies. The pervasive use of propaganda by the Nazis is largely responsible for the word "propaganda" itself acquiring its present negative connotations.

Propaganda in the Soviet Union

Communist propaganda in the Soviet Union was extensively based on the Marxist–Leninist ideology to promote the Communist Party line. In the Stalin era, it penetrated even social and natural sciences giving rise to various pseudo-scientific theories such as Lysenkoism, whereas fields of real knowledge, as genetics, cybernetics and comparative linguistics were condemned and forbidden as "bourgeois pseudoscience". Propaganda was one of the many ways the Soviet Union tried to control its citizens.

The main Soviet Union censorship body, Glavlit, was employed not only to eliminate any undesirable printed materials, but also "to ensure that the correct ideological spin was put on every published item". In the Stalin era, deviation from the dictates of official propaganda was punished by execution and labor camps. In the post-Stalin era, these punitive measures were replaced by punitive psychiatry, prison, denial of work and loss of citizenship. "Today a man only talks freely to his wife – at night, with the blankets pulled over his head", said writer Isaac Babel privately to a trusted friend.

Socialist realism

Socialist realism is a style of idealized realistic art that was developed in the Soviet Union and was the official style in that country between 1932 and 1988, as well as in other socialist countries after World War II. Socialist realism is characterized by the glorified depiction of communist values, such as the emancipation of the proletariat. Despite its name, the figures in the style are very often highly idealized, especially in sculpture, where it often leans heavily on the conventions of classical sculpture. Although related, it should not be confused with social realism, a type of art that realistically depicts subjects of social concern, or other forms of "realism" in the visual arts.

Socialist realism was the predominant form of approved art in the Soviet Union from its development in the early 1920s to its eventual fall from official status beginning in the late 1960s until the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. While other countries have employed a prescribed canon of art, socialist realism in the Soviet Union persisted longer and was more restrictive than elsewhere in Europe.

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