IZO Narkompros

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Iskusstvo kommuny 4, 29 Dec 1918.
Izobrazitelnoe iskusstvo 1, 1919. Cover by David Shterenberg.
Meeting of the Petrograd Arts Board, 1918. Left to right: Karev, ?, Shkol'nik, Chekhonin, Il'in, Shterenberg, Punin, Vaulin, Levin, Baranov-Rossine.

Department of Visual [Plastic] Arts [Otdel izobrazitelnykh iskusstv Narkomprosa (IZO); Отдел изобразительных искусств Наркомпроса (ИЗО)] was established in Petrograd on 29 January 1918[1] as part of the People's Commissariat of Enlightenment (Narkompros), a cultural organization founded in Soviet Russia in November 1917 shortly after the October Revolution, replacing the former Ministry of Culture.



IZO was run by an Arts Board [Khudozhestvennaya kollegiya] which consisted of the painter David Shterenberg (president), Altman, Vaulin, Karev, Matveev, Punin, Chekhonin and Yatmanov. The board was later joined by Baranov-Rossine, Shkolnik, Mayakovsky (in Aug-Sep 1918), Brik and the architects Il'in, Dubenetsky, Rudnev, Shtal'berg and Schuko.[2]


A department of IZO was also set up in Moscow and was distinguished from that in Petrograd by its inclusion of a greater proportion of members from the more extreme sections of the avant-garde. It comprised Kuznetsov, Mashkov, Morgunov, Malevich, Zholtovsky, Dymshits-Tolstaya, Rozanova, Shevchenko, Korolev, Konenkov and Kandinsky, under its president and the deputy head of IZO, Tatlin (remained head of the Moscow IZO until May 1919). One source claims the other members were Udaltsova, Nakovsky, Falk[3], while another mentions Ivanov instead of these three[4]. Co-opted members were Franketti, Fidler and Rodchenko.


The Kollegiya was divided into two sections, one deliberative and one executive. Subsections dealt with schools, literature, art and production [khudozhestvennaya promyshlennost'], theatre, cinema, artistic construction [konstruirovanie], and architecture.[5]


In the immediate post-revolutionary period from 1918 to 1920 IZO organised 28 exhibitions. The main principle governing their organisation was the fact that they were held without any selection board restricting entry. This was reflected in their title: The State Free Exhibition [Svobodnaya gosudarstvennaya vystavka]. The first of these was the First Exhibition of Petrograd Artists of All Trends [Pervaya vystavka vsekh napravlenii petrogradskykh khudoshnikov] which opened in the Winter Palace on 13 April 1919 and comprised 299 artists exhibiting a total of 1826 works.[6]


During the same period between 1918 and 1920 the Museums Office [Muzeinoe byuro] under the direction of Rodchenko (aided by Stepanova) acquired a total of 1926 works by 415 artists. It also organised 30 museums in various Russian provincial towns to which it distributed a total of 1211 works.[7]

Artistic work[edit]

The Subsection of Artistic Work [Podotdel khudozhestvennogo truda], organised in May 1919, registered artistic organisations that would undertake Government commissions. By May 1920 it had 11 collectives on its books including Agit-poster (Agitplakat - Agitational poster), the Society of Young Artists [Obshchestvo molodykh khudozhnikov - OBMOKhU], and the Painting, Sculpture and Architecture Collective [Zhivskul'ptarkh]. Over this period the Subsection commissioned 1250 stencil posters for the anniversary of the Revolution; almost 2500 for the Abolition of Illiteracy Campaign and 280 posters for various economic organisations. It also organised competitions for various projects, including a monument to Karl Marx and a more prosaically useful kiosk for selling books and journals.[8]


IZO also contained an Art and Production Subsection [Khudozhestvenno-promyshlennyi podotdel]. The programme for this department was devised by Olga Rozanova who together with Rodchenko (her assistant for a time) visited studios, raised money and basically reactivated in Moscow, Petrograd and immediate provincial areas the craft workshops that had fallen into disuse over the war period. One result of this was the First All Russian Exhibition of Art and Production [Pervaya vserossiiskaya khudozhestvenno-promyshlennaya vystavka] of 1923.[9]

Education and research[edit]

IZO also administered the new art schools (SVOMAS/VkHUTEMAS) and research institutes (INKhUK).



IZO published several short-lived journals. Between 7 December 1918 and April 1919, it printed 19 issues of the newspaper Iskusstvo kommuny [Искусство коммуны; Art of the Commune] in Petrograd, with Brik, Altman and Punin as editors; the contributors included Mayakovsky, Malevich, Chagall, Shklovsky, Puni and Kushner. Between December 1918 and April 1919, eight issues of Iskusstvo [Искусство; Art] were printed in Moscow. In 1919, two newspapers with one issue each were printed in Petrograd: Khudozestvennyy trud [Художественный труд; Artistic Work] [1] and Izobrazitelnoe iskusstvo [Изобразительное искусство], the latter with Punin, Brik, Malevich and Kandinsky in its editorial board. [2] [3] [4] [5]. (see Lodder 1993)

Books, brochures[edit]

  • Geroi i zhertvy revolyutsii. Oktyabr' 1917—1918. Risunki: Boguslavskoy, Kozlinskogo, Makletsova, Puni. Tekst Vladimira Mayakovskogo [Герои и жертвы революции. Октябрь 1917—1918. Рисунки: Богуславской, Козлинского, Маклецова, Пуни. Текст Владимира Маяковского], Petrograd: IZO Narkompros, 1918, 19 pp.
  • Wassily Kandinsky (В.В. Кандинский) Stupeni. Tekst khudozhnika. 25 reproduktsiy s kartin 1902-1917 gg. 4 vinetki [Ступени: Текст художника: 25 репродукций с картин 1902-1917 гг. 4 виньетки], Moscow: IZO Narkompros, 1918, 56+[2] pp (30.3 х 21.2 cm.).
  • Vladimir Markov (Владимир Марков [В.И. Матвей]), Iskusstvo negrov [Искусство негров], Peterburg: IZO Narkompros, 1919, 153 pp. 26 х 18 cm, edition of 3000. [6]
  • Alexander Shevchenko (А. Шевченко), Alexei Grishchenko (А. Грищенко), N. Lavrskiy (Н. Лаврский), Poiski i dostizheniya v oblasti stankovoy zhivopisi [Поиски и достижения в области станковой живописи; Searches and Achievements in Easel Painting..], Moscow: IZO Narkompros, 1919. Edition of 3000. [7]
  • Spravochnik otdela Izo Nar. K. po Pr. I. [Справочник отдела Изо Нар. К. по Пр. I.; Handbook of the Visual Art Department of the People's Commissariat of Education, 1], Moscow, 1920, 132 pp. On organisation and work of SVOMAS/Free Workshops (later VKhUTEMAS). [8]
  • Nikolay Punin (Н. Пунин), Pervyi tsikl lektsii, chitannykh na kratkosrochnykh kursakh dlya uchiteley risovaniya: Sovremennoye iskusstvo [Первый цикл лекций, читанных на краткосрочных курсах для учителей рисования: Современное искусство], Petrograd: [Narkompros], May 1920, 84 pp. [9] [10]. Lectures given in Petrograd in summer 1919 at a crash course for student teachers of drawing. Cover by Malevich.
  • Nikolay Punin (Н. Пунин), Pamyatnik III internatsionala. Proyekt khud. E. Tatlina [Памятник III интернационала. Проект худ. Е. Татлина], Petrograd: IZO Narkompros, Summer 1920, [8] pp (28.1 x 22 cm), PDF, JPGs, DOC, bib.
  • Iskusstvo v proizvodstve [Искусство в производстве; Art in Production], Moscow: Narkompros, 1921, 42 pp (23 х 18 cm). A collection of texts by Brik, Shterenberg, Filippov, Toporkov, V. Voronov, et al. [11]. Commentary: Khan-Magomedov 1996.


  • Katalog II-y gosudarstvennoy vystavki kartin. 1918-1919 g. [Каталог ИИ-й государственной выставки картин. 1918-1919 г.; 2nd State Exhibition of Painting], Moscow: [IZO Narkompros], 1919. [12] [13]
  • Katalog V-y gosudarstvennoy vystavki kartin. 1918-1919 g. [Каталог V-й государственной выставки картин. 1918-1919 г.; 5th State Exhibition of Painting], Moscow: [IZO Narkompros], 1919. Artists: Drevin, Rodchenko, Safronova, Lentulov, Kliun, Popova, Stepanova, Chekrygin, Kandinsky, et al. [14] [15]
  • Katalog vos'moy gosudarstvennoy vystavki [Каталог восьмой государственной выставки; 8th State Exhibition], Moscow: [IZO Narkompros], 1919. Artists: Shokhin, Sobolev, Bubnova, Strzeminski, et al. [16] [17]
  • Katalog desyatoy gosudarstvennoy vystavki. Bespredmetnoe tvorchestvo i suprematizm [Каталог десятой государственной выставки. Беспредметное творчество и супрематизм; 10th State Exhibition. Non-Objective Creativity and Suprematism], Moscow: [IZO Narkompros], Apr 1919. Artists: Rodchenko, Vesnin, Kliun, Malevich, Popova, Menkov, Rozanova, Stepanova, et al. 1933 reprint, Exhibition. [18] [19] [20]
  • Katalog dvenadtsatoy gosudarstvennoy vystavki. Tsvetodinamos i tektonichesky primitivizm [Каталог двенадцатой государственной выставки. Цветодинамос и тектонический примитивизм; 12th State Exhibition. Color-Dynamics and Tectonic Primitivism], Moscow: [IZO Narkompros], 1919. Artists: Vkhutemas teachers Gritchenko ("Color-Dynamics") and Shevchenko ("Tectonic Primitivism") and their students. [21] [22]
  • XIX vystavka V.Ts.V.B. Otdela IZO Narkomprosa [СИХ выставка В.Тс.В.Б. Отдела ИЗО Наркомпроса; 19th State Exhibition], Moscow, 1920. Edition of 1000. Artists: Rodchenko, Shevchenko, Korolev, Ladovsky, Stepanova, Kandinsky, et al. [23]


  • D. Shterenberg, "Otchet o deyatelnosti Otdela izobrazitelnykh iskusstv Narkomprosa" [Отчет о деятельности Отдела изобразительных искусств Наркомпроса], Izobrazitelnoe iskusstvo [Изобразительное искусство] 1, 1919, p 50; repr. in Obzor deyatelnosti Otdela izobrazitelnykh iskusstv, Peterburg, 1920, pp 3-9. (Russian)
  • Obzor deyatel'nosti Otdela izobrazitel'nykh iskusstv. Narodnyy komissariat po prosveshcheniyu, Обзор деятельности отдела изобразительных искусств. Народный комиссариат по просвещению], Peterburg: 15-ya Gosudarstvennaya tip., 1920, 119 pp. Review of activities of IZO in the first year of its existence. [24] (Russian)
  • A.V. Lunacharsky, "Ob otdele izobrazitelnykh iskusstv" [Об отделе изобразительных искусств] [c1920], Novyy mir [Новый мир] 9 (1966), pp 236-239; repr. in Lunacharsky, Ob iskusstve, 2 [Об искусстве. Том 2], Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1982. (Russian)
  • Bengt Jangfeldt, "The Futurists and IZO", ch 2 in Jangfeldt, Majakovskij and Futurism, 1917-1921, Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1976, pp 30-50. (English)
  • Christina Lodder, "Artists in Administration", in Lodder, Russian Constructivism, Yale University Press, 1983, pp 48-50. (English)
  • Christina Lodder, "Art of the Commune: Politics and Art in Soviet Journals, 1917-20", Art Journal 52(1): "Political Journals and Art, 1910-40", College Art Association, Spring 1993, pp 24-33. (English)


  1. And approved by the State Commission on Education on 22 May 1918. (Lunacharsky 1982)
  2. Lunacharsky 1982.
  3. Shterenberg 1919: 51; and Lunacharsky 1982.
  4. Report of the Moscow IZO, TsGALI, fond 2306, op. 2, ed. khr. 210, list 1.
  5. Lodder 1983: 49.
  6. Lodder 1983: 49.
  7. Lodder 1983: 49.
  8. Lodder 1983: 49.
  9. Lodder 1983: 49-50.

See also[edit]