Alexander Rodchenko

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With Varvara Stepanova, 1920s.
Born December 5, 1891(1891-12-05)
Leningrad, Russian Empire
Died December 3, 1956(1956-12-03) (aged 64)
Moscow, Soviet Union
Collections Costakis, Costakis, MoMA, Tretyakov, Van Abbemuseum, RGALI

Aleksander Mikhailovich Rodchenko (Александр Михайлович Родченко; 1891–1956) was a Russian artist, sculptor, photographer and graphic designer. He was one of the founders of constructivism and Russian design. He was married to the artist Varvara Stepanova.


Born 1891 in St Petersburg to a working class family. 1909, after the death of his father his family moves to Kazan. Studies at the Kazan School of Art under Nikolai Feshin and Georgii Medvedev, and at the Stroganov Institute in Moscow. In Kazan school meets Stepanova whom he subsequently marries. 1915 first abstract drawings, influenced by Malevich's Suprematism. 1916 participates in The Store exhibition organized by Tatlin, who was another formative influence in his development as an artist. 1917-18 designs the wall lamps for the Café Pittoresque. Late 1910s, produced "lineist" nonobjective canvases and linocuts, rejecting Kandinsky's thesis from his "On Line" essay (1919), in which he saw the line as "a highly revelatory material for primitive graphic expression." 1919-20 active member of Zhivskulptarkh experimental group.

1920 appointed Director of the Museum Bureau and Purchasing Fund (of the Museum of Painterly Culture, MZhK) by the Bolshevik Government, responsible for the reorganization of art schools and museums and acquisition of artworks on behalf of the Russian republic (between the summer 1918 and December 1920 the Bureau bought almost 2000 works of 400+ contemporary artists for 26 million rubels [4]). 1920 to 1930 teaches at VkHUTEMAS. 1921 joins Productivist group, which advocates the incorporation of art into everyday life. Gives up painting in order to concentrate on graphic design for posters, books, and films. Deeply influenced by Vertov, works with him intensively in 1922. Impressed by the photomontage of the German Dadaists, he begins his own experiments in the medium, first employing found images in 1923, and from 1924 on shooting his own photographs as well. 1923 his first published photomontage illustrates Mayakovsky's poem, Pro eto [About This]. 1923-28 collaborates closely with Mayakovsky (of whom he takes several striking portraits) on the design and layout of LEF and Novy LEF journals; using many of his photographs as covers. Throughout the 1920s Rodchenko's work is very abstract. His images eliminate unnecessary detail, emphasize dynamic diagonal composition, and are concerned with the placement and movement of objects in space.

1930s, with the changing Party guidelines governing artistic practice, he concentrates on sports photography and images of parades and other choreographed movements. 1928 joins the October circle of artists but is expelled in 1931 being charged with "formalism". Late 1930s returns to painting, 1942 stops photographing. 1940s produces abstract expressionist works. 1940s continues to organize photography exhibitions for the government. Dies 1956 in Moscow.


Drawings, paintings

Spatial Constructions

First series ("белая скульптура"), 1918
Second series ("по принципу одинаковых форм"), 1920-21
Third series (пространственная конструкция из стандартных элементов), 1921


Exhibition design



  • Opyty dlia budushchego: dnevniki, stati, pisma, zapiski, Moscow: Grant, 1996, 415 pp. (Russian)
    • Aleksandr Rodchenko: Experiments for the Future: Diaries, Essays, Letters, and Other Writings, ed. & pref. Alexander N. Lavrentiev, trans. & annot. Jamey Gambrell, intro. John E. Bowlt, New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2005, 439 pp. TOC. Review: Railing (Art Book 2009). (English)


  • Rodchenko and Popova: Defining Constructivism, ed. Margarita Tupitsyn, London: Tate, 2009, 190 pp. On the occasion of an exhibition at Tate Modern, 12 Feb-17 May 2009. Review: Railing (Art Book 2009). (English)
  • Rodchenko: Constructing the Future, Barcelona: Caixa Catalunya, 2008, 287 pp. On the occasion of an exhibition curated by Jean-Claude Marcadé and Evgeniya Petrova at La Pedrera, Barcelona, 13 Oct 2008-5 Jan 2009. Review: Railing (Art Book 2009). (English)
  • Rodchenko and His Circle: Constructing the Future Through Photography, ed. John Milner, London: Art Sensus, 2011, 118 pp. On the occasion of an exhibition at Art Sensus, 20 Jan-19 Mar 2011. (English)
  • Rabochiy klub [Рабочий клуб], Moscow: Tretyakov Gallery, 2011, [10] pp. (Russian)


See also