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Art of the Month Club: Nicolas Tomczyk

The Art of the Month Club is a regular feature on the WCMA blog. Each month we invite someone special to write about a work from our collection. We enjoy engaging with a variety of people through this feature. Find your own favorite WCMA artwork by searching our collection database. You never know, we may invite you to be the next Art of the Month Club member. Today, please welcome, Nicolas Tomczyk, Class of 2013, Russian Language and International Studies major.

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As a Russian major who is intensely interested in history, I’ve been lucky to work with Elizabeth Gallerani and WCMA this semester translating a series of 26 Soviet propaganda posters from the 1920s.  The Alumnus who donated these works many years ago, Telford Taylor, served on the Counsel for the Prosecution at the Nuremberg Trials and one can only guess at how he came across such a collection.  These Posters offer an amazing insight into Soviet life during the 1920s, reflecting how the government emphasized things such as industry, literacy, agriculture, women’s education, and the country’s military.  It’s amazing that posters, made to last only a short time, are still around today for students like myself to study and to gain a small taste of what life was like in a country that was, essentially, a giant social experiment.

Of the posters which I have helped to translate, my favorite is one by Nikolai Aleksandrovich Sokolov, who accumulated many Soviet awards and prizes throughout his life.  This poster underlines the importance of quickly industrializing the USSR, by its use of several of Lenin’s better known phrases.  Glowing from a light-bulb in the center of the poster, Lenin’s phrase “communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the entire country” is linked by a jagged red line to photos of a generator and an electric tram. Everything about this poster is in the viewers face; bright red over white and black, sharp geometric shapes, huge block letters slanted across the page… very cool.  To top it all off, a small picture of Lenin is shown saying all this into an old-school microphone.


Nicolas Tomczyk
Williams Class 2013

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