Gustav Klucis Latvian, 1895-1938

Latvian born Gustav Klucis was a pioneering photographer and a member of the Russian Constructivist avant-garde in the early 20th century. Born in 1895 he began his studies in art in Riga in 1912 but in 1915 was drafted into the Russian Army. In 1918-21 he studied under Kasimir Malevich and Antoine Pevsner, joined the communist party and graduated from the state-run art school VkhUTEMAS where he continued to teach colour theory until 1930.


He is known for the Soviet revolutionary and Stalinist propaganda he produced with his wife Valentina Kulagina and for the development of photomontage techniques. Klucis was at the forefront of political photo-montage works and is credited as having invented the genre alongside other artists; German Dadaists Hanna Hoech, Raoul Haussman and the Russian artist El Lissitzky and also worked alongside Lissitzky on the 1928 Pressa Internationale exhibition in Cologne.  Klucis and his wife he were deeply involved in the production of Soviet propaganda art but despite his active and loyal service to the party, Klucis came under suspicion and was arrested in Moscow as part of the so-called "Latvian Operation' and was executed on Stalin's orders in 1938 in Moscow.


Like so many constructivists of the day, Klucis worked in a variety of experimental media. He liked.  to use propaganda as a sign or revolutionary background image for his compositions.  His first project of note, in 1922, was a series of semi-portable multimedia agitprop kiosks to be installed on the streets of Moscow, integrating "radio-orators", film screens, and newsprint displays, all to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Revolution