Alexander Rodchenko Russian, 1891-1956

Alexander Rodchenko was born in 1891 in St. Petersburg. From 1910-1914 he studied drawing and painting at Kazan School of Fine Arts where he met fellow artist Varvara Stepanova whom he later married. In 1915 he continued his studies at Stroganov School, Moscow and met Vladimir Tatlin who invited him to show 10 works in the exhibition ‘The Store’ in Moscow in 1916. In 1917 he designed his first three-dimensional constructions and in 1918 created a series of paintings ‘Black on Black’ in response to Malevich’s ‘White on White’ paintings of the same year. After the revolution he had various involvements with the new Art Organisations and advised on appointing the first director of the Moscow ‘Museum of Artistic Culture’.


Rodchenko was a central exponent of Russian Constructivism, owing much to the pre-revolutionary work of Malevich and Tatlin, and he was closely involved in the cultural debates and experiments that followed the Revolution of 1917. In 1919 he developed an interest in line composition and made his first collages/photomontages but soon after broke away from the Suprematists. He denounced, on ideological grounds, easel painting and fine art and became an exponent of Productivism in many fields, including poster design, furniture, photography and film and alined himself to a group of artist-engineers in newly organised Inkhuk, founded in Moscow by Kandinsky. In 1921 he contributed to the third Obmukhu (Society of Young Artists) exhibition and ‘5 x 5 = 25’ (together with Exter, Popova, Stepanova and Vesnin), in Moscow. In 1922 he designed his first book cover and experimented with typography and textile designs; he subsequently showed this work in the 1923 exhibition of Russian art in Berlin and Amsterdam.


In 1923 he also designed his first posters and advertisements and soon after started collaborating with Mayakovsky on the quarterly periodical ‘Lef’.  He began experimenting with photography and in 1925 began to work as photographer-journalist on a large number of magazines and papers. The same year he exhibited in the Soviet Pavilion at the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Paris. From 1926 on he worked as a designer on various films and began to paint again in 1935. He was also working on book designs with his wife Stepanova. In the early 1940’s he produced a series of ‘Abstract Expressionist’ canvases. From 1944 to 1945 Rodchenko acted as the chief artistic consultant for the ‘Dom Teknika’ (House of Technology), Moscow. In 1949 he worked with Stepanova on a series of posters dedicated to Mayakovsky. In his later years Rodchenko resumed painting until his death in 1956 in Moscow.