Art and social life: the Russian Revolution and the creative power of idealism 8

Konstantin Yuon, ‘A New Planet,’ 1921. Tempera on cardboard, The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Konstantin Yuon, ‘A New Planet,’ 1921. Tempera on cardboard, The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

‘…it is not difficult to see that ours is a birth-time and a period of transition to a new era. Spirit has broken with the world it has hitherto inhabited and imagined, and is of a mind to submerge it in the past, and in the labour of its own transformation. Spirit is indeed never at rest but always engaged in moving forward. But just as the first breath drawn by a child after its long, quiet nourishment breaks the gradualness of merely quantitative growth – there is a qualitative leap, and the child is born – so likewise the Spirit in its formation matures slowly and quietly into its new shape, dissolving bit by bit the structure of its previous world, whose tottering state is only hinted at by isolated symptoms. The frivolity and boredom which unsettle the established order, the vague foreboding of something unknown, these are the heralds of approaching change. The gradual crumbling that left unaltered the face of the whole is cut short by a sunburst which, in one flash, illuminates the features of the new world.’

G.W.F.Hegel, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, Trans., A.V.Miller, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1977, 6-7

*

In beginnings and in ends,

artists, let your faith be strong.

Know where hell and heaven await us.

It is your gift to measure all you see

with dispassionate eyes.

Let your gaze be firm and clear.

Rub out the incidental details

and you’ll see the splendour of the world.

Find out where the light shines

and you’ll know where lies the dark.

Let all that’s sacred in the world,

and all that’s wicked, pass in unhurried flow

through the fire of your heart and the cool of

your mind.

Alexander Blok, from the poem ‘Retribution’

Art of the October Revolution, Compiler, Mikhail Guerman, Trans., W.Freeman, D.Saunders, C.Binns, Aurora Art Publishers, Leningrad, 1986

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