Thropton WI’s series of excellent speakers did not let us down at our March meeting.
On the contrary, Maggie Monaghan’s talk, A Storm In A Teapot, provided us with an amazing insight into Russian revolutionary porcelain.
Maggie, one of our members, science-trained but an art expert, has studied this unusual topic in depth and explained that in the 2017 revolution porcelain became, and remained, an important medium for Soviet propaganda.
The original porcelain factory had belonged to the Tsar and had produced both gifts and the many dinner services necessary for the Imperial family.
When the Tsar abdicated a huge supply of ‘blanks’, undecorated dinner services, was available and was used by Lenin to carry the message of the revolution to the 135 million citizens of the newly formed Soviet Republic.
Of course, the porcelain had to be decorated with suitable propaganda designs and Maggie highlighted four artists whose work was used to decorate the ‘blanks’.
Their designs were copied on to the crockery and, over a four year period, were transported throughout the USSR by train and distributed throughout the population.
The four renowned artists were Kustodiev, primarily a portrait painter, Malevich, an abstract artist, Chekhonin, a designer, and Danko, a sculptress. Maggie’s fascinating slides illustrated the different styles of design produced by these four artists.
One of Chekhonin’s plates, for example, bore Lenin’s picture and the words “Proletariat of the world unite”. Another showed a red army soldier who had kicked aside some ermine and a broken, two-headed eagle, both symbols of the Tsar.
Later though, when the 1920 famine devastated the land, Chekhonin designed a plate depicting the tragedy of starvation and this was never copied.
Figurines were also used for propaganda purposes and were given as medals to soldiers who were heroes of the civil war. Danko, the sculptress, produced an astonishing chess set of figurines, depicting the brave Reds versus the evil Whites.
These original items now sell for huge sums, but cheap copies can be found.
Maggie closed her talk with later biographical details of the four artists and the influence of Stalin.
Throughout this detailed and absorbing account members were held rapt my Maggie’s expertise and enthusiasm.
Previously, at our business meeting, we had learned that two of our members were reaching their 80th birthdays, and two more had reached their diamond wedding anniversaries, so there was much to celebrate.
Future plans included a visit to the Mining Institute in Newcastle, a guided tour of Durham Cathedral and lunch in Corbridge to mark the Federation centenary.
We meet again on April 4 to learn about Cosy Low Energy Homes. New members are most welcome.