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Soviet Photomontage Propaganda

Front-Illustrierte: Für den Deutschen Soldaten. No. 2 (August 1941) through No. 83 (July 1944).

Altogether 63 issues of 97 total published. [Moscow?], 1941–1944. Various sizes. Original photo-illustrated self-wrappers; most 4 pp. each. Paper size varied, some trimmed, most offset in various color halftones with red highlights, some scattered toning and creasing as expected, slight rubbing, minor scattered pencil and red pencil marks to a few issues, slight rubbing, No. 2 with some marginal tearing, overall very good.

The present grouping is an extremely rare and substantial collection of this scarce, irregularly published Soviet propaganda serial, known only in three partial holdings in North America. Distributed aerially over German-held territories form 1941–1945, it reported on catastrophic losses at the Eastern Front and urged German soldiers to surrender, with reproductions of grim photographs of violence and privation, often juxtaposed with images of the comforts of home, notable for its striking photomontages and typographic design, and including caricatures of Hitler and German generals. Front-Illustrierte was perhaps the most ambitious aerial propaganda series of WWII, maintaining its distinctive layout and almost exclusive use of photomontage over four years and close to 100 issues. The dramatic slogans promise misery and death to the Germans while the startling and sophisticated illustrations are evidence of the ongoing importance of Russian avant-garde iconography in Soviet art and its convincing repurposing as enemy propaganda toward an audience familiar with the visual techniques of international modernism.

The photomontages were almost all the work of a single artist, Alexander Zhitomirsky, previously an art director for Illiustrirovannaia gazeta, the weekly illustrated supplement to Pravda. Zhitomirsky’s compositions are a compelling combination of constructivist devices no longer in use in Western Europe in the 1940s and the photomontage strategies practiced so successfully by John Heartfield in Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ). Zhitomirsky was strongly influenced by Heartfield (in fact, the name of Front Illustrierte Zeitung was deliberately chosen to echo AIZ), and his work was later praised by Heartfield during a 1961 Berlin retrospective arranged to commemorate the legendary photographer's 70th birthday. See Konstantin Akinsha, The Second Life of Soviet Photomontage, 1935-1980s, PhD diss., University of Edinburgh, 2012, pp. 249–279).

Book ID: 50274

Price: $17,500.00