The exhibition Alexander Labas: Drawings and Watercolours from the Russian Museum Collection is currently on display in Room 80 on the second floor of the Benois Wing (the new small exhibition space).
Alexander Labas (1900–1983) was one of the founders of the Easel Painters’ Society (OST, 1925–1932), a group of artists with pronounced Expressionist influences that strove to depict images of contemporary Soviet reality in easel paintings. Labas was castigated as a “formalist” in the mid-1930s. His brother Abram Labas, a brigade commander in the military, was executed by firing squad in 1937. Nonetheless, Alexander Labas never lost his romantic, lyrical tenor as a painter, continually drawing inspiration from the heroic images of the 1917 Revolution and the societal transformations that followed.
This exhibition presents works from several series by Alexander Labas. The original impetus for the October series was the 1917 revolutionary events in Moscow, which the artist had witnessed first-hand. He would revisit what he saw and experienced in 1917 repeatedly in the subsequent years. “It surprises me how strongly I am still moved by that time. Its images never cease to haunt me”, wrote the artist. These works of his are particularly expressive and dynamic, like dreams or visions from the past.
Labas started painting his On Maneuvers series after his trip to the Far East in 1931. The artist gives a lyrical, poetic interpretation to a regular military routine. In the artistic abstraction, the soldiers in gas masks look almost like extra-terrestrial beings.
One other subject Alexander Labas consistently kept in focus was the introduction of technology into people’s everyday life. “I painted fast trains, aircraft, and people in cockpits, trying to convey something I did not know: what it feels like to fly”, Labas recalled. These depictions lack specificity, but poetically portray the new technology that accelerates our life and allows us to cover great distances more rapidly, conjuring up the illusion that the conquest of other worlds cannot be too far behind.
Alexander Labas was living in Moscow when the Great Patriotic War broke out. He would rotate shifts with other residents during Nazi air raids, keeping watch on the rooftop of his apartment building at 21 Myasnitskaya Street. This is when his watercolour series Moscow and Suburbs During Wartime was started. As always with Labas, the documentary character of these pieces is combined with the artist’s deep personal investment in the subject matter.
The exhibition of drawings and watercolours by Alexander Labas is timed to coincide with the presentation of the book Alexander Labas. Paintings and Graphic Art. 1920s–1930s (LABAS FUND, Moscow, 2023).
21 july—4 september 2023
This exhibition introduces visitors to a selection of the Russian Museum’s small but interesting and diverse collection of works by Russian artists of the 19th and 20th centuries dedicated to and inspired by Africa.
29 june—16 october 2023
This exhibition is dedicated to Russian Neoclassicism, an early 20th-century art trend that, alongside avant-garde, was influential in shaping Russian architecture, theatre, music, fashion and everyday life, as well as the figurative arts.
The collection of masterpieces, chosen by the Russian Museum will allow you to make a first impression of the collection of the Russian Museum.
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Virtual tour of the museum complex. 2009 (Rus., Eng., Ger., Fin.)
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