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Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932

A man in a dark coat turns his back to us. He is painting white letters onto a red banner draped across a table. A Venus de Milo towers before him. The room is grey, an attic, a window, the cable of the electric light, in plain sight, dangling from the ceiling with its lamp. The letters in white proclaim: ВСЯ ВЛАСТЬ СОВЕТАМ, “All power to the Soviets”. There is no palette present, a brush and a glass suffice.   Nikolai Terpsikhorov, First Motto, 1924, Moscow, State Tretyakov Gallery, Photo © State Tretyakov Gallery   The artist is Nikolai Terpsikhorov, a little known painter who depicts himself carrying out his new duties. By turning his back to us, he draws us into the canvas. First Motto is the work that greets me as I enter Revolution: Russian Art 1917 – 1932, the new exhibition at the Royal Academy of London (until the 17th of April). Curated by Ann Dumas, John Milner and Natalia Murray, this exhibition takes inspiration from a grand event held in 1932 at the State Russian Museum of what was then Leningrad. “Fifteen Years of Artists of the Russian Soviet Republic” (“Khudozniki RSFS za 15 let”) was a largescale retrospective, a massive exhibition of post-revolutionary...