Brodskii, Isaak

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BRODSKII, ISAAK (1883/1884–1939), painter, graphic artist, art critic, and educator. Brodskii was born in Sofievka, Taurida county, Ukraine. He studied at the Odessa School of Art from 1896 to 1902. He then attended the Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg until 1908, receiving a grant from the institute to travel in Western Europe between 1909 and 1911. As early as 1904, Brodskii exhibited his paintings with various associations, in particular with the Society of Itinerant Art Exhibitions and the "World of Art" group. Before 1917, he primarily painted landscapes and portraits. Examples of the former include Through the Branches, 1907 (I. Brodskii Museum of Painting, St. Petersburg); the latter genre was represented by his Portrait of the Artist's Wife on the Terrace, 1908 (Russian State Museum, St. Petersburg). With a fine sense of color, Brodskii combined the realistic study of nature with impressionist techniques and stylization in the spirit of art nouveau. Critics reviewed his vivid works favorably, and he quickly achieved commercial success. He became a fashionable portrait painter, with Russia's leading political, cultural, and literary figures gladly posing for him and commissioning portraits. Thus, for example, even as a student traveling abroad he painted a portrait of Gorky on the Isle of Capri, 1910 (A.M. Gorky Museum, Moscow). Brodskii's social and political views reflected Russian liberalism. In 1905, he took part in the student strike at the Academy of Arts, and in 1907 he drew political caricatures for a number of opposition satirical journals. The events of the first Russian revolution also became the source of one of Brodskii's rare works on a Jewish topic, the painting After the Pogrom, 1907. Although he was far from the mainstream of Jewish cultural and social life, Brodskii served as a member of the board of the Jewish Society for the Encouragement of the Arts and participated in its 1916 exhibition, as well as in the Exhibition of Paintings and Sculptures of Jewish Artists held in Moscow in July–August 1918. His main interests, however, lay elsewhere. After the Revolution of 1917, Brodskii was one of the first Soviet artists to use the genre of multifigure monumental composition for portraying events of the Bolshevik Revolution and glorifying its leaders (among his works was Lenin and Mass Demonstration, 1919). In 1924, Brodskii served as a leader and ideologist of the Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia (akhrr), a group of artists who used realism and had as their goal "to subordinate artistic creativity to the objectives of socialist construction." In pursuit of these "objectives," Brodskii painted several large-format canvases, with Lenin as the main figure. In 1928, after completing a portrait of Stalin, Brodskii became the Soviet Union's leading official portrait artist. In 1932, he was appointed professor at the All-Russian Academy of Arts (in Leningrad), and from 1934 he was its director. His paintings set the basic iconographic standard depicting Lenin in Soviet painting. Indeed, Brodskii's work exerted great influence on the formulation of the style of official Soviet art.


S. Isakov, Isaak Izrailevich Brodskii (1945) (Rus.); S. Ivanitsky, Brodskii (1986) (Rus.); S.T. Goodman (ed.), Russian Jewish Artists in a Century of Change 1890–1990. Jewish Museum, New York (1996), 152–53.

[Hillel Kazovsky (2nd ed.)]