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New Objectivity in the Work of the Russian-German Artist Nikolai Zagrekov/Nikolaus Sagrekow

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Chapter Summary

The frequent use of the term “New Objectivity” in Dutch and German critical discourses differs from its long lack of use in their Russian counterpart. Discrediting the concept as close to Nazi-art, the prominent Soviet critic Mikhail Lifshits prevented it from a neutral or even positive use. Another consideration is the presence of the partly congruent Russian term and concept of “thingism” (veshchizm). This explains the evasion of the notion “New Objectivity” in Russian works on Ehrenburg, who has been a Russian representative of this development (1). The art of the Russian and German artist Zagrekov / Sagrekow tends to be treated as the only example for this style in Russian art. Zagrekov avoided both contemporary nonmimetic aesthetic concepts: Kandinsky’s abstract and Malevich’s non-figurative art. His inclination to prose-like mimetic art helps to explain this resistance against the non-mimetic impact on art in the early 20th century. (2) However, it seems problematic to subsume all of Zagrekov’s art under the notion “New Objectivity” as suggested by O. Medvedko. Rather, as J. Bowlt argued, his way of painting differs in time and depends on the subjects and genres of each individual work. Zagrekov shares his inclination to new realism with artists from “OST” (Society of Easel Painters) in Moscow and the “Circle of Friends” in Leningrad. Because of these melanges and differences the work of Zagrekov is highly significant to considering the relation of “New Objectivity” to the art of the Avant-garde as well as to Socialist realism (3). To introduce the term “New Objectivity” into the discussion of Russian developments, not only in fine arts but also in literature, film and photography, in the first half of the twentieth century seems to be a promising project (4).



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