Russian Constructivism in Art: A Marriage of Beauty and Practicality

Primarily an art and architecture movement, Constructivism dismissed the idea of autonomous art -- that is, "art for art's sake." For the founders of this movement, art had to be taken from the hands of the wealthy few and reconstructed from level zero to serve a social purpose.

A Revolution

In order to understand the drive for this drastic change, we need to go back to the early 1900s in Russia. Ordinary people — laborers and peasants — were already weary of the oppressive and unjust rule of the Tsarist regime. The country was ravaged by war — first with the Japanese, then World War I — and the citizens were demoralized. Their growing desire to break away from their misery sparked the series of revolutions, the culmination of which came in the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Illustration by Alexander Rodchenko, one of the best known Constructivist artists. Image via Design Obsession.

These ordinary people succeeded in seizing control from the imperial government, but it was under the influence of Vladimir Lenin and the Russian intelligentsia that the country realized that they wanted change. They craved for a world that would serve as a paradise for everyone, where everyone would benefit, and even art would be something that everyone could enjoy and take part in.

Art with a Social Purpose

In essence, Constructivism was the product of this idealogy, and later became known as the Russian version of Modernism. It broke away from the idea of “art for art’s sake” and instead promoted the notion of a new, reconstructed art: that which served a social purpose, which creates for the benefit of even the ordinary people, and was therefore practical in nature.

Perhaps, because it was conceived to be something that is easily understood and appreciated, Constructivist Art is characterized by simplicity, orderliness, and minimalism artworks. They possess geometric elements, basic forms, abstract details, and at times appear experimental but still stripped of emotional qualities.

In order: Illustrations by Alexander Rodchenko and Varvara Stepanova, Georgi and Vladimar Stenberg, and El Lissitzky. Images via Russian Constructivist Graphic Design by Alki1 on Flickr and Modern Art with Professor Blanchard on Blogspot.

While a lot of what can be tagged as Constructivist Art came in the form of graphic design, the concept also extended to sculpture-making and even architecture. But, Constructivism in these aspects did not work on showcasing beauty or expressing the artist’s views. Rather, the goal was to figure out how to incorporate art forms into designing functional objects, so they are not only beautiful, but also functional (and perhaps even vice versa). Therefore, it was often the materials that dictated what can be made and how they would look like, instead of the artist transforming these materials into something entirely different and appealing.

Model for Vladimir Tatlin’s proposed Monument to the Third International (1919-20), later called Tatlin’s Tower, a large scale monument that was supposed to be built in Petrograd (present-day St. Petersburg) after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, but was never built. Some consider it to be the definitive expression of constructivism in architecture rather than an actual buildable project. Photo via Modern Art with Professor Blanchard on Blogspot.
Sculptures by Constructivist Art pioneer Naum Gabo, in order: Constructive Head No. 1, 1915 (plywood), Constructive Head No. 2, 1916 (galvanized iron, painted yellow ochre), and Linear Construction No. 2, 1970-1. Photos via, Adam's Memory on Blogspot, and

Watch the clip below to find out more about the origins, theories, and concepts surrounding Constructivist Art:

Drawing inspiration from this monumental art movement, Lomography introduces a new film camera that allows you to put together an analogue beauty that is both charming and functional. Called the Konstruktor, the latest addition to Lomography’s roster of cameras is a 35mm SLR camera that you build from scratch and customize to your liking afterwards. Head over to the articles below to find out more about the Konstruktor:

The Konstruktor is the world’s first Do-It-Yourself 35mm SLR camera. With it, you can easily build your very own camera from scratch. It’s the perfect tool for having fun whilst learning the exciting mechanics behind how analogue photography works. Get yours from the Online Shop or Lomography Gallery Stores Worldwide. Find out more about the camera on the Konstruktor Site.

All information for this article were sourced from, Art History Archive, Museum of Modern Art, The Art Story, Constructivism (Art) on Wikipedia, and Russian Revolution of 1917 on Wikipedia.

written by plasticpopsicle on 2013-06-18 in #lifestyle #lomography #constructivist-art #constructivism #art #analogue-lifestyle

More Interesting Articles

  • To Russia with Love (Part 3)

    written by Julien Matabuena on 2015-03-03 in #world #lifestyle #locations
    To Russia with Love (Part 3)

    In the third and final installment of his Russian love story, Herr Willie recalls some of the most memorable experiences from his trips to post-Soviet Russia, including traveling aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway and shooting with the La Sardina for Lomography on assignment, and waxes nostalgic about all the amazing people he had met.

  • Fresh from the Lab: Modern Architecture in Valencia

    written by sirio174 on 2014-08-14 in #lifestyle
    Fresh from the Lab: Modern Architecture in Valencia

    Between the end of July and the beginning of August this year, I traveled around Spain, from Barcelona to Gibraltar, then up to Toledo and again down to Zaragoza. With photos fresh from the lab, I'll show you the wonderful architecture of the City of The Arts and Sciences of Valencia in this article. Take a look after the jump!

  • Geoffrey Berliner On Photographic Processes, Old and New

    written by Jill Tan Radovan on 2015-06-07 in #people #lifestyle #lomoamigos
    Geoffrey Berliner On Photographic Processes, Old and New

    Geoffrey Berliner is the Executive Director of the Penumbra Foundation and the Center for Alternative Photography in New York. As the head of an organization whose goals are 'to be a comprehensive resource for photographers at any level' and 'to continue to publicize the impact photography has had and continues to have on culture, history and the arts,' his exposure to photographic materials -from 19th century gems to modern equipment- is so extensive, one cannot even begin to fathom just how much knowledge and experience this man has acquired. His collection of over 2000 vintage Petzval lenses is unparalleled, and the object of envy of both traditional and contemporary photographers. Although such lenses are reputed to require a certain level of skill to be used, Berliner seems to manage them with so much ease, producing splendid results.

  • Shop News

    Diana Mini and Flash Petite Noire at 25% off

    Diana Mini and Flash Petite Noire at 25% off

    At 25% off you can take dreamy 35mm images with this little black beauty. Beam coloured light into your shots with its accompanying Diana Flash Back accessory and be the analogue king of the night.

  • From Russia with Love: Motorama Shoots with the La Sardina Splendour

    written by zonderbar on 2014-08-04 in #people #lomoamigos
    From Russia with Love: Motorama Shoots with the La Sardina Splendour

    I don't know many bands from Russia but one that I've been admiring for years is Motorama from Rostov-on-Don. With catchy tunes and adorable videos, they took my heart by storm and that of fans from all over the world. Because of their Russian origin, Motorama is of course familiar with Lomo products. Reason enough to let them become our latest LomoAmigos! Enjoy the interview with singer Vlad and check out their B&W photos, taken with a La Sardina Splendour.

  • Kelly Angood and the Exciting World of Pinhole Photography

    written by jacobs on 2015-04-03 in #people #news #lifestyle
    Kelly Angood and the Exciting World of Pinhole Photography

    The founder of The Pop-Up Pinhole Co., Kelly Angood, has been handcrafting pinhole cameras from scratch since 2010. After developing a huge online following from one of her early pinhole designs, she embarked on a mission to design an affordable, functional pinhole camera that could be constructed all in the comfort of your own home — and it had to look great too! Following an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign, her mission was realized. Read on to see how it happened and what's next for Kelly and The Pop-Up Pinhole Company!

  • LomoAmigo Reuben Wu Shoots with the Lomo LC-A+ RL

    written by Jill Tan Radovan on 2014-10-18 in #people #lomoamigos
    LomoAmigo Reuben Wu Shoots with the Lomo LC-A+ RL

    Reuben Wu fascinates, both with his splendid photographs and the music he churns out for electronic band Ladytron, or when he's doing a solo gig as a DJ. He's also one heck of a nice guy, who, despite being ultra-talented, has been gracious enough to grant another interview and share more of his amazing photos,which were taken with the Lomo LC-A+ with Russian lens.

  • Shop News

    Give your space a facelift with your own analogue print

    Give your space a facelift with your own analogue print

    Really want to bring your film photos to life? We’re now offering totally analogue fine art prints in a host of large sizes and formats! Carefully enlarged from your negatives onto premium photographic paper by lab professionals, each picture is a unique piece of craftsmanship.

  • Creative Vision, Personified:The Community's Most Creative Lomographers

    written by Eunice Abique on 2015-02-03 in #world #lifestyle
    Creative Vision, Personified:The Community's Most Creative Lomographers

    As Steve Jobs puts it, "creativity is just connecting things." It's all about tracing one's experiences and pushing the boundaries of what's already known to establish new things. The Lomography community is no stranger to these instances. In fact, the community is filled with brilliant minds who are always ready to refine existing techniques and look for innovative ways to express their visions and ideas. Here are just a few of the creative lomographers we've come to love over the years.

  • Early Inspirations in Film Photography: A Tomato Project

    written by hannah_brown on 2014-10-21 in #lifestyle
    Early Inspirations in Film Photography: A Tomato Project

    I’m lucky enough and old enough to have grown up in an era where film was the only form of photography available. I’ve always had a passion for film but it was a certain series of images that inspired me and changed my idea of photography forever. Find out what that was after the jump.

  • Fresh from the LomoLab: My Summer at a Campsite

    written by sirio174 on 2014-09-23 in #lifestyle
    Fresh from the LomoLab: My Summer at a Campsite

    I prefer being outdoors whenever I go on a vacation at the seaside. For this reason, I always choose to stay at a campsite instead of a hotel. This year, I stayed at a beautiful one in the south of Italy. Here is a series of photos which I received a few days ago from the excellent LomoLab service, taken with my Sprocket Rocket. Have a look after the jump!

  • Shop News

    Standard Photo Development Services

    Standard Photo Development Services

    Done shooting and want your films to be processed? We can process your colour and black & white 35mm, 120 or 110 films! Development, prints and scans are also included. (Service availability depends on your markets)

  • LomoGuru of the Week: emperornorton

    written by icequeenubia on 2014-11-02 in #lifestyle
    LomoGuru of the Week: emperornorton

    From having a close encounter with a mountain lion to accidentally meeting Steve Jobs, Joel Sax had experienced a number of unimaginable things that have granted him a deeper sense of understanding. Any amateur or longtime film photographer can definitely learn a thing about making the most out of one's skills and loving the art of photography from the wise words of our LomoGuru, emperornorton!

  • Lomography and Alfa Mito Club to Club Festival 2014 Competition: The Trojan Horse

    written by camilla_illa on 2014-10-27 in #competitions
    Lomography and Alfa Mito Club to Club Festival 2014 Competition: The Trojan Horse

    Lomographers, fans of electronic music and art, this is the competition for you! We are very happy to launch this competition with Alfa MiTo Club To Club, one of the most important festivals of music, art and culture electronics in Europe, which will take place in Turin, Italy, from 5th to 9th November 2014. Find out how to win two tickets, lots of music and Lomography cameras!

  • In Retrospect: Oscar de la Renta's Timeless Designs

    written by Jill Tan Radovan on 2014-10-22 in #people #lifestyle
    In Retrospect: Oscar de la Renta's Timeless Designs

    The fashion industry mourns the loss of iconic designer Oscar de la Renta, who died on October 20 at 82 years old from complications due to cancer. From being an art student in Madrid, an apprentice for renowned Spanish couturier Cristobal Balenciaga to designing for Lanvin and Balmain, eventually launching his own fashion label and dressing up some of the world's most famous and beautiful women, de la Renta's legacy echoes through his timeless, feminine, and elegant designs.