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

More Interesting Articles

  • 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!

  • A Salute to the Masters: Stairs (A Tribute to Alexander Rodchenko)

    written by sirio174 on 2014-03-17 in #lifestyle
    A Salute to the Masters: Stairs (A Tribute to Alexander Rodchenko)

    This article is a tribute to the great Russian photographer, sculptor, graphic designer, and painter Alexander Rodchenko. He was a pioneer in the search for unusual perspectives, with extreme view from above or from below, and with an innovative use of the diagonals and tilted views in his dynamic compositions. For this article, I was inspired by his most famous photo, a woman climbing a staircase, taken in 1930, which is reminiscent of the famous Odessa stair of the film "Battleship Potemkin" by Sergei Eisenstein.

  • 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.

  • Shop News

    Uncrate Long Lost Lomography Treasures - 30% Off in our Discount Section

    Uncrate Long Lost Lomography Treasures - 30% Off in our Discount Section

    Fly over to our 30% Discount Section to discover previously unavailable Editions & Clones! Be quick and make one yours before they are all gone again!

  • LomoAmigo:Timeless Instants by Maurizio Galimberti

    written by stea on 2014-03-14 in #people #lomoamigos
    LomoAmigo:Timeless Instants by  Maurizio Galimberti

    Lomography Italy had the honor and the pleasure of interviewing photographer and instant film artist Maurizio Galimberti. Apart from creating one of his stunning and famous mosaics just for us, and answered a few questions for this interview. Read more after the jump.

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

    written by jillytanrad 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.

  • 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.

  • Shop News

    Show Off your Pics with Style!

    Show Off your Pics with Style!

    Build vivid hanging LomoCurtains, robust free-standing LomoCastles, and dazzling mounted LomoMosaics! Just click them together with the Lomography Photoclips!

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • Shop News

    A Very Special Portrait Lens

    A Very Special Portrait Lens

    Photos shot with a New Petzval lens are immediately recognizable for their super-sharp focus areas and wonderful swirly bokeh effect. Each New Petzval lens is crafted from brass (just like the original Petzval lens) and features premium glass optics. Together with Lomography, the lenses have been designed and constructed by a team of optics specialists at the Zenit factory in Russia. Zenit are master lens manufacturers and have the skill to build the Petzval lens for use with today’s SLR cameras.

  • 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!

  • A 52-Week Film Project Will Keep You Shooting

    written by zombiesinmygarden on 2014-03-01 in #gear #tipster
    A 52-Week Film Project Will Keep You Shooting

    Here's one idea for a 52-week film project, you simply shoot and develop one roll of film, every week for a year. It will keep you shooting film throughout the year, saving you from falling into a photography slump. It will also allow you to experiment with your ever growing camera collection.

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

    written by jillytanrad on 2014-10-22 in #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.