Ca. second half of 1940s. Drawings in ink and pencil. 20 leaves. 17,5x12,2 cm. On the front cover artist’s self-portrait in a classical satirical manner, on the verso - an image of the notebook with artists’s caricature character ‘walking out of it’. Among other images are portraits, cartoons, political caricatures, genre compositions, et al. One page includes hand written names of participants of Kukryniksy.
Kukryniksy was a creative group of three Soviet artists - Mikhail Kupriyanov (1903-1991), Porfirii Krylov (1902-1990) and Nikolai Sokolov (1903-2000) - mostly known for their caricatures. Their name derived from the combined names of artists. They met at VKhUTEMAS in the early 1920s. The three began drawing caricatures under the joint signature in 1924. In their early years of collaboration they developed a very recognizable style for which became famous and popular. In the land of strict political agenda their work became almost necessary. They became nationally famous in the 1930s after the rise of fascism, drawing for Krokodil, the Moscow satirical paper. They received international recognition for their attacks on Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels, and Francisco Franco. During the second world war they established the TASS Windows for political cartoons and posters. They also illustrated a number of books, including Ilf and Petrov’s, Nikolay Gogol, Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin, Anton Chekhov, Maxim Gorky and others.
«Our collective is really of four artists: Kupriyanov, Krylov, Sokolov and Kukryniksy. The latter we treat very gently... What was created as the collective, none of us would be able to do by himself». All three artists are individually known as good landscape and portrait artists. But only together they were exceptional. Their caricatures were often ruthless and yet sympathizing. Without captions it’s sometimes even hard to understand their targets (like in this working sketchbook).
Sokolov brought his notepad everywhere with him always making sketches, not only political but a lot of them were domestic satire against everything old and irrelevant for a new Soviet man. Kukryniksy were a great tool of Soviet socialist propaganda machine but they earned critics’ love as well because their creative process was never only within the framework of social realism but went further, to Europe and even back in time to 19th century. Their work reflected dynamic and paradoxical life of 20th century and its existential problems.
This sketchbook is a unique historic artifact with not only handmade sketches by one of the most famous Soviet art groups but an evidence of their art process which is always interesting as we often don’t know how artists’ minds work and how they come up with great ideas.