The First Blast Furnace, massive color lithograph,
raised print, depicting a factory workshop and workers
dwarfed by its scale, by artist Valentin Alekseevich
Novichenko, circa 1980s-90s, 6 x 80 cm, copy #1 out of 15.
The monumental scale of this work, which is quite rare for
lithographs, is logically justified here: the perspective
the factory workshop with its giant machinery shrouded in
billowing smoke is thus conveyed in a true and emotional
manner for us, the viewers.
This is not an industrial landscape but rather an
still life, as strange as this may sound. The giant cones,
cogwheels and cylinders are distributed on a flat plane as
if on Cezanne's paintings that show laid out apples, pears
and various household items. Because of this effect of
Cezanne's "still life", the people appear as Lilliputians
the country of Giants. Novichenko was among the first to
this technique in Socialist Realism.
The paintings is in overall good condition. There is some
slight discoloration of the paper around the white border.
The paper itself is mildly worn at its edges and there is
crease along the right side, though it is maintained in the
white border. The work has otherwise kept up well. The
artist has written the name of the painting, "The First
Blast Furnace", and its copy number, "1/15", at the bottom
left corner. The artist has also signed the piece at the
********About the Author********
Valentin Alekseevich Novichenko (1927-2010) is a well-known
graphic artist from the Urals. He was born into a working-
class family. His childhood impressions of industry and the
construction of the Orsk Metallurgical Kombinat (group of
factories) deeply affected his art.
He participated in the Patriotic War and then graduated
the Sverdlovsk Art School, which he attended from 1956-61.
In 1966 he became a member of the Trade Union of Artists of
the USSR and a permanent member of all-Union exhibitions.
From 1953-63 he worked as a decorator at the Uralkhimmash
and Uralmash, both of which were gigantic powerhouses of
Soviet industry that played an extremely important role in
the development of the industrial might of the Soviet Union
as well as its defense during the Great Patriotic War. They
also played major role in the development of the city of
Yekaterinburg (then Sverdlovsk) and the entire Ural Region.
Thanks to Novichenko's art, labor at the factory was
aestheticized and glorified. It appeared then that people
will always get up early in the morning, and by the factory
siren, head to work their shift. They believed that they
lead a decent life - a life worthy of being the subject of
art, i.e. being reflected in paintings and cinematography.
The lithographs by the artist are a memory of the departing
character of an entire civilization. The representation of
labor in the art of
Socialist Realism and the themes of "labor", "production"
and "the worker" had become leading and dominant over all
other subjects and themes. In the art of the 1930s-50s, the
portraits of people dominate, whereas the sources of power
such as hydroelectric dams, blast furnaces, electric power
lines - serve only as a background for their laborial
heroism. Artist Novichenko turned it upside down: his
inanimate objects are far more interesting than the people
and whatever they are doing. He was one of the first to
create a tendency that would be well established in the
industrial Socialist Art of 1970s-80s: the hero and
background change places. The people are simply serving the
giant objects; they are just a part of the industrial
process. This was due to the fact that the portrait of the
original hero of Socialist Realism was getting
worn out. Novichenko is presenting a new industrial still
nature: giant cones, cylinders, and gears are distributed
a plain as if in paintings by CÚzanne, where the household
items and fruits attract attention primarily by the play of
After the death of the artist in 2010, a number of his
exhibitions have opened in his native Ural and Moscow, and
well known collectors are now trying to acquire his works.
As clearly evident from his correspondences with colleagues
that is now kept in a private collection, Novichenko had a
difficult personality. He never tried to sell his works to
collectors or earn good favors from the bureaucrats
arts; he also refused to sell his painting to the managing
committees of exhibitions on their terms. He was a tireless
innovator, always in search of new materials and
and this consumed his entire life. His lithographs on metal
or so-called "poly etching graphics" that employed various
techniques and metal cutting instruments invented by him,
and his unusually large lithographs, make his art truly
unique and of enduring value.