Modern luboks

“Emperor Maximilian hunting for foxes”. Broadside by Bergmann von Olpe with the poem of Sebastian Brant calling the emperor upon curbing the nobility. Basel, 1497

Mice celebrating funerals to the cat. Satirical lubok on the funerals of Czar Peter the Great and on the relief of the nobility. Moscow, c. 1760.

Mice and rats burying the cat. A 19th-century printed version of the above lubok

The lubok – originally meaning “birch bark” – was the Russian equivalent of the Western European Renaissance and Baroque broadside or popular print with woodcut illustrations. It is true that this genre arrived to Russia with a delay of some two centuries, towards the end of the 17th century. But due to this phase shift, while from the 18th century in the West the newspapers had gradually replaced the broadside and transformed their illustrations into political cartoons, in Russia the printed lubok even in the 19th and 20th centuries continued to inform large masses about the most important events like the anti-Napoleonic Patriotic War of 1812, the Russo-Japanese conflict of 1904-1905 or WWI.

The figure of red-nosed Farnos and his fellow clowns were taken on by 17th and 18th-century
luboks from the popular French and Italian commedia dell’arte broadsides of Jacques
Callot. Farnos was the prototype of the Russian folk theater’s Petrushka,
a source of inspiration for Stravinsky.


A raskolnik (an old believer) protesting against the cutting of his beard. This lubok is an 
oblique protest against the modernizing decrees of Peter the Great which, among
other things, made it obligatory to the nobility to shave their faces.
“Listen to me, barber! I don’t let my beard be cropped, and
whoever tries it, in the jail I will have him dropped.”

Pantyushka and Sidorka visiting Moscow. A 18th-c. lubok-guide to the sights of Moscow.

A monster from Hell. 19th-century handwritten lubok

Heroic deeds of Russian soldiers and peasants in the anti-Napoleonic Patriotic War of 1812. Early
19th-century luboks from vol. 5 of Отечественная война и Русское общество
(The Patriotic War and Russian society), Moscow 1911.




“The Cossack Play”. An anti-Napoleonic version of the standard 63-cells Goose Game from 1812.

The breakfast of the Cossack. Luboks from the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905


The Emperor of Japan and his artful “well-wishers”




The successful war propaganda was also adopted by the enemy. Anti-Russian Japanese luboks
from 1904-1905


The mobilization and war popaganda also brought with itself the last great flourishing of the lubok. These few years yielded such an abundant crop that we will have to dedicate a separate post to it.

The brave Cossack Kozma Kriuchkov, a main figure of WWI luboks

Russian avant-garde discovered lubok in the same way as their Western European contemporaries learned to appreciate old woodcuts and popular imagery. This genre provided inspiration to several works of Kazimir Malevich, Vladimir Lebedev or Mikhail Larionov, among others.

Mikhail Larionov: Spring, summer, autumn, winter, 1912:





After the Bolshevik revolution the artists placing their talents at the service of the new regime transformed the lubok into “agitlubok”, an easy-to-convey media of merciless Communist agitation and propaganda. One of the leading figures of this new genre was Mayakovsky who even designed the frontispieces and illustrations of his volumes himself.

“Neither doctors / nor God / nor God’s servants / are of any use / for the kind of us.”

The red-black-white figures and broken verses of Mayakovsky, as we have already presented it, can be seen even today on some nostalgic agitlubok calendars.

Since the 30’s, with the arrival of Socialist realism the magic realism of the lubok has been forced in the background (however suitable it would have been, for example, to the illustration of The Master and Margarita). Nevertheless, it has never been completely forgotten. Luboks continued to be designed sporadically in the following decades, and in 1989 even a complete album of them was published in support of Gorbachev’s temperance campaign  with the title Советский лубок. Всем миром против пьянства (Soviet lubok. For the whole world against alcoholism). Of this fantastic document we will  write more in detail in a next post.

Poet-editor Aleksandr Sarymov. A portrait lubok from the 70’s by the Petersburg artist Leonid Kaminsky

A lubok by I. O. Puhovskaya in the temperance campaign album of Moscow 1989

The flourishing of contemporary luboks has started in the late 90’s, and their popularity is in the ascendant. Their greatest master is the widely known and imitated Andrei Kuznetsov, whose Chukch cartoons and one lubok have already been presented in this blog. Since 2003 he has been publishing, with the title Растаманские народные сказки, that is Rastafarian Folk Tales, his modern luboks which have presented and commented on the most recent events of the great world outside of Russia – like for example the figures of the latest Hollywood films – just like their predecessors had done since the end of the 17th century.

The wonderful machine-man called Tyermonator who found his death on the smith’s anvil. “My stature is the width of a span, completely spine-driven I am.”

Here you can see Gorlum the vicious and Phrodo who seizes from him the Preciousss.


And these are Gena, the Aphriccan Alligator-Animal and Cheburashka, the Cat-Headed Maroccan Beast of Bussurman Tongue (the immortal heroes of Soviet movie)

Spider-Man: “With my fore-hand the woman I please, while with my back-hand the whiskey I seize.”

And this is the true likeness of Luke running the samovar with his self-propelled saucer while Chubakka serves medicinal draught to him

Aaand… The War of the Worlds!!! To the right hand there you see the Martian who “was caught by a flu while walking in the town, and having no clue, on the earth he flopped down.”

A report on the great fiasco of the Large Swiss Collider in 2008.

The joker card: Garipoter. “As soon as he sits on a broom, he flies away as the April gloom.”

National news: “It’s better known than the sparrow bird how great danger is the printed word.”
The books at the stake and in the hands of the policemen are actually mushroom

atlases, and the “Holy Simplicity” at the left side is also contributing
with a Book on the tasty and healthy mushroom to the
spiritual cleaning of the Homeland.

A patriotic Russian drunkard says no to overseas modifiers of consciousness!

Some more luboks of Kuznetsov can be also seen here and here (at the second place with his own and his readers’ commentaries). We will also write more on them in the next post.

4 comentarios:

Megkoronáz A.J.P. dijo...

This is wonderful. Thank you so much. I was reading something today that this (sort of) reminds me of, I'll see if I can photograph it tomorrow ...

Studiolum dijo...

I’m really curious of it. Perhaps you have discovered a far away Scandinavian offspring of Russian luboks?

m_bortz dijo...

Hello
I'm writing a research project about the Russo- Japanese war in my high school, and I would like to do reference to some of the photos and cartoons you posted which regard this war.
Would you be able to give me information about the source of these cartoons?
Thank you
email: bortz1992@gmail.com

Araz dijo...

Studiolum, just came across another similar project. This time from Turkey - popular movies in Ottoman miniatures. Check this out: http://www.behance.net/gallery/Classical-Movies-in-Miniature-Style/4455311