Gustav Klutsis

Gustav Klutsis was a Latvian graphic designer who was very prominent in the times of the Russian revolution. He was drafted into the Imperial Army at first but became involved in the revolt that ended with Czar Nicholas II being overthrown and executed.  He would become a major influence in the rising worker’s movement of Russia through his work in the propaganda being produced to rally support from the revolutionaries during the 1920s. He was born in 1895 and ended up dying at a young age in 1938.

It is worth mentioning that he was training in art before the revolution. After the revolution he would go on and train under Kazimir Malevich. Kazimir Malevich was known for the application of Avante Garde movements such as abstraction. Klutsis would later go on and finish his studies in Vkhutemas which was a school art and design in 1919.  This school was similar to the Bauhaus from Germany. It is sometimes referred to as the Soviet Bauhaus. It was funded by the government and the school was a clear advance from the Soviet state to involve this sector into the post-revolutionary efforts. This school offered a way to properly employ their techniques for their propaganda aimed at influencing the population of the newly formed Soviet Union. This can be demonstrated through the fact that the students were required not only to involve themselves in the craft but also in subjects relating to politics at the time.

The Bolshevik ideology was of the utmost importance accompanied by the techniques that were being taught in the school. After all, they had their printing facility and had to abide by the same rules that other printing facilities in the nation were following at the time. Klutsis was primarily working with the constructivist style in his works. This was one of the main movements taught in the school after all. It is worth mentioning that he did most of his works in collaboration with his wife. He had many great achievements throughout his career in the making of propaganda. He ended up dying in the persecutions and trials held by Stalin at the end of the 1930s. This would later be known as the years of the Great Terror. Some of the reasons could be because of his involvement in the Constructivist movement that was seen as an Avant-Garde idea. These ideas were not fully accepted in the USSR under Stalin.

Constructivism is an art movement that originated in Russia. They focused mostly on modern society which was being constructed under the Soviet regime at the time. They were transitioning into being a developed country and Klutsis wanted to transmit this through his work. This movement would mostly focus on the advance of the industrial sector. It was greatly influenced by cubism and futurism. This was an important movement for the movement of pro-Soviet propaganda and Klutsis used it in his pieces. Like mentioned before, it would dwindle in its prominence in the late 1920s due to it being considered an avant-garde movement by the Soviet Union. Klutsis would still become an accomplished constructivist and would later enter the Vkhutemas as a professor of color theory. His work has a clear point to make with the person and colors being involved in the posters.

A lot of his rhetoric revolved around Stalinism due to the prominence of Stalin during Klutsis’ time off work. The propaganda during the time was very censored. It had to fall under the guidelines of the current ideology. Much of the work revolved around the principle ideas of communism and that of the collective. During his time the Soviet Union was going under great reform with the end of the First World War. Modernization of the Soviet Union was taking place and Klutsis wished to transmit this through his posters. Stalin would go on to prepare the country to become a major player in the global powers through his proposal of the five-year plan. This would require the people of the USSR to cooperate, so they used what was one of the most successful weapons in their time. Propaganda. This goes back to the idea of Lenin providing funding schools such as Vkhutemas to train future artists and designers into the ideology of the USSR. Although Lenin would fall out of favor, Stalin would assume power and use these trained professionals to his advantage.

Klutsis used many images from photography in his graphics as well as many symbols and ideology of the Soviet Union. This was done to transmit the ideas to everyone. He used the idea of photomontages with his posters and propaganda. Main political figures would feature in his works such as Stalin or Lenin. They would be recognizable and the ideas would be transmitted easily. He would accompany this with symbols and colors that related to the Soviet Union. Using mostly very geometric shapes in most of his posters and accompanying them with san Serif fonts which added to the constructivist ideals.

Gustav has become important in the transformation of graphic design throughout history. Much of Klutsis’ work is a prime example of the Soviet propaganda and the response to western propaganda of the time. He was also involved in one of the most intense times of the Soviet Union under the regime of Stalin. This is one of the most interesting points in history were Klutsis found himself in. Ideas being shared included the political ideals of the newborn Soviet Union. They were being enforced in the schools and in the professional world. The nation needed to control the revolutionaries who had been fighting no longer than a couple of years before. They also had not only be controlled but also influenced the ideas that Stalin was presented to the population.

The work that Klutsis focused on gives us an insight into the art movements and techniques used at this point in history. Klutsis also gives us an insight into how graphic designers would behave under these restrictions. Posters would become a major player in the spread of the communist ideals. They would become major players in the entire world when it came to transmitting the ideology to the community. They would target the proletarian crowd that needed to be controlled in order for the plans of Stalin to work. This was one of the important times in history in which a government would be actively involved in the media and choose what was to be produced. Klutsis would work with these ideas and become familiar with the ways in which he was able to transmit the ideas of the revolutionary cause.



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Douglas, Robert A. “The Photomontages of Gustav Klutsis.” The Photomontages of Gustav Klutsis, 1 Jan. 1970,

“Gustav Klutsis.” International Center of Photography, 31 Jan. 2018,

Kotsioris, Evangelos, et al. “Unpacking Barr’s Library: The Paper Trail from the Bauhaus to VKhUTEMAS.”,

Repression and Terror: Stalin in Control,

WITKOVSKY, MATTHEW S. “[Works by Gustav Klutsis].” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies, vol. 35, no. 2, 2009, pp. 76–95. JSTOR, Accessed 17 Apr. 2020.