Find more information about

at the Center for Jewish History:

NOTE: you will be redirected
to the Web site for the

Brodskii, Isaak Izrailevich

(1883 [1884 according to the Gregorian calendar]–1939), painter, graphic artist, art critic, and educator. Born in Sofievka (Taurida guberniia), Isaak Brodskii studied at the Odessa School of Art from 1896 to 1902. He then attended the Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg until 1908, receiving a grant from this institute to travel in Western Europe between 1909 and 1911.

As early as 1904, Brodskii exhibited his paintings with various associations, in particular with the Society of Itinerant Art Exhibitions and the World of Art group. Before 1917, he primarily painted landscapes and portraits. Examples of the former include Skvoz’ vetvi (Through the Branches; 1907; I. Brodskii Museum of Painting, St. Petersburg); the latter genre was represented by his Portret zheny khudozhnika na terrace (Portrait of the Artist’s Wife on the Terrace; 1908; Russian State Museum, St. Petersburg). With a fine sense of color, Brodskii combined the realistic study of nature with impressionist techniques and stylization in the spirit of art nouveau. Critics reviewed his vivid works favorably, and he quickly achieved commercial success. He became a fashionable portrait painter, with Russia’s leading political, cultural, and literary figures gladly posing for him and ordering portraits. Thus, for example, even as a student traveling abroad he painted Portret Gor’kogo na o. Kapri (Portrait of Gorky on the Isle of Capri; 1910; A. M. Gorky Museum, Moscow).

Brodskii’s social and political views reflected Russian liberalism. In 1905, he took part in the student strike at the Academy of Arts, and in 1907 he drew political caricatures for a number of opposition satirical journals. The events of the first Russian revolution also became the source for one of Brodskii’s rare works on a Jewish topic, the painting Posle pogroma (After the Pogrom; 1907). Although he was far from the mainstream of Jewish cultural and social life, Brodskii served as a member of the board of the Jewish Society for the Promotion of Art and participated in its 1916 exhibition, as well as in the Exhibition of Paintings and Sculptures of Jewish Artists held in Moscow in July–August 1918.

His main interests, however, lay elsewhere. After the Revolution of 1917, Brodskii was one of the first Soviet artists to use the genre of multifigure monumental composition for portraying events of the Bolshevik Revolution and valorizing its leaders (among his works was Lenin i manifestatsiia [Lenin and Mass Demonstration; 1919]). In 1924, Brodskii served as a leader and ideologist of the Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia (AKhRR), a group of artists who used realism and had as their goal “to subordinate artistic creativity to the objectives of socialist construction.” In pursuit of these “objectives,” Brodskii painted several large-format canvases, with Lenin as the main figure (Lenin v svoem kabinete [Lenin in His Office; 1924], Vystuplenie Lenina na Putilovskom zavode [Lenin’s Speech at the Putilov Factory; 1926], Lenin v Smol’nom [Lenin at the Smolny Institute; 1930], and others).

In 1928, after completing a portrait of Stalin, Brodskii became the Soviet Union’s leading official portrait artist. In 1932, he was appointed professor at the All-Russian Academy of Arts (in Leningrad), and from 1934 he was its director. His paintings set the basic iconographic standard depicting Lenin in Soviet painting. Indeed, Brodskii’s work exerted great influence over the formulation of the style of official Soviet art.

Suggested Reading

I. A. Brodskii, Isaak Izrailevich Brodskii (Moscow, 1956); Isaak Izrailevich Brodskii, Sbornik statei. (K 25-letiju tvorcheskoi dejatel’nosti khudozhnika) (Leningrad, 1929); Isaak Izrailevich Brodskii, Katalog posmertnoi vystavki (Leningrad, 1941); A. Nadezhdin, Isaak Izrailevich Brodskii (Leningrad, 1950); Pamiati Isaaka Izrailevicha Brodskovo. Vospominanija, dokumenty, pis’ma (Leningrad, 1959).



Translated from Russian by I Michael Aronson