Constructivism was a particularly austere branch of abstract art founded by Vladimir Tatlin and Alexander Rodchenko in Russia around 1915

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  • Naum Gabo, 'Model for 'Constructed Torso'' 1917, reassembled 1981

    Naum Gabo
    Model for 'Constructed Torso' 1917, reassembled 1981
    object: 395 x 290 x 160 mm
    Accepted by HM Government in lieu of tax and allocated to the Tate Gallery 1995The Work of Naum Gabo Nina & Graham Williams/Tate, London 2011

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  • Naum Gabo, 'Model for 'Column'' 1920-21

    Naum Gabo
    Model for 'Column' 1920-21
    Cellulose nitrate
    object: 143 x 95 x 95 mm
    Presented by the artist 1977The Work of Naum Gabo Nina & Graham Williams/Tate, London 2011

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  • Antoine Pevsner, 'Head' circa 1923-4

    Antoine Pevsner
    Head circa 1923-4
    object: 770 x 590 x 920 mm
    Presented by Mrs Miriam Gabo, the artist's sister-in-law 1977 ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2002

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The constructivists believed art should directly reflect the modern industrial world. Vladimir Tatlin was crucially influenced by Pablo Picasso’s cubist constructions (Construction 1914) which he saw in Picasso’s studio in Paris in 1913. These were three-dimensional still lifes made of scrap materials. Tatlin began to make his own but they were completely abstract and made of industrial materials.

By 1921 Russian artists who followed Tatlin’s ideas were calling themselves constructivists and in 1923 a manifesto was published in their magazine Lef:

The material formation of the object is to be substituted for its aesthetic combination. The object is to be treated as a whole and thus will be of no discernible ‘style’ but simply a product of an industrial order like a car, an aeroplane and such like. Constructivism is a purely technical mastery and organisation of materials.

Constructivism was suppressed in Russia in the 1920s but was brought to the West by Naum Gabo and his brother Antoine Pevsner and has been a major influence on modern sculpture.