Constructivism was a particularly austere branch of abstract art founded by Vladimir Tatlin and Alexander Rodchenko in Russia around 1915
- Introduction to constructivism
- Constructivist artists in focus
- Constructivism in context
- Constructivism in detail
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 in Tate’s collection
- See constructivist artworks in Tate’s collection
- Or browse the selection of works in the slideshow below
Rodchenko worked in a variety of mediums teasing out the the components of each image – line, form, space, color, surface, texture. He later abandoned painting in favour of photography and advertising design.
Rodchenko & Popova: Defining Constructivism
The exhibition which was at Tate Modern in 2009, starts in 1917, the year of the October Revolution, and shows how the two artists shaped the future of Russian art. Read the exhibition guide and see what artworks were on display.
In this conference, Alexander Lavrentiev discusses the three levels of the constructivist concept developed by Alexander Rodchenko, where Constructivism was the practical environment for everyday life (architecture, interior, communication design).
Aleksandr Rodchenko’s Lines of Force
This research article reflects on the successes and limitations of Rodchenko’s experiments into the concept of line, which was fundamental to the ambitions of Russian constructivism.
Gabo pioneered new ways of making sculpture from plastic, glass and metals. He started making constructions in Moscow in around 1915 alongside Antoine Pevsner and Vladimir Tatlin.
Naum Gabo: Discovering the Archive
Listen to art historian Christina Lodder introduce Gabo through his correspondence, writings, sketches and models, from Tate archive.
Lost Art: Naum Gabo
This feature looks at Construction in Space: Two Cones, an abstract sculpture that combined geometry with a sense of movement. The original and replica are not able to go on display, due to the condition of the plastic caused over time.
Naum Gabo exhibition guide
Explore this online guide to the Gabo exhibition at Tate St Ives in 2002, which displayed Gabo’s sculptures, models and sketches for a number of major works.
The Gabo Archive
Explore the life and work of Naum Gabo through various themes with this archive of letters, works and photographs.
Constructivism in context
Watch curator Chris Stephens discuss the influence of Picasso on artists of this period and how modernity informed their work.
Lost Art: Vladimir Tatlin
This article discusses the 1917 Rusian Revolution and looks at Vladimir Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International, a monument which was never built.
This feature provides an overview of Russia’s past and the pre-revolutionary world that Gabo was born into.
Naum Gabo as a Soviet Émigré in Berlin
This research article looks at Gabo’s connections with the October Revolution, arguing that he did not initially intend to stay in the West, and examining the nature of his émigré activities in this light.
Constructivism in detail
Listen to the recordings of this symposium, which explores the work of Aleksandr Rodchenko and Liubov Popova between 1917 and 1929 and how they were integral to the stylistic and theoretical underpinning of Russian Constructivism.
Constructivism and the Art of Everyday Life
Watch these conference video recordings which looks at the relationship between art and every day life in post-war Russian constructivist art.
Naum Gabo and the Quandaries of the Replica
This Tate paper looks at Naum Gabo’s replicas and how he favoured the sculptural idea or image over the notion of the original.
Liubov Popova: From Painting to Textile Design
This paper looks at the development of Popova’s involvement with constructivism while also examining the relationship between her textile prints and the abstract language of her earlier painting.
The Grid as a Checkpoint of Modernity
In Russia, early constructivist artists saw the grid as both a formal and ideological device. This essay looks at the history of the grid and argues that it can still be an effective device in radical art practices today.