A form of modern realism imposed in Russia by Stalin following his rise to power after the death of Lenin in 1924, characterised in painting by rigorously optimistic pictures of Soviet life painted in a realist style

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  • Renato Guttuso, 'Sulphur Miners' 1949

    Renato Guttuso
    Sulphur Miners 1949
    Watercolour on paper
    support: 692 x 1045 mm
    Purchased 1950 DACS, 2002

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  • Renato Guttuso, 'The Discussion' 1959-60

    Renato Guttuso
    The Discussion 1959-60
    Tempera, oil and mixed media on canvas
    support: 2200 x 2480 mm frame: 2350 x 2528 x 50 mm
    Purchased 1961 DACS, 2002

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  • André Fougeron, 'Martyred Spain' 1937

    Andr Fougeron
    Martyred Spain 1937
    Oil on canvas
    support: 982 x 1539 x 22 mm frame: 1025 x 1590 x 49 mm
    Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 2001 The estate of the Andr Fougeron

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The doctrine was formally proclaimed by Maxim Gorky at the Soviet Writers Congress of 1934, although not precisely defined. In practice, in painting it meant using realist styles to create highly optimistic depictions of Soviet life. Any pessimistic or critical element was banned, and this is the crucial difference from social realism. It was quite simply propaganda art, and has an ironic resemblance to the Fascist realism imposed by Hitler in Germany (see Entartete Kunst – degenerate art).

Outside the Soviet Union, socialist artists produced much freer interpretations of the genre as the paintings on this page illustrate.