Sergei Senkin

Sergey Yakovlevich Senkin (July 13, 1894, Pokrovskoye-Streshnevo - April 12, 1963, Moscow) was a Russian graphic artist and a prominent figure of Soviet propaganda art, an avant-garde artist, a representative of constructivism and one of the creators of the art of photomontage. He designed art and industrial exhibitions, books and magazines, and created well known photomontage posters.


Born in the village of Pokrovskoye-Streshnevo near Moscow. In 1914 he entered the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. In 1915 he was called up for military service. After the First World War, joined the Red Army as an agitprop artist in the Urals.

In 1918 he entered the course for Kazimir Malevich in the Second State Free Art Workshops (II SSKhM), formed on the basis of the MUZhVZ. Malevich had an undoubted influence on Senkin during his studies in painting. In the 1920s he studied with Kazimir Malevich, who strongly influenced him. He was a member of the group "October" together with Gustavs Klucis, Alexander Rodchenko, the Schterenberg brothers (Dawid and Abram), the Wesnin brothers and other talented artists.

In 1920, together with the avant-garde artist Gustav Klutsis he organized an independent workshop of agitational art ("New Practical Realism"), and began to engage in decorating. He inspired a manuscript magazine of Malevich's students ("apprentices") - "Magazine of Free State Art Workshops". Two issues, dated late 1919, have survived in the library of the Centre Georges Pompidou. Russian art historian Igor Smekalov identifies the materials of the journal-manifesto as a semantic link between the prepared but never published journal Supremus (1917) and the Vitebsk almanac UNOVIS No. 1 1920). The authors of the articles were the young artists Sergey Senkin "Stand collectives", "Our tasks", "Open discussion"), Ivan Kudryashov, Tevel Shapiro and Ivan Zavyalov. Kazimir Malevich's article "19851st Eugene Onegin", in which the author calls on the theatre to break with entrenched traditions and turn to non-objective theatre with the elements of sound, colour, movement and volume, was also intended for a manuscript magazine. But for some reason the article was not published in the magazine; probably because the author sent it to the magazine "Revolutionary Art" in Vitebsk. The cover of the first issue by S. Senkin: font composition and water colouring in the spirit of Suprematism. The review on the manuscript magazine was placed in issue No.39 of October-November 1919 in Herald of Theatre, the official organ of Narkompros theatrical department.

A. Labas in his memoirs was critical of Sergey Senkin's creativity:

"...he is clever, a theorist, a sceptic, decides more with his head, logic, considers himself an inventor of a huge "supremat". The trick is small: add two walls to a square on a plane, or shade a circle to make a ball. But he doesn't understand his teacher Malevich".

An attempt to produce a printed magazine failed, although it did come out. An article by Malevich was printed in the magazine, to which El Lissitzky wrote Now Unovis.

"The story with the journal of the executive committee is brief, the journal was denounced at a meeting of IZO officials as Unovis and was given up in flames (literally burnt), of course, formally under a completely different guise. It turns out that Sterenberg, after reading it, was horrified and took your article personally. Ah, that's how it is, there's no such thing as a painting in art! And Malevich still wants to plant Unovis everywhere, that's why the telegram about the release of instructors, no, I will not sign the telegram, etc. But passions seem to have subsided, and I hope all will be well. Senkin was in Petersburg at the time of the whole thing, and without him we seem to be helpless here. A new executive committee has been elected, Senkin is in again, and it seems the guys are their own."

El Lissitzky. Letter to K. S. Malevich and the members of the Unovis from Moscow to Vitebsk, dated 21 December 1920. The letter is kept in the Khargiev-Chagi Foundation, Amsterdam.

Senkin explained in a letter to Malevich that the journal was persecuted because of his article which was harshly critical of the Izo Department of the Narkompros; as a result, the journal's circulation was burnt down. The above-mentioned David Shterenberg was the head of the Narkompros Izo Department at the time. A copy of the magazine has survived and is now in the Getty Foundation's collection. Senkin's article "Why We Stand for Party Organization," his note "Unovis. Pasternak and Repin", K. Malevich's article on theatre, etc.

Practically nothing is known about S.J. Senkin's life and creative work after the war. His wife Anna Vasilyevna, mentioned in his memoirs as a neighbour of the poet Alexey Kruchenykh.


In 1921, the Paul Cézanne Art Club in the VHUTEMAS held the first solo exhibition of works by Sergei Senkin: "30 works. Paul Cézanne in VHUTEMAS, the first personal exhibition of works by Sergey Senkin: "30 works. Realism. Futurism. Suprematism and spatial Suprematism". In addition to suprematism he exhibited spatial suprematist constructions.

In 1921 Senkin left Moscow for Vitebsk where Malevich and a group of like-minded people were working. At the Vitebsk People's Art School (VNHU), they formed the union UNOVIS ("Establishment of New Art"). Senkin and Klutsis became the founders of the Moscow branch of UNOVIS. Senkin no longer painted, switching to "production art", photomontage and posters.

In June-July 1922, he took part in an exhibition entitled "A Review of New Trends in Art" at the Petrograd Museum of Artistic Culture.

From 1923 to 1925, Senkin was a member of the Left Front of the Arts, calling for the creation of an experimental propaganda studio, The Workshop of the Revolution. He collaborated with Alexander Rodchenko, Varvara Stepanova and others in the LEF. He moved increasingly away from Suprematism to Constructivism in his oeuvre. Beginning in the late 1920s, Senkin created a series of photo posters in the Constructivist spirit, which are considered classics of agitprop in contemporary art criticism: "Go to school, activists. Go to a cell for advice", "Only the Party can fulfil the role of an advanced fighter" (1927), "Long live our dear, invincible Red Army!" (1928), "Green the Shops of Factories and Plants!", "Under the Banner of Lenin for the Second Five-Year Plan!" (1931), "Let's Strengthen the Industrial Power of the Soviet Union!" (1932), etc. Engaged in design of exhibitions (Central Institute of Labor at the All-Union Agricultural Exhibition in 1923, the Exhibition for the Congress of the Comintern in Moscow (1924), the All-Union Printing Exhibition (1927). Together with El Lissitzky, he designed the Soviet pavilion at the International Press Exhibition in Cologne (1928) and took part in the design of the Soviet Union's pavilion at the New York World's Fair in 1939.

From the late 1930s, Senkin, along with other Soviet poster artists, abandoned the constructivist design with fonts and text blocks. The poster now represented the image, the poster slogan; experimental fonts and letters take the place of the bottom.

Senkin's work in the field of book illustration is notable. These are drawings to the fables by A. Krylov, illustrations to the books "The Song of Tanya" by N. Vladimirsky (1926), "Stormy Days" by D. Bergelson (1930), "Tales of Lenin's Death" by A.F. Grinberg (1930). Made sketches of postage and commercial stamps.

The picturesque and graphic works of the artist are in the Tretyakov Gallery, the Russian Museum (SRM), the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts (GMII) and in private collections. His drawings and posters are held in the collections of the Russian State Library, the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art (RGALI).

Sergei Senkin
Sergei Senkin


Journal of Kazimir Malevich's apprentices
Journal of Kazimir Malevich's apprentices
Sergei Senkin, 'Non Objective Composition', 1921
Sergei Senkin, 'Non Objective Composition', 1921


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Sergei Yakovlevich Senkin
Sergey Senkin


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This page was last changed on 2021-09-21.