Explore the image on the plate identifying the different components of the design. Ask students for their interpretations of these based on their prior knowledge of aspects of the Russian Revolution. Notice the way in which the word Kapital is in disarray; notice too the use of red for the worker. Show the back of the plate and identify the two marks. Use the discussions to set up questions for further research focusing on the political situation when the plate was manufactured and when it was painted: what had happened between these dates?
The imagery on the plate focuses strongly on industry as of central importance in the creation of the communist state. Trace the history of industrialisation in Russia through the nineteenth century and compare this with other countries in Europe. What were the factors that led to a communist revolution in Russia and not in Britain?
The plate is decorated in an avant-garde style known as Russian Futurism, which was inspired by the modern and technological, and rejected traditional styles of art. Compare the other two revolutionary plates in For the classroom and identify their different styles of painting: socialist-realist and folk. Compare the two pre-revolution plates to see how different the styles are and consider what messages were being communicated by the change of style after the revolution. This enquiry could continue to see how and why the other revolutionary styles fell away and socialist-realism became dominant in the 1920s and beyond in the Stalinist period.
The history of the West over the last 250 years has been marked by three momentous revolutions: the American, the French and the Russian. Explore the causes of revolution using concepts such as aristocracy, empire, democracy, industrialisation, rights, liberty, representation. Are there any factors that are common to all three revolutions? If so, how do they find different expression in different cases?
The history of the second half of the twentieth century was dominated by the enmity between the West and communist countries such as the Soviet Union, China, Cuba and Vietnam. Many enquiries can stem from this looking at key personalities and events, the impact of this tension in Europe, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and southeast Asia, the collapse of communism in Russia and the rise of China.
Investigate the meaning of the word propaganda. Discuss the differences between attempts to influence others by the state and by individuals. Look at the images in A bigger picture to start off the discussions. How do these images convey their effect on the viewer? Consider how the success of the Tudor representation of Richard III has influenced views of him to the present day – see Object file: a portrait of Richard III (coming soon).
Research the development and use of state-sponsored propaganda in the AD 1900s from the Russian Revolution and World War I through to contemporary political advertising. How have changes in communication altered the ways in which governments and other interest groups seek to influence public opinion? Identify different areas in which propaganda and advertising has been used. Ask students to curate an exhibition presenting the best two twentieth century examples in each area. Examples of propaganda and other forms of political advertising can be found easily on the internet.
There is a cross-curricular opportunity here for working with the art department to look at other art movements of the first quarter of the AD 1900s and their attempts to break with the past. Art colleagues will have ideas about who students can use their experience of such art in their own work.