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Portrait of Aleksandr Rodchenko, 1933-1934
Gelatin silver print, printed later
9 ½ x 12 7/8 in. (24.1 x 32.7 cm)
Signed by Petrusov’s wife on verso


This photograph demonstrates that Petrusov had a wonderful sense of humor expressed by purely photographic means. In the period of 1933-1934, he made a series of caricature portraits of his friends (Rodchenko, Shaikhet, Shterenberg, Kudoyarov, Debabov, and Alpert). Petrusov had exceptional taste and inventiveness. On Rodchenko’s round, shaved head - a sphere (the artist’s favorite geometrical form) - Petrusov printed a portrait of the artist’s profile on a black background. The two images are blended in such a way that we feel movement within a static composition.


Caricature Portrait of Dmitry Debabov, 1934

Vintage gelatin silver print

8 5/8 x 6 7/8 in. (21.9 x 17.5 cm)

Signed in pencil in Cyrillic on verso

Title and 1936 date in Cyrillic on verso 

Petrusov constructed this caricature showing the famous photographer like a giant playfully standing on his head, the landscape’s shrubbery is smaller than the artist's head. Petrusov indicates Debabov's mastery as if he can take photographs in any position. 


Caricature Portrait of Boris Kudoyarov, 1934
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 x 6 in. (22.9 x 15.2 cm)
Title and signature in pencil in Cyrillic on verso

The vanguard photographer Georgy Petrusov demonstrates a bright sense of humor and a lively spirit of innovation through his caricatures of prominent Soviet photographers Boris Kudoyarov and Dmitry Debabov. The photographs were exhibited in the seminal 1935 exhibition “Masters of Soviet Photography,” Moscow. Petrusov constructed the Debabov caricature — in which the gigantesque artist is humorously juxtaposed against the landscape’s low shrubbery — by cutting and pasting various negatives. His method for creating the Kudoyarov caricature was more experimental. Petrusov produced the distorted bulge in Kudoyarov’s jaw by carefully bending the photographic paper while exposing the photograph. The bend in the paper is also visible along with the lighter points on the bottom of the photograph.


Caricature of Max Alpert, 1934

Gelatin silver print

8 15/16 x 3 3/4 in. (22.7 x 9.5 cm)

Title and date in pencil in Cyrillic on verso

Photographer's name and name of photographer's wife, Vera, in pencil in Cyrillic on verso


View from Maxim Gorky Airplane (the Derzhprom), Kharkov, 1930
Gelatin silver print, printed c. 1950s
Title in felt-tip pen in Cyrillic on verso
Photographer's name in pencil in Cyrillic on verso
8 1/8 x 5 1/2 in. (20.6 x 14.0 cm)

The 1930s in Russia were a time of great experimentation for photographers not only with respect to style and composition but also with respect to how and where photographs could be made. The decade saw the advent of aerial photography, with artists such as Boris Ignatovich and George Petrusov capturing the cities of Moscow and Kharkov, respectively, from the air for the very first time. In this photograph, Petrusov is flying in the Tupolev ANT-20 Maksim Gorki, at the time the largest airplane in the world; his altitude enables him to emphasize the great height of the famous Derzhprom building complex, also known as Gosprom or the House of State Industry, in Kharkov in present-day Ukraine.

The Derzhprom was an astonishing accomplishment in the 1930s — a symmetrical complex of concrete and glass towers ranging up to ten stories in height and connected by skybridges, one of which is visible at left in Petrusov’s photograph. Petrusov’s use of bright sunlight and deep shadows creates the sharp lines and strong geometric shapes that are hallmarks of Constructivism and are particularly suited to the architectural rigor and uniformity of the complex. These buildings are considered Europe’s first skyscrapers and, in their rigid and angular style, are sometimes seen as an early precursor to Brutalist architecture. Architecture writer Owen Hatherley describes the Derzhprom in The Guardian as “arguably the most interesting – and one of the least known – buildings of the ‘heroic age’ of modern architecture in the interwar years…No building in the former Soviet Union expresses so vividly the undercurrents of utopian socialism and Americanised modernism that ran through the Communist revolution’s early years.”



The Moscow Metro Issue

Design by Nikolai Troshin, Author Viktor Shklovsky, Photographs by Georgy Petrusov

View of Okhotny Ryad Metro Station, Spread detail

metro spread


The Moscow Metro Issue

Design by Nikolai Troshin, Author Viktor Shklovsky, Photographs by Georgy Petrusov

Spread detail



The Moscow Metro Issue

Design by Nikolai Troshin, Author Viktor Shklovsky, Photographs by Georgy Petrusov



Armenian Delegation at Sport Parade, Red Square, Moscow, 1935
Vintage gelatin silver print

Title, date, photographer's name in pencil on verso
18 1/2 x 12 3/8 inches (47.0 x 31.4 cm)


A trio of Armenian athletes stands before a 1935 sports parade in Moscow’s Red Square. Petrusov meticulously planned his composition, as evident in the Armenian Delegation’s impeccable geometry. The interlinked pattern created by the figures’ backs conveys the fraternity and unbreakable bond between the athletes. Petrusov also structured his photograph as a cinematic shot, creating a deep perspective: focusing on the trio in the foreground and illuminating the performance space with shadowy silhouettes of dancers in the distance. A rare vintage print, Armenian Delegation evokes the warmth and texture of distinctly early 20th-century paper — from the soft canvas of the athlete’s shoes to the rough cobblestone they stand on.



Kolkhoz Woman, 1934

Vintage gelatin silver print

9 x 6 7/8 in. (22.9 x 17.5 cm)

Signed in pencil on verso



Lunch in the Fields, 1934

Vintage gelatin silver print

Signed and dated in pen on verso


In the 1939 no. 10 Sovetskoe Foto article entitled “Master” photographers Alexander Rodchenko and Yakov Khalip praised Georgy Petrusov’s Lunch on the Fields:

This is one of the strongest works of Soviet art photography because it simultaneously reveals one aspect of the newly developing daily life on the collective farm in a documentary fashion: the joy of collective labor is depicted with enormous expressiveness. The group of collective farmers gathers for a comradely lunch as if celebrating a holiday. In the background — the lovingly worked socialist fields.


Harvest, 1935
Vintage gelatin silver print
15 1/2 x 10 1/2 in. (39.4 x 26.7 cm)


Worker and Kolkhoz Woman, Moscow, 1939
Vintage gelatin silver print
Signature of Petrusov’s wife and title in Russian on verso
11 1/2 x 9 1/8 in. (29.2 x 23.2 cm)

Worker and Kolkhoz Woman centers around Vera Mukhina's (1889-1953) eponymous statue of two figures holding a hammer and sickle that the artist created for the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris. As if in an act of defiance, Mukhina’s 80 ft tall sculpture was placed directly opposite of the Nazi German pavilion. Following the world fair, the sculpture was relocated to the VDNKh Park in Moscow.


Attack, Seelow Heights, 1945
Vintage photomontage

15 x 18 7/8 inches


In the Battle of Seelow Heights, lasting three days and resulting in roughly 45,000 casualties, Soviet forces outnumbered Nazi forces roughly 10 to 1. 


Moscow Fireworks, c. 1940s

Vintage gelatin silver print

9 1/4 x 6 3/4 in. (23.5 x 17.1 cm)

Signed by Vera, photographer's wife, in pencil in Cyrillic on verso


Fireworks over the Kremlin, 1940s

Vintage gelatin silver print

11 x 8 5/8 inches

Press Release

Nailya Alexander Gallery is pleased to present Georgy Petrusov: Selected Photographs 1930s -1940s, on view online from 8 September to 29 October 2021. 

One of the most prominent pioneers of Soviet photography, Petrusov (1903–1971) was instrumental in documenting major accomplishments in Soviet industry, architecture, sport, and culture. Our exhibition includes works representative of the artist’s striking experimental style, which was characterized by both structured compositions and fresh new perspectives. For example, in his View from Maxim Gorky Airplane (the Derzhprom), 1930, Petrusov shoots from a high point of view—unprecedented at the time—and employs a combination of bright sunlight and deep shadows to create the bold geometric shapes that are hallmarks of Constructivism. This style is also particularly suited to the architectural rigor of the concrete towers, considered Europe’s first skyscrapers. To achieve this effect, Petrusov flew in the Tupolev ANT-20 Maxim Gorky, at the time the largest airplane in the world.

Petrusov worked alongside avant-garde photographers including Aleksandr Rodchenko, Arkady Shaikhet, Max Alpert, and Dmitri Debabov, to name a few, and in the mid-1930s he created a brilliant series of caricatures of his friends, expressing humor by purely photographic means. Petrusov shows Rodchenko’s round, shaved head, montaged with the artist’s profile, in such a way that the viewer feels movement within a static composition. In another image, Debabov playfully stands on his head, with one hand supporting himself on the ground and the other holding his camera, in the act of photographing; and in still another, Petrusov distorts Boris Kudoyarov’s grinning face by bending the paper during the exposure. Some of these photographs were exhibited in the seminal 1935 exhibition "Masters of Soviet Photography" in Moscow.

Like his colleagues in the 1930s and 1940s, Petrusov was a key creator of the myth of a happy Soviet life. A festive group of farmers sits carefully arranged in circles in Lunch in the Field, 1934, and an incredible sense of height, one evocative of the work of easel-painters, is featured in The Armenian Delegation at Sport Parade, Red Square, Moscow, 1935. Using Red Square as a theatrical stage, Petrusov structured the composition as a cinematic shot, focusing on the trio of athletes in the foreground and the sunlit silhouettes of dancers in the distance.

Petrusov actively contributed to the USSR in Construction magazine (1930 -1941). In 1935, designer Nikolai Troshin and writer Viktor Shklovsky used Petrusov’s photographs for the special issue No. 8, which was dedicated to the construction of the Moscow Metro. Petrusov used an arsenal of visual tools, from deep diagonal and vertical perspectives to highlight the vastness and grandiose scale of station interiors, to Expressionist and Pictorialist techniques, in order to convey the monumental architectural forms of these new structures.

During World War II, Petrusov served as a war photographer for Izvestia and for the Soviet Information Bureau. In the magnificent and surreal photograph Attack, Seelow Heights, 1945, he employs the technique of photomontage to accentuate the dark silhouettes of running soldiers and a dramatic sky illuminated by projectors. 

Petrusov died in Moscow in 1971. Acclaimed both during his lifetime and after his death, his photographs have been shown in dozens of exhibitions around the world. In 2010, the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow, organized "Georgy Petrusov. Retrospective: Point of View," the artist's first major retrospective. Most recently, Petrusov's photographs were exhibited in "The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film" at the Jewish Museum (15 September 2015–7 February 2016); and "Revolutsiia! Demonstratsiia! Soviet Art Put to the Test" at the Art Institute of Chicago (27 October 2017–15 January 2018).