Born in Moscow in 1905, Nikolai Sedelnikov was a Russian illustrator, graphic designer, and photocollage artist active during the first half of the 20th century.
Sedelnikov began his art training in the years following the Russian Revolution at the School for Technical Drawing and Lithography, Moscow. Sedelnikov was influenced from an early age by Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematist style, enlivening his photocollages and designs with bold use of color and striking geometric form. In 1924, Sedelnikov enrolled at the Higher State Artistic and Technical Studios (VKhUTEMAS), popularly referred to as the Bauhaus of Russia. Under the instruction of such figures as Vladimir Tatlin, El Lissitzky, and Aleksandr Rodchenko, the school taught color theory, art history, and studio art, encouraging their students to translate their artistic abilities for the service of the Bolshevik project.
Upon completing his studies at VKhUTEMAS, Sedelnikov began an earnest career in graphic design and printmaking, innovating the fields with new typographic fonts and experimental handling of space and color. His influence extended beyond the field of graphic design; in 1928, Sedelnikov became one of the founding members of the October Union of Artists, widely recognized as the most influential avant-garde art union of its time in the Soviet Union. Other members included El Lissitzky, Alexander Rodchenko, Sergei Eisenstein, Solomon Telingater, Gustav Klutsis, and Diego Rivera among others. In the same year, he exhibited at Pressa in Cologne, where he was awarded a gold medal for his work.
One of the most important commissions for Sedelnikov, together with Telingater and Rerberg, was the design of the USSR Constitution for the 1937 World Exhibition in Paris. The design earned him the Grand Prix in Paris and a Gold Medal at the World Exhibition in New York in 1939. Following World War II, from 1952-1980, Sedelnikov taught at the Polygraphic Institute in Moscow. He also became a member of the Union of Artists, continuing his work in photomontage and design through the 1960s.
Sedelnikov’s artworks have been exhibited internationally, including at the 1992 exhibition The Great Utopia at the Guggenheim Museum, and Die Russische Avantgarde 1915-1932, at the Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt. He died in 1994 in Moscow.
Sedelnikov's work is featured prominently in the exhibition Engineer, Agitator, Constructor: The Artist Reinvented at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. This exhibition celebrates the recent addition of hundreds of works from the Merrill C. Berman Collection to MoMA's holdings, in particular works on paper by Soviet and European artists who were reimaging the artist's role in the interwar period. The exhibition is accompanied by the book Engineer, Agitator, Constructor: The Artist Reinvented, 1918–1939—The Merrill C. Berman Collection at MoMA by Jodi Hauptman and Adrian Sudhalter (MoMA, 2020).