Poster Plakat A Collection of Posters from the Soviet Union and its Satellite Nations

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Vatolina, Nina Nikolaevicha
Ватолина, Нина Николаевна
Born 1915, Kolomna, Russian Empire; died 2002, Moscow, Russia

Nina Vatolina began producing posters in late 1930s and went to become one of the leading Soviet poster artists of all time. She was a graduate of the Ogiz Technical School for Arts and of the Moscow Art Institute (class of 1942). Vatolina additionally acquired illustration skills from the master poster designer Viktor Deni. In fact, Deni considered Vatolina one of his most talented students.

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Nina Vatolina began producing posters in late 1930s and went to become one of the leading Soviet poster artists of all time. She was a graduate of the Ogiz Technical School for Arts and of the Moscow Art Institute (class of 1942). Vatolina additionally acquired illustration skills from the master poster designer Viktor Deni. In fact, Deni considered Vatolina one of his most talented students.

With hundreds of posters to her credit, perhaps it was Vatolina’s iconic wartime poster “Ne Boltai!” (Don’t Talk!), a bright yellow poster illustrated with a woman’s face, finger to her lips to warn the public not to spread information, that remains a quintessential (and mass copied) Soviet wartime image. World War II brought about the pragmatic need for women to enter the workforce and in graphic design; women became the focal point of propaganda during that period.

Nina Vatolina married Viktor Deni’s son, Nikolai Denisov, while the pair were still in college. They attended the Moscow Art Institute while it was under wartime evacuation in the city of Samarkand. Many of Vatolina’s early posters are co-signed by Nikolai Denisov as the two worked together until their graduation and because Denisov was drafted into the Army. During World War II, Vatolina remained on the home front. Deifying a national travel ban, she returned to Moscow where she began producing posters.

After the war, Vatolina routinely included women in her poster designs. She illustrated depictions of motherhood, of children playing and she designed posters that focused on schooling. Part of this drive to include children in her posters was due to the fact that the Soviet Union placed emphais on the education and rearing of children after the war. School reform was carried and in 1954, co-education was instituted while secondary education became universal. By the late 1950s, she was also designing posters for agriculture, industrialization and the development of the virgin lands of Siberia.

Nina Vatolina authored the books “We Are Posters” (1962), a guide “Walking the Tretyakov Gallery” (1976) and, “Landscapes of Moscow” (1983). In 1957 and 1968, solo exhibitions of her work were held in Moscow.

She divorced Nikolai Denisov and in 1945 married the artist Max Avadevich Birshtein. Late in life she admitted (in a 2001 interview with Moscow News) that she held no affection for her work as a poster artist believing the work simply obligatory. However, she made an exception for the posters she designed during the war. For her, painting was her true forté and her first artistic love.

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Sources & Citations

Borovsky, A., Dmitrenko, A., Loginov, A., et.al. (2007). Venera sovetskaia: k 90-letiu Velikoi Oktabrʹskoi socialisticeskoi revolucii. St. Petersburg: Palace Editions
Bonnell, V. E. (1999). Iconography of power: Soviet political posters under Lenin and Stalin. Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press.
Mercer and Middlesex Auctions, LLC., Catalog, September 2015.
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