Russian painter, graphic artist, sculptor and designer of Ukrainian birth. He studied painting at the School of Art in Odessa (1901–7) under Kiriak Kostandi (1852–1921), at the same time attending classes in sculpture. In 1908–9 he made a series of pointillist paintings. He visited Vienna and Munich in 1910 before going to Paris, where he worked at Vasil’yeva’s Free Russian Academy until 1912, producing paintings on Jewish themes and studying Cubism. In 1912 he went to St Petersburg, where he painted a number of Cubist portraits, for example of the poet Anna Akhmatova (1914; St Petersburg, Rus. Mus.). His Cubist work makes much use of faceting and transparent planes. From 1918 to 1921 he taught at the Department of Visual Arts (IZO) of Narkompros in Petrograd, but he was criticized for his attempts to identify Futurism with the art of the proletariat. Al’tman became well known as the designer of post-Revolutionary mass parades and monuments, for example the celebration of the first anniversary of the Revolution on 7 Nov 1918 on Uritskaya (now Dvortsovaya) Square, which employed abstract geometric forms on huge panels (copies, 1957, in St Petersburg, Mus. Hist. St Petersburg). He also published an album of sketches of Lenin in the Kremlin (Lenin, Petrograd, 1920).
Al’tman’s drawings combine elements of Cubo-Futurism and Suprematism, while his paintings bring together elements of abstraction, poster and panel design, often including words (e.g. Petrokommuna, 1919–21; St Petersburg, Rus. Mus.). He also executed a number of reliefs and abstract constructions, experimenting with combinations of different materials. In 1921–2 he was involved in Jewish artistic life in Moscow, designing sets for the Jewish Kamerny Theatre and exhibiting at the Jewish Cultural League with Marc Chagall and David Shterenberg. He lived in Berlin in 1922–4 and took part in the Erste Russische Ausstellung. Between 1925 and 1927 he was again in Moscow, designing for the Jewish Kamerny Theatre and the cinema and painting lyrical landscapes and portraits. In 1928 he went to Paris, returning in 1935 to live in Leningrad, where he illustrated books (e.g. Maksim Gor’ky’s Peterburgskïye povesti, ‘Petersburg stories’, 1937) and continued designing for the cinema and theatre (e.g. Hamlet, Pushkin Theatre, 1954).
From Grove Art Online
© 2009 Oxford University Press