Commentary

The bond between horse and cavalryman stands at the heart of this composition. Whatever danger they may face, together man and horse are strong. The Russian word for cavalry has the root word for horse - kon´ (конь) - at its heart. Konnitsa in the title is cavalry, a konnik is a horseman. It is an ancient word and is also used for the knight in chess. It brings a romantic and chivalrous sense, visually caught in this modern cavalryman flourishing his sword.

This image is enhanced in the verse. It describes the cavalry storming across the plains of southern Russia. Still fighting with immense courage they are carrying out their ‘sacred’ task to return Russia to the Russians. The images of war still lurking in the background suggest that the fight is not yet completely won.

Facts

TASS window
1209
Title
The Cavalry at War
Created
26 April 1945
Artist
A.A. Przhetslavskii
Writer
R.A. Serapionov
Original dimensions
124cm x 59cm
Collection number
MS 281/1/105

War Context

Created in April 1945, the poster celebrates in heroic fashion the Russian cavalry in pursuit of the enemy. The enemy was in retreat at this point and Russia was using her mounted forces to consolidate victory in previously-occupied territory. Battles were still being fought, as is indicated in the background. However, just days after this poster was made, Hitler committed suicide in Berlin.

Artistic Roots

The nineteenth-century tradition of military painting as well as draftsmanship both play their role in this conventional picture. Its effectiveness is in evoking admiration at the skill and bravery of horse and rider. The artist has gone for a realistic portrayal but also caught the heroic aspect of his subject. The image captures the rider and horse in their entirety, and places them centrally in the frame. It is a comforting image as the Russians approach victory, promising perhaps a return to things as they were before the war.

Artist

A strong example from Przhetslavakii of his skill in drawing, composition and use of subtle colour. He creates a traditional horse in striking motion, which dominates the poster. Behind the horse, the sketched-in details of war, flames and a couple of tanks do not intrude, but remind of the work still being done by the cavalry in the Russian forces.

The sabre held high mirrors and extends the movement of the horse, adding to the dynamism of the picture. The use of colour is gentle: lavender suggests a sentimental approach, perhaps now permissibly glorifying the subject as Russia is poised on the brink of victory.

Writer

Serapionov’s lines emphasise the speed and constant movement of the cavalry man and horse, as they carry out the business of war. They are also a force to be reckoned with. In the English, words like ‘race’ and ‘chase’ are matched to ‘hurricane’, ‘avalanche’ and ‘thunderous’. Another thread suggests the brave dedication of the cavalry: ‘unstinting’, ‘courage’, ‘manly grace’ and ‘sacred vision’.