On June 23, 1941, three artists—Mikhail Cheremnykh, Nikolai Denisovskii, and Pavel Sokolov-Skalia—arranged to meet with Aleksandr Gerasimov, head of the Organizing Committee of the Union of Soviet Artists. Gerasimov approved their proposal to create a new propaganda studio in Moscow based on the ROSTA model of stenciling posters. He requisitioned for them exhibition halls and the equipment necessary to operate their facility and instructed Iakov Khavinson, executive director of the TASS News Agency, to incorporate the fledgling studio into his organization. Khavinson gave the new propaganda workshop its official title, “Editorial Office—Studio for the production of TASS window military-defense posters.”

Initially, the studio drew its subjects either from party directives, orders, and news bulletins issued by the Soviet High Command, or from official reports distributed by the Sovinformbiuro. By July 1941, TASS artists began to design posters based on Stalin’s speeches. Subsequently, topics were proposed by artists and writers and submitted to the editorial board for approval. The final designs—essentially painted maquettes—were then forwarded to the stenciling department for translation into stencils of the captions and various colors that would comprise the accompanying pictures.

During the first few months of the war, TASS artists were firmly committed to the ROSTA legacy, especially its graphic homogeneity, flat forms, and limited palette. After October 1941, however, the studio began to issue more visually complex posters with an expanded chromatic range, more nuanced modeling, developed figural compositions, and rich surface textures. During the five years it remained in operation (1941–46), the TASS studio expanded its roster of employees from about a dozen to three hundred designers, writers, cutters, painters, gluers, editors, and distributors.

Pavel Petrovich Sokolov-Skalia. Defenders of Moscow, July 28, 1941. Joslyn Art Museum, 0100.

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