Diagram: TASS Poster Production
This graphic illustrates the typical TASS poster production process, from design to distribution.


  The TASS poster studio operated under the auspices of the TASS News Agency, which was run by Iakov Khavinson. Functioning much like a newspaper office, the studio’s first step when creating a poster was to pitch an overarching concept or theme. These themes were usually developed and assigned to artists and poets by the editorial board of the TASS studio, which at various times consisted of Director Nikolai Denisovskii, Artistic Director Pavel Sokolov-Skalia, and Literary Editors A. Kulagin and Osip Brik. Ocasionally, themes were proposed by either artists or poets.


  Once a theme was approved, the artist and poet collaborated to put together a sketch of the image and accompanying caption, which was then presented to the editorial board. To our knowledge, none of these sketches have survived. If the editorial board approved the sketch, the image and caption moved on to the next stage of production. It was at this point that the poster was assigned a TASS number.
Following approval by the editorial board, it was also necessary for a poster to be authorized by the Main Directorate for Literary and Publishing Affairs (Glavlit) under the People’s Commissariat of Education of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. This censorship process often proved time-consuming, and in order to expedite production, Nikolai Sadchikov, the head of Glavlit, appointed I. Fedorov to take sole control of this aspect of the approval process in August 1942.


  Next the artist created a full-scale design of the poster to serve as a model for the stencil cutters. Artists executed these designs in a variety of media, including oil- and water-based paints.


  The stencil cutters prepared a complete set of stencils from the full-scale model, doing their best to straddle the line between faithfulness to the artist’s design and ease of reproduction. The number of stencils cut for a single TASS Window poster ranged from twelve at the studio’s outset to as many as sixty-five, depending greatly on the style of the artist and the complexity of the design. The stencil cutter then produced a sample poster using the stencils, which was submitted to the editorial board for approval. If approved, this sample would serve as a model for the stencil painters.


  Once the complete set of stencils was created, the stencil painters set to work producing the edition. Edition sizes ranged from 60 to 1,500 posters over the course of the studio’s existence. Stencil painters proceeded systematically, using one stencil template at a time. Working together in units, they established an assembly-line method of production, painting posters in sections on individual sheets of paper to enable ease of handling and avoid wearing the stencils out.


  Once completed, all the components (including the TASS number and the various text panels) were cut to size and glued together.


  Over the course of the war, shipments of TASS Window posters were sent periodically throughout the Soviet Union through a subscription method. They were displayed in schools, community buildings, theaters, and factories, both on the streets and indoors. The Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries (VOKS) managed foreign subscriptions and shipments of TASS posters to international cultural institutions like the Art Institute of Chicago.