The most challenging aspect of preparing for this summer's exhibition Windows on the War: Soviet TASS Posters at Home and Abroad 1941-45has been dealing with the size of the artworks. These wartime posters were meant to catch public attention though incredible color, biting imagery and, of course, traffic-stopping scale. We're lucky that the ceilings in the museum's Regenstein Hall are fifteen feet high—because our largest posters are nearly eleven feet tall!
Our second largest poster dates from late 1943, and in a typically Socialist Realist style, depicts the revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin inspiring the wartime citizens of Leningrad. . . we've nicknamed him “Big Lenin.” “Big Lenin” was a particular challenge to our staff in the Department of Prints & Drawings. He is composed of sixteen sheets of paper, individually stenciled and pieced together to form one monumental composition. When he first arrived on loan from the Ne boltai! Collection, no table surface in the department was large enough to unroll him—then to later conserve him, press him flat, and prepare him for framing—except for the tables in our Study Room (and even that was a close call). He's so grand that he took up four TASS numbers: 880-883. With Lenin, we've joked that, come July, we won't need banners for the facade of the museum – we'll just hang him up out front! It even took five staff members to wrestle him into a photograph for our catalogue. Our photographer said that we set a record for the largest work on paper photographed in-house that he can remember.
At long last, Lenin has finally been laid to rest in the plexiglass frame that he will be exhibited in come July - but carrying that frame into our department required four strong movers. The next hurdle will be moving him—and the others that are nearly his size—from the Department of Prints & Drawings into the exhibition space in Regenstein Hall for the opening in July. And that will no doubt take a lot of patience, strength, coordination, and skill. The heroes of labor for this show are not the Soviet Leningrad citizens of the 1940s, but our very own P&D conservation and preparation staff!
To learn about the overall biggest poster in our summer exhibition, stay tuned for my next post!
—Jill B., Research Associate, Department of Prints and Drawings