Oilfields in Kazakhstan

Makhmut Usmanovich Usmanov



Collection: Helmond Museum.

Makhmut Usmanovich Usmanov (1918–2006) was an artist living in Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia, who received many honours during the era of the USSR. A member of the USSR Union of Artists, Usmanov worked with the Socialist Realist method, and was commissioned by the Soviet regime to produce paintings of the Soviet socialist utopia. Usmanov was also amongst the first to use the subject of oil as a theme in the early 1950s. After the Second World War, Usmanov mainly worked in the so-called ‘industrial landscape’ genre, that was firstly less strictly defined within the Socialist Realist method, and was also relevant following the discovery of a gigantic oilfield in Tatarstan. By the 1950s in fact, the republic was the leading place for oil production. Oilfields in Kazakhstan reflects the ethos across the Soviet Union of labour relations, investment in national resources, and their contribution to the building of a better collective future. It depicts ‘the morning’ – literally and symbolically – of oil production in the region. Both heroic and romantic in its expression, the painting is intended to show ‘reality in its revolutionary development’. Also, compositionally speaking, the painting presents a glorious future for the exploration of the industrial field in Tatarstan – the men in the centre are positioned on the wild, ‘untouched’ land, while their eyes are directed to the left where we see explored land with a construction zone and oil pipes. Oilfields in Kazakhstan also demonstrates how the method of Socialist Realism was adopted across the different Soviet republics, and which despite its strict and obligatory conception under Soviet ideology, remained open to a diversity of methods and approaches.

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