Valentin Yustitsky always had a healthy appetite for the risqué and satirical, an appetite which was well-served by his imaginative ink-and-watercolour style of rapid sketching. In a few well-chosen lines he was able to represent an enormous range of scenes, his clear favourites including semi-naked women and energetic men on energetic horses. The sketches shown here come from the Morozov Collection near Saratov, and were made mostly in the mid-1930s while Yustitsky was teaching at the Saratov Free State Art Workshops or shortly after his move to Moscow.
The first drawing, made in early 1937, illustrates a poem by Vladimir Mayakovsky titled ‘The Red Flag’:
fingers of the world pressing on the throat of the proletariat!
Chests forward, bravehearts!
Paste the sky with flags!
Who is walking there?
Several of these drawings could easily be interpreted as critical of the Soviet regime, which no doubt contributed to his arrest and incarceration.