In 1960, American art collector Eric Estorick travelled to the Soviet Union and bought hundreds of works by artists from St Petersburg, then known as Leningrad. The following year, he exhibited the pieces at the Grosvenor Gallery in London, one of the rare, handful of times since the Russian Revolution of 1917 that Soviet art had been shown at an exhibition in the West.
Estorick Collection has now put on a new show, displaying the sketches and paintings of 15 of those artists, grouped together for the first time in the UK since 1961. Most of the works are from the Thaw, a period between the early 1950s and 60s following Joseph Stalin’s death, when Soviet censorship loosened and allowed for a greater level of artistic expression. The paintings reveal a glimpse of Soviet life beyond the state propaganda produced at the time, from sketches of petrol stations to depictions of stolen horses and the St Petersburg underground.