Vladimir Tatlin

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Tatlin in front of the model of the Monument to the Third International, Petrograd, 1920. Photo by Nikolay Punin.
Born December 28, 1885(1885-12-28)
Moscow, Russian Empire
Died May 31, 1953(1953-05-31) (aged 67)
Moscow, Soviet Union
Collections Tretyakov, Costakis, MoMA, CCA, RGALI
Tatlin with his assistant in front of the model on exhibition in Petrograd, Nov 1920. Reproduced in Punin, Tatlin: (protiv kubizma), 1921. Wolfsonian.
First International Dada Fair, Otto Burchard Gallery, Berlin, 1920: "Art is Dead - Long live Tatlin’s New Machine Art".

Vladimir Yevgraphovich Tatlin (Владимир Евграфович Татлин) was a Soviet painter, architect and stage-designer. Tatlin achieved fame as the architect who designed The Monument to the Third International, more commonly known as Tatlin's Tower, which he began in 1919.

Life and work[edit]

Born 1885 in Moscow, Russian Empire, to a railway engineer and a poet. Spent his childhood in Kharkiv, Ukraine. He ran away from home and joined the Merchant Marine, worked as a merchant sea cadet; continued to go to sea intermittently until 1914-15. Spent some time abroad.

Began his art career as an icon painter in Moscow, and ultimately entered the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture; studied under the academic painters K. A. Korovin and V. A. Serov. Also a professional musician-bandurist, and 1906 performed at the Paris World Fair. By 1908 he was a friend of Mikhail Larionov, the Burliuk brothers, the Vesnin brothers, as well as with the painter Lebedev and the sculptor Lebedeva, who would remain lifelong friends. 1909-10 he began exhibiting fairly regularly in the principal avant-garde exhibitions in Odessa, Moscow, and Petrograd; with the League of Youth in 1911, The Donkey's Tail in 1912, joined the Jack of Diamonds in 1912, showed at the League of Youth and World of Art exhibitions in 1913, the Tramway V and 0.10 in 1915, solo exhibition The Shop in 1916; knew most of the significant artists of the period. 1911 his first stage designs, for Czar Maximillian and His Unruly Son Adolf in Moscow. 1915 public conflict with Malevich over his suprematist works shown at the time of the 0.10 exhibition, also called "the last futurist exhibition", what leads Malevich to develop his ideas further in the city of Vitebsk. Spring-Summer 1913 traveled briefly to Berlin as a bandore player, and subsequently to Paris, where he visited Picasso in his studio, returned to Russia and began producing Relief Constructions (1913-17), a series of sculptures made from wood, iron and an assortment of junk and other "found" materials for hanging in wall corners. 1917, together with Rodchenko, he worked under George Yakulov on the interior decoration of Moscow's Cafe Pittoresque[1].

Tatlin's constructions culminated in a commissioned extraordinary model for the Monument to the Third International (an unfinished wooden prototype), exhibited in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) in November 1920 and in Moscow in December 1920, and which quickly became a symbol of the Constructivists. The monument was conceived as a working building, an enormous skeletal apparatus a third higher than the Eiffel Tower at 1,300 feet high. Inside the iron-and-steel structure of twin spirals, the design envisaged three building blocks intended to house the executive, administrative and propaganda offices of the Comintern, covered with glass windows, which would rotate at different speeds (the first one, a cube, once a year; the second one, a pyramid, once a month; the third one, a cylinder, once a day). Resembling a huge functioning machine made of iron beams and glass, the tower demonstrated the power of the machine aesthetic as a symbol of revolutionary objectives. Tatlin declared that he was restoring the essential unity of painting, sculpture and architecture, "combining purely artistic forms with utilitarian intentions.. The fruits of this are models which give rise to discoveries serving the creation of a new world and which call upon producers to control the forms of the new everyday life" (Bann, p 14). High prices prevented the execution of the model.

From 1918 involved with pedagogy, in mid-1919[2] moved from Moscow to Petrograd to teach at the State Free Art Studios where he was in charge of the studios of 'Volume, Material, and Construction' (1919-24), 'Culture of Materials' (1921-25), and wood- and metalworking and ceramics (1927-30). Continued to work on stage decors until his death.

His glider Letatlin was assembled in 1930-32 in the tower of the Novodevichy Monastery in Moscow with students from the Vkhutein.

Tatlin made stringed musical instruments throughout his lifetime. Towards the end of his life he started to research bird flight. Died 1953.

Tatlin's Tower was reconstructed on many occasions: in Sweden (1968), United Kingdom (1971, 2011), Russia (by T. Shapiro, 1975, 1980; by D. Dimakov, N. Debrin, I. Fedotov and E. Lapshina, 1986-91), France (1979), and the United States (1980, 1983).




Monument to the Third International[edit]



  • Tatlin, ed. Larisza Zsadova, trans. Benyó Mariann, et al., Budapest: Corvina, 1980, 533 pp. (Hungarian)
    • Tatlin, ed. Larissa Shadowa, trans. Hannelore Schmör-Weichenhain, Dresden: Verlag der Kunst/Weingarten: Kunstverlag Weingarten, 1984, 569 pp; repr., 1987. TOC. (German)
    • Tatlin, ed. Larissa Zhadova, trans. Paul Filotas, et al., New York: Rizzoli, 1988, 533 pp. Review: Roman (SEEJ). (English)


  • Vystavka rabot zasluzhennogo deiatelia iskusstv V. E Tatlina, Moscow and Leningrad: Ogiz-Izogis, 1932. Excerpt. (Russian)
  • Vladimir Tatlin, ed. Troels Andersen, Stockholm: Moderna museet, 1968, 92 pp. Catalogue. (English)/(Swedish)
  • Andrei B. Nakov, Tatlin's Dream: Russian Suprematist and Constructivist Art, 1910-1923, London: Fischer Fine Art, 1974. Catalogue. (English)
  • V. E. Tatlin: katalog vystavki proizvedenii, Moscow: Sovetskaia khudozhnikov, 1977, 68 pp. Catalogue. (Russian)
  • Construction: Tatlin and After, ed. Lutz Becker, Thessaloniki: State Museum of Contemporary Art, Costakis Collection, 2001. (English)
  • Von Kandinsky bis Tatlin: Konstruktivismus in Europa/From Kandinsky to Tatlin: Constructivism in Europe, Schwerin: Staatliches Museum; and Bonn: Kunstmuseum, 2006. (German)/(English)
  • Beskonechnaya Tatlin chasha velikogo..., Moscow: Tretyakov Gallery and Sepherot Foundation, 2011, 12 pp. Exhibition. (Russian)
  • Tatlin: neue Kunst fur eine neue Welt / Tatlin novoe iskusstvo dlya noogo mira / Tatlin: New Art for a New World, ed. Museum Tinguely/Basel, Hatje Cantz, 2013, 318 pp. TOC, [1]. [Exhibition. (German),(Russian),(English)


Nikolay Punin, Pamyatnik III internatsionala. Proyekt khud. E. Tatlina, 1920, PDF.

Monographs and pamphlets[edit]

  • Nikolay Punin, Pamyatnik III internatsionala. Proyekt khud. E. Tatlina [Памятник III интернационала. Проект худ. Е. Татлина], St. Petersburg [Петроград]: Otdel IZO Narkompros [Отд. изобразительных искусств Н.К.П; Department of Visual Arts of Narkompros], 1920, [8] pp (28.1 x 22 cm), JPGs, DOC, bib. Punin's notes (1920). (Russian)
    • "Tatlin's Tower", trans. John Bowlt, in The Tradition of Constructivism, ed. Stephen Bann, New York: Viking Press, 1974, pp 14-17. (English)
    • "Das Denkmal der III. Internationale", trans., in Tatlin, ed. Larissa Shadowa, Dresden: Verlag der Kunst/Weingarten: Kunstverlag Weingarten, 1984, pp 411-415. (German)
    • "The Monument to the Third International", trans. in Tatlin, ed. Larissa Zhadova, New York: Rizzoli, 1988, pp 344-347. (English)
    • "The Monument to the Third International", trans. Christina Lodder, in Art in Theory, 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, eds. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood, 1992, pp 311-315. Trans. made in 1983 for the Open University. (English)
  • Nikolay Punin, Tatlin: Protiv kubizma [Татлин: Против кубизма], St. Petersburg: Gos. izd-vo, 1921, 25 pp. (Russian)
  • Guy Davenport, Tatlin! Six Stories, New York: Scribner, 1974, vii+261 pp. Fiction. (English)
    • Tatlin! [Татлин!], trans. Maxim Nemtsov. (Russian)
  • John Milner, Vladimir Tatlin and the Russian Avant-Garde, Yale University Press, 1983, 252 pp. Reviews: Mudrak (Art Bull), Bowlt (NYRB). (English)
  • Anatoly Strigalev, Jürgen Harten (eds.), Vladimir Tatlin. Leben, Werk, Wirkung. Eine internationales Symposium, Cologne: DuMont, 1993, 416 pp. On the occasion of an exhibition at Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Sep-Nov 1993, and elsewhere. (German),(Russian)
  • V. Rakitin (В. Ракитин), A. Sarabyanov (А. Сарабьянов) (eds.), N. Punin o Tatline [Н. Пунин о Татлине], Moscow: RA, 2001. (Russian)
  • Norbert Lynton, Tatlin's Tower: Monument to Revolution, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009, 277 pp. Review: Bury (Art Book). (English)
  • Klaus Bollinger, Florian Medicus, Unbuildable Tatlin?!, De Gruyter, 2012, 141 pp. [2] (German)
  • Steven Lee, The Ethnic Avant-Garde: Minority Cultures and World Revolution, Columbia University Press, 2015, 304 pp, EPUB. [3] (English)

Book chapters, papers and articles[edit]

  • Nikolay Punin, "O pamiatnikakh" [О памятниках], Iskusstvo kommuny [Искусство коммуны] 14, 9 Mar 1919, pp 2-3. Excerpt. (Russian)
    • patrial trans. in Andersen, Vladimir Tatlin, pp 56-57. (English)
  • A. Abramova (А. Абрамова), "Tatlin" [Татлин], Декоративное искусство СССР 2, 1966, pp 5-7. (Russian)
  • Nikolai Khardzhiev, "Maiakovskii i Tatlin. K 90-letiiu so dnia rozhdeniia khudozhnika" [Маяковский и Татлин. К 90-летию со дня рождения художника], Neue russische Literatur. Almanach, Salzburg, 1978. (Russian)


Documentary films[edit]


See also[edit]