"For the Voice" – Volume of Poetry by Vladimir Mayakovsky, Designed by El Lissitzky – Berlin, 1923
Sold for: $1,600
Auction house commission: 23%
VAT: On commission only
Для голоса [For the Voice], by Vladimir Mayakovsky. Berlin: Lutze & Vogt for the State Publishing House (Государственное издательство), 1923. Russian. Design: El Lissitzky.
The book "For the Voice", the fruit of collaboration between poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and artist El Lissitzky, is a superb example of Constructivist book design and one of Lissitzky's most famous works.
The book contains thirteen poems by Mayakovsky, including the poems "Love", "Left March", and "The Third International", alongside dynamic compositions in red and black, created by Lissitzky using typography and geometrical forms. The compositions give the poems a visual dimension and faithfully reflect their nature, thus reflecting Lissitzky's belief that books should harmonize form and content. Furthermore, since Mayakovsky's poetry was meant for recitation (as indicating by the title "For the Voice"), Lissitsky's added a unique design element to the book – index tabs enabling the reader to easily locate each poem.
61 pp, 18 cm. Soft leather binding, without the original cover designed by Lissitzky. Good-fair condition. Stains (mostly to tabs). Tears and minor blemishes. Previous owner's signature on front flyleaf. Impression on the front binding – "D.J.". Abrasions and minor blemishes to binding.
El (Eliezer Lazar Markovich) Lissitzky (1890-1941), a Jewish-Russian artist, designer, photographer, teacher, typographer and architect, one of the most prominent and important members of the Russian avant-garde.
Lissitzky, an architect by training, contributed much, together with his teacher and friend Kazimir Malevich (see items 255-257), to the conceptualization and development of the Suprematism movement – the abstract art focused on geometric forms. He also designed numerous books and journals, exhibitions, and propaganda posters for the communist regime in Russia and influenced the Bauhaus and Constructivist movements in Europe. In his early days, Lissitzky showed much interest in the Jewish culture and many of his works integrated Jewish motifs (during the years 1915-1916, he took part in the ethnographic expedition headed by S. An-sky to various Jewish settlements). Wanting to promote Jewish culture in Russia after the revolution, he became engaged in designing and illustrating Yiddish children's books, creating several children's books which are considered pioneering masterpieces due to their graphics and typography (see for example, the series of children's book he illustrated in 1919, items 234-236, as well as additional children's books he illustrated, items 237, 241). However, several years later, he abandoned the Jewish motifs in favor of developing a more abstract and universal artistic language.
In 1921, Lissitzky moved to Germany, where he served as the Russian cultural ambassador, engaged in forming connections between Russian and German artists and continued to design books and journals; there he also created some of his most well-known works in the field of book design, including the issues of the journal "Veshch/Gegenstand/Objet", which he founded together with the writer Ilya Ehrenburh (see item 244 and item 249) and a volume of poetry by Vladimir Mayakovsky (see item 245 and item 250).
Lissitzky, who perceived books as immortal artifacts, "monuments of the future" by his definition, used the medium as a tool for spreading the messages of avant-garde and his artistic perception, as indicated by the variety of books in whose design, production or illustration he took part – beginning with children's books and books of poetry (see items 242 and 243) and ending with catalogs, guidebooks and research books (see items 246 and 248).
Lissitzky died in Moscow at the age of 51. In his final years, his artistic work was dedicated mainly to soviet propaganda; yet it seems that the same worldview accompanied his works throughout his life – the belief in goal-oriented creation (Zielbewußte Schaffen, the German term he coined) and the power of art to influence and bring about change.