Vladimir Tatlin ( 28 December 1885 – 31 May 1953) was a Russian and Soviet painter, architect and stage-designer. Tatlin achieved fame as the architect who designed the huge Monument to the Third International, also known as Tatlin’s Tower.This is his design for The Monument to the Third International, more commonly known as Tatlin’s Tower, which he began in 1919. With Kazimir Malevich he was one of the two most important figures in the Soviet avant-garde art movement of the 1920s, and he later became an important artist in the Constructivist movement.
Vladimir Tatlin (full name Vladimir Yevgrafovich Tatlin) was born in Kharkov, Russian Empire, now Ukraine. His father, Yevhraf Nikoforyvych Tatlin was a hereditary nobleman from Oryol, a mechanical engineer graduated from the Technological Institute in St.Petersburg and employed by the Moscow-Brest Railway in Moscow. His mother, Nadezhda Nikolaevna Tatlina (Bart), was a poet symphatizing the Narodnaya Volya revolutionary movement. After she died in 1887, his father married again and resettled to Kharkiv. His father, by whom he lived after having failed to study in Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture died in 1904, so young Vladimir had to interrupt his studies at the Kharkov Arts School and to leave for Odessa to become a merchant sea cadet. According to his own memories, sea and distant lands gave him both means of subsistence and source of inspiration; he sailed all across the Black Sea and also to Egypt.
In 1905 he starts and in 1910 successfully completes his studies at N.Selivestrov Penza Art School in Penza. During the summer vacations he travels to Moscow and St.Petersburg to participate in various art events. In 1911 he resettled to Moscow to live by his uncle and began his art career as an icon painter. He also sang in Ukrainian and was a professional musician-bandurist, and performed as such abroad.
Tatlin became familiar with the work of Pablo Picasso during a trip to Paris in 1913.
Tatlin achieved fame as the architect who designed the huge Monument to the Third International, also known as Tatlin’s Tower. Planned from 1919, the monument was to be a tall tower in iron, glass and steel which would have dwarfed the Eiffel Tower in Paris (the Monument to the Third International was a third taller at 400 meters high). Inside the iron-and-steel structure of twin spirals, the design envisaged three building blocks, 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). For financial and practical reasons, however, the tower was never built.
Tatlin was also regarded as a progenitor of Soviet post-Revolutionary Constructivist art with his pre-Revolutionary counter-reliefs, three-dimensional constructions made of wood and metal, some placed in corners (corner counter-reliefs) and others more conventionally. Tatlin conceived these sculptures in order to question the traditional ideas of art, though he did not regard himself as a Constructivist and objected to many of the movement’s ideas. Later prominent constructivists included Varvara Stepanova, Alexander Rodchenko, Manuel Rendón Seminario, Joaquín Torres García, László Moholy-Nagy, Antoine Pevsner and Naum Gabo.
Although colleagues at the beginning of their careers, Tatlin and Malevich quarrelled fiercely and publicly at the time of the 0.10 Exhibition in 1915 (long before the birth of Constructivism), also called “the last futurist exhibition”, apparently over the ‘suprematist’ works Malevich exhibited there. This led Malevich to develop his ideas further in the city of Vitebsk, where he found a school called UNOVIS (Champions of the new art).
Tatlin also dedicated himself to the study of clothes, objects and so on. At the end of his life he started to research bird flight, in order to pursue one of the great dreams of humanity: to fly.
In the year of 1930 he taught in Kiev where one of his students was Joseph Karakis.
From 1930-ties Tatlin works for the different theatres in Moscow and during the Great Patriotic War, in Gorkiy. In 1948 he was heavily criticized for his allegedly anti-communist stance and lost his job, but was not repressed.
Tatlin died in 1953 in Moscow and was buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery.