The first rector of VKHUTEMAS. 1920-1923

Yefim Ravdel was born into a bourgeois family. In 1914 he was a free-listener of the sculptural department of Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, from 1915 – on military service. In 1918 – artist-decorator of the Penza Theater of the Council of Workers, Soldiers and Peasants’ Deputies “Prosveshchenie” (Enlightenment), designed ten performances: “Kashirskaya side”, “Without a Dowry”, etc. In April 1918, he became head of the Arts Department of Penza City Council, in this position he began to work actively. During the implementation of the plan of monumental propaganda for the centenary of the main ideologist of socialism, Karl Marx, Ravdel created a six-meter figure of Marx made of painted clay and plaster, which was presented in the Cathedral Square of Penza on May 1, 1918. The statue was removed on the night of May 7: it was the first temporary monument of Soviet Russia. The appearance of such a monument caused a wide public and political resonance.

Since July 1918 – Commissioner of the Department of Fine Arts of the People’s Commissariat of Education to reform the Penza Art School  into Penza Free State Art Studios. To organize the celebration of the anniversary of the October Revolution, he developed a scenario of festivities and a design of city decorations, laid a new monument to Marx and arranged a carnival procession through the streets.

In 1919 he created and headed the Provincial Department for Museums and Protection of Monuments of Art and Antiquities. By agreement with the museum commission People’s Commissariat of Education formed an exhibition of 79 works of avant-garde artists to be exhibited in Yekaterinburg, Vyatka, Penza, Ufa, Zlatoust and Perm in order to support the reform of creative education in these cities.

In addition, during 1918-1919 he held a number of short-term organizational and artistic events: public lectures and open debates on literature and art, city art exhibitions, the creation of the “People’s Studio of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture”, where Ravdel taught molding and drawing. He tried his hand at being a magazine illustrator. At the 1st State Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture in Penza (1919) he presented “Portrait of Baranov” and “Sketch Figure for Portrait”.

In July 1920, as an authorized officer of the Department of Fine Arts of the People’s Commissariat of Education he took part in the conference of tutors and students in Moscow, where he was invited to take over the task of the organizational association of the Free State Art Studios of Moscow in the new “special higher art and industrial educational institution” VKHUTEMAS. He participated in the development of the regulation on VKHUTEMAS and became its first rector from July 10, 1920 to March 1923. Authoritatively introduced the so-called methods of industrial training ( training in the process of execution of a specific art order), more typical of industrial-applied, artistic and technical specialties. Having taken a firm position in relation to the previously established methods of training in workshops (especially at the faculties of painting and sculpture), in every possible way supported all the innovative methods of teaching, which formed the famous school VKHUTEMAS.

Most likely, the overwhelming administrative and public work did not allow him to devote time to creativity. The cubistic plaster “The Figure of the Architect”, attributed as a portrait of D.P.Buryshkin, has been preserved. There is information about his participation in the production of “Mystery-Bouffe” by Mayakovsky in June 1921 in the role of the artist-decorator.

After his resignation in the spring of 1923, he went abroad. There is no information about his future life and activities.

(Based on D. Dimakov’s article Efim Ravdel // Encyclopedia of Russian avant-garde Fine art Architecture, volume II Biography L-Ya. P.287)