incomplet: a podcast about design history

a podcast about design history

Varvara Stepanova

    Varvara Stepanova was a leader of the constructivist movement and co-author of the constructivist manifesto. Described as “a frenzied artist,” she designed books, magazines, posters, advertisements, as well as textiles, clothing, and costumes. On top of that, she was an author and poet. Her design style and aesthetic was avant garde, modern, and often characterized by simplicity and geometric forms and patterns, but Varvara was never content with stasis. She constantly evolved her style and worked to develop new concepts and ideas. As a co-founder of the Constructivist movement, her work typifies the aesthetic and philosophies of Constructivism. While Varavara worked on many of her own projects, she also did many together with her husband, Alexander Rodchenko, another well-known Constructivist designer. Her work often gets linked to Rodchenko’s, and it’s Rodchenko who gets mentioned in histories of graphic design and credit for designs that should be attributed to Stepanova as well. At a time when women were largely still expected to be no more than wives and mothers, Stepanova was a woman who made an unmistakable mark on art and design.


    1894 – b Kovno [now Kaunas, Lithuania]
    1910-11 – Attended Kazan’ School of Art (meets Aleksandr Rodchenko)
    1913-14 – Attended Stroganov School, studied with Konstantin Yuon & Il’ya Mashkov
    1920-30 – Taught at the Vkhutemas design school
    1921 – Work included as part of the 5 x 5 = 25 exhibition
    1922 – Co-wrote the Constructivist Manifesto with Alexander Rodchenko & Aleksei Gan 
    1922 – Designed the set and costumes for The Death of Tarelkin
    1923 – Worked at the  First Textile Printing Factory designing fabrics
    1924 – Vladimir Lenin dies, marks the beginning of the end of the Soviet Avant Garde
    1925 – Costume designs for the play The Death of Tarelkin were exhibited in the Soviet Pavilion at the International Exhibition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts in Paris
    1932 – Independent artist groups are banned by Josef Stalin
    1958 – d Moscow, May 20th


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    Vkhutemas. (2004). In G. Julier, The Thames & Hudson dictionary of design since 1900 (2nd ed.). Thames & Hudson. Credo Reference: 

    Wolanksi, M. (retrieved on June 25, 2020) “The Role of Women in Soviet Russia”. Guided History: History Research guides by Boston University students. Blog.