Cultural historian who explored the use of similar art to promote differing totalitarian regimes

The art historian Igor Golomstock, who has died aged 88, is best known for his book Totalitarian Art (1990), the first serious study of the similarities between the socialist realist art of Stalinist Russia and the art of Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and Maoist China, an area of debate long considered taboo in Igor’s native country, Russia.

Igor argued that totalitarian art was not so much an artistic genre, but a cultural phenomenon with its own aesthetics and ideology, arising from the use of art as a propaganda tool of the totalitarian state. Despite the various regimes having disparate histories and cultural traditions, the artwork produced under such regimes had surprisingly similar themes – happy, hardworking families, heroic soldiers and, above all, wise and benevolent leaders – all produced in a similarly “realistic” style (though without the more unpleasant elements of reality), and often on an epic scale.

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