Joseph Efimovsky, the recognized master of The Militant Pencil, has turned 89 in April 2019. He got his unusual name from François Joseph Lefebvre, one of the key figures in the French Revolution. While still a student, the artist began receiving illustration commissions from various publishing houses. In 1963, he joined The Militant Pencil, an association of artists founded in Leningrad in 1939.
Following the breakout of WWII, this now-legendary creative unit started circulating awareness-raising and satirical posters and illustrated news bulletins designed to boost the morale of troops and civilian population of the besieged Leningrad. During the Cold War, the same artists condemned the ‘warmongering imperialist sharks,’ called to a battle for harvests and production quality, and glorified the exploits of the working class. Quite naturally, it was not the artists themselves who chose their laughing stock: the guiding and directing role of the communist party was all-important.
Prints of Joseph Efimovsky’s satirical drawings reached an impressively wide audience all across the former Soviet Union. The exhibition at Erata Museum showcases the artist’s original drawings from the 1970s–1990s, reflecting the everyday life of our nation in the time of the so-called ‘developed socialism’, as well as the drastic changes triggered by Perestroika. Over his years with The Militant Pencil, Efimovsky remained a devotee of genre art: his satirical drawings are ripe with daily scenes, probing the morals of the builders of Communism and expressing the party’s incessant concern about the next generation.
Efimovsky’s works convey the inimitable feel of their time thoroughly influenced by the Soviet propaganda machine. Understandably, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dawn of the digital era have radically reshaped our daily lives, but the timeless issues that the artist addresses continue to be of major concern to society. It is certainly intriguing to look at them through the eyes of the artist who was inspired by the urgent agenda and genuinely cared about the ideological conditioning of all working people under the unifying guidance of Marxism-Leninism. The last but definitely not least thing to mention is Joseph Efimovsky’s superior draughtsmanship — after all, his impressively masterful drawings bear the invisible quality mark of being ‘Made in the USSR.’