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Object Timeline

1910

  • Work on this object began.

1930

  • Work on this object ended.

1992

  • We acquired this object.

2013

2014

2016

2019

  • You found it!

Poster, The First Day of May, ca. 1920

This is a Poster. It is dated ca. 1920 and we acquired it in 1992. Its medium is color lithograph on newsprint. It is a part of the Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design department.

With raised flags and soaring spirits, soldiers, sailors, workers, and peasants rally together in this Soviet poster by Nikolai Kogout. United, they celebrate May first, International Workers’ Day. Conceived as a labor strike for an eight-hour workday, the holiday was adopted by Soviet leaders to commemorate the struggle of proletarian workers around the world. Lenin described it as a day for them to celebrate "their solidarity in the struggle against all coercion and oppression of man by man, the struggle to free the toiling millions from hunger, poverty, and humiliation." In Kogout’s poster, this empowerment is palpable. Demonstrators shout and gesture with zeal, looking up, as if toward a bright future. New factories thrust skyward in sharp, vertical lines. These buildings jut out at odd angles, without realistic perspective or scaling. To capture the holiday’s heady optimism, Kogout abandons the mundane realism of the everyday, veering instead into abstraction. Drawing on the geometric vocabulary of the Russian avant-garde, he presents a crisp new world, nearly within reach.

This object was featured in our Object of the Day series in a post titled Between Heaven and Earth: Icons of the Revolution.

This object was catalogued by Karin Zonis. It is credited Museum purchase through gift of Mrs. John Innes Kane.

Its dimensions are

71 x 53.6 cm (27 15/16 x 21 1/8 in.)

It has the following markings

Marked in graphite, lower left: N. Koroyt [not signature]

It is inscribed

Imprinted in brown ink, upper and lower margins, publisher information

Cite this object as

Poster, The First Day of May, ca. 1920; Russia; color lithograph on newsprint; 71 x 53.6 cm (27 15/16 x 21 1/8 in.); Museum purchase through gift of Mrs. John Innes Kane; 1992-123-3

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18638827/ |title=Poster, The First Day of May, ca. 1920 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=23 March 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>