Joseph Efimovsky. Master of The Militant Pencil
25 July 2019 — 23 September 2019
  • Joseph Efimovsky. Master of The Militant Pencil

Erarta Museum presented an exhibition by Joseph Efimovsky whose caricatures convey a Soviet artist’s preoccupation with the moral code of the builders of Communism


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.’

about the artist

Joseph Efimovsky was born in Leningrad in 1930.

After graduating from the N. Samokish Art School in Simferopol, the artist went on to earn a degree from the Graphic Arts Department of the Moscow Polygraphic Institute in 1960.

In addition to being employed as the Artist Editor at Lenizdat publishing house, Efimovsky designed and illustrated books commissioned by other Leningrad-based publishers.

From 1963 to 1990 Joseph Efimovsky was a member of The Militant Pencil artist and poet association.

He is currently a member of the Union of Artists and the Union of Journalists of Russia.

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