Postdoctoral Research Scholar
Maria Ratanova completed her Ph.D. in Slavic Literature at Harvard University in May 2016. She specializes in the history of the Russian avant-garde.
Her dissertation is titled “The Soviet Political Photomontage of the 1920s: The Case of Gustav Klucis.” In this project she explores the origins of this particular trend of the Soviet Constructivism, its modernist message and political underpinnings, as well as its complex interrelationships with avant-garde tendencies in poetry, theater, and film in the 1920s.
She argues that Soviet political photomontage, often perceived as an aesthetic compromise to meet the needs of a mass audience, was in fact an iconoclastic and provocative genre—the result of the Constructivists’ search for an analytical art form to interpret modern political reality. She believes that Soviet political photomontage, born around the time of Lenin’s death in 1924, was a response both to the tyranny of the emerging Lenin cult and the grip of the realist painting tradition employed by artists in the 1920s and 1930s to support and promote the cult of the communist leader. She focuses in particular on the work of Gustav Klucis, a Latvian artist, who became a pioneer of Soviet political photomontage. As a postdoctoral scholar at the Harriman Institute, Maria Ratanova will expand her research into the 1930s, and turn her dissertation into a monograph.
During her time at Harvard Ratanova taught courses on art and politics in Russia and Eastern Europe, the 20th-century post-realist novel in Eastern Europe, and the Western art tradition since the Renaissance.
Maria Ratanova is also a dance critic and historian. Her research has appeared in the anthologies: Modernism in Kyiv: Jubilant Experimentation (Toronto, 2010), Avant-Garde and Theater of the 1910s-1920s (Avangard i teatr 1910-1920kh godov, Moscow, 2008), Russian Arts and Culture Abroad: 1917-1939 (Khudozhestvennaya kul’tura russkogo zarubezhia: 1917-1939, Moscow, 2008), as well as other publications.