Sergei Eisenstein: Drawings

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Private collection. Courtesy Alexander Gray Associates, New York and Matthew Stephenson, London.

In childhood, and from Mexico until the end of his life, drawing was almost a daily practice for Eisenstein, and it served many functions. Some were what we would think of as production design, especially for Ivan the Terrible. But drawing also provided recreation during long periods of enforced inactivity, and it could entertain and even instruct his filmmaking collaborators, especially during the isolation of shooting Ivan in Alma Ata. It could serve as analysis, when he was working on the essay on Disney, trying to understand ‘plasmaticness’ in Disney’s animals, and the peculiar power of the closed-line drawing. And, most intimately, it provided him with a technique of self-analysis. As Joan Neuberger has noted, Eisenstein was fascinated by duality. If there is a theme running through his many kinds of ‘free’ drawing, it is surely the refusal to accept binaries, stereotypes, taboos, and his ecstatic embrace of the polymorphous and the perverse. And of course his unquenchable, uninhibited sense of humour.

Ian Christie