Eisenstein’s Early Drawings

Sketchbook 1914 – Eisenstein’s Early Drawings

Eisenstein drew constantly for all but about six years of his life. The directors Josef von Sternberg and Grigori Roshal were among many later witnesses of this compulsive, almost automatic, activity. Sternberg recalled how Eisenstein ‘always had paper and pencil in front of him’, while Roshal described how work colleagues gathered up the drawings so prodigally abandoned. As a child, Eisenstein filled notebooks with ambitious caricatures, strip cartoons and fantastic compositions. The earliest of these preserved (by his mother) date from 1913 when he was 15 and already publishing his drawings in the school magazine, which he also edited. They contain a fascinating array of imagery, based variously on the animal stories of childhood, topical events and the ‘pure pleasure’ of metamorphosis and incongruity. There are meticulously drawn animals paying court to the Tsar of the Universe, a chicken wooing a pig in party dress, animals queuing for admission to the circus and performing an opera. Political sophistication appears early. Germany and Britain fence with each other across the Channel in a Punch-style cartoon, while a sinister figure surrounded by policemen is captioned ‘Not an important criminal, but a British Minister!’ And narrative makes its appearance with strip cartoons of a bear’s adventures and of traditional summer holidays at Trouville”.

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