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Mukhina was born in Riga into a wealthy merchant family, and lived at Turgeneva st. 23/25, where a memorial plaque has now been placed. She later moved to Moscow, where she studied at several private art schools, including those of Konstantin Yuon and Ilya Mashkov. In 1912 she traveled to Paris, where she attended the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and took lessons from Emile-Antoine Bourdelle, then continued on to Italy to explore the painting and sculpture of the Renaissance period.
In the 1920s Mukhina rose to become one of the Soviet Union's most prominent sculptors, and although she continued to produce Cubist sculpture as late as 1922, she became a leading figure of Socialist realism, both in style and ideology. She taught at the state school, Vkhutemas, in 1926-1927, and came to international attention with the 1937 Worker and Kolkhoz Woman. Her studio's work on official monuments and architectural sculpture on state commissions continued through her death. She also experimented with glass, producing glass figural busts.
Because of Mukhina's influence as a great Soviet artist, and as a former student of the Latvian sculptor Kārlis Zāle, she persuaded Soviet officials in the late 1940s that the Freedom Monument in Riga was of great artistic importance. Due to her efforts, the monument was not demolished to make way for a statue of Joseph Stalin.
Mukhina's most celebrated work by far is the giant monument Worker and Kolkhoz Woman which was the centerpiece of the Soviet pavilion at the 1937 International Exhibition in Paris. It was the world's first welded sculpture. The 24-meter-tall, 75-ton monument was made of plate of stainless steel on a wooden frame, the plates connected by an innovative method of spot welding. One hand of each figure holds respectively a hammer and a sickle, the two implements joining to form the hammer and sickle symbol of the Soviet Union. In 1947 the sculpture, now on permanent display at the All-Russia Exhibition Centre, became the logo of the Russian Mosfilm studio. It was renovated and re-installed on a higher pedestal in 2009.
Muhkina's other work includes:
- Peasant Woman (1927), freestanding bronze, now in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow
- Fertility (1934), and Bread (1939), both now in Friendship Park, Moscow
- three cornice figures on the pediment of the Winter Theater in Sochi, 1937
- the mourning mother figure in the monumental group We Demand Peace (1950-1951). Mukhina served as coordinator of other sculptors for this project.
- Maxim Gorky Monument (1952) in Nizhny Novgorod
- the statue of Tchaikovsky in front of the Moscow Conservatory
- the finial figure of Mir ("Peace"), with armillary sphere and dove (1954), for the Volgograd Planetarium
Honours and legacy
- first class (1941) - for the sculptural group ""Worker and Kolkhoz Woman" at the Agricultural Exhibition (1937)
- second class (1943) - a sculptural portraits of Colonels BA Yusupov and IL Khizhnyak (1942)
- first class (1946) - a sculptural portrait of Krylov
- second class (1951) - for the sculptural group "We demand peace!" (Et al)
- first class (1952) - a monument to Maxim Gorky in Moscow
- People's Artist of the USSR (1943)
- Order of the Red Banner of Labour (1938)
- Order of the Badge of Honour (1945)
- Order "Citizenship Award" (Bulgaria)
- Vera Mukhina Street in the town Klin, Moscow Oblast.
- The Museum of Vera Mukhina dedicated to the sculptor's adolescence and work was established in Feodosiya, Crimea, Ukraine in 1985.
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- Vera Mukhina, A Sculptor's Thoughts, translated from the Russian by Fainna Solasko, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1953.
- Richard Overy, The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, p. 260 ISBN 0-393-02030-4
- The history of welding (Russian)
- Elizabeth Waters, "Female Form in Soviet Political Iconography, 1917-32" in ed. Barbara Evans Clements et al., Russia's Women: Accommodation, Resistance, Transformation, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1991, p. 240 ISBN 978-052-00702-40
- Zip codes of Russia(Russian)
- Russia-InfoCentre, V.Mukhina