In The Avant-Gardists, Sjeng Scheijen explores the incredible story of the radical artists of the Russian Revolution, told here in its entirety for the first time; from their active participation in the Bolshevik movement to their powerful posts in the Soviet bureaucracy, and their downfall into poverty and obscurity under Josef Stalin.
Scheijen focuses on the two leading figures of revolutionary art, Kazimir Malevich and Vladimir Tatlin, and their intense, ruthless rivalry. In following their stories, the reader meets the other ground-breaking figures of the Russian avant-garde, including El Lissitzky, Wassily Kandinsky, and Alexander Rodchenko – artists who forever changed our conception of art, and of beauty.
The Avant-Gardists gives the artists voice through their private correspondence, diary entries and other biographical sources – much of which is unpublished, and never before translated from Russian – to tell the intimate, personal side of the art of the Revolution, and the artists who sought to use history for their own purposes, to spark a revolution not just of politics, but of the mind.
In November 2019, Sjeng Scheijen’s The Avant-Gardists was awarded the Bookspot Literatuurprijs Prize in The Hague. It was the first time fiction and non-fiction had been awarded separately, with Scheijen being one of two winners receiving the €50,000 prize.
The judges described his work as “irresistible non-fiction written with speed and undisguised passion.”