An internationally acclaimed Soviet film director, Sergei Eisenstein was widely criticised domestically and highly praised outside of the USSR for his groundbreaking use of camera angles and unique vision. Renowned in particular for his silent films, Eisenstein’s 1925 Battleship Potemkin was a highly significant contribution to the history of world cinematography.
Eisenstein's drawings have remained largely unknown, though he started drawing at an early age and later made extensive use of drawings in designing his productions. While it is common practice for directors to create sketches and story boards as production aids in film making, Eisenstein's drawings stand alone as art works in their own right. His way of drawing can be likened to automatic drawing, known as being practiced by the Surrealists, and was an essential outlet for Eisenstein's creativity. A large selection of his drawings entitled The Body of the Line: Eisenstein's Drawings was presented at the Drawing Centre, New York in March 2000.
In October 1928, Eisenstein and his crew went to Europe to learn about Western sound techniques. After spending two years there Eisenstein was invited by Paramount Pictures to shoot Dreiser’s An American Tragedy. His vision of the novel and the final script proved to have little in common with the American anti-socialist mentality and the contract was terminated. Unwilling to return a failure, Eisenstein found a friend in the American socialist writer Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) who invited him to make a film in Mexico. Sponsored by the Sinclair family and other investors knows as the ‘Mexican Film Trust’, Eisenstein signed an agreement in the autumn of 1930 and began work on ¡Que viva México! His prolonged absence in the USSR raised concerns of desertion: on Stalin’s request Eisenstein was asked to return and production was stopped. Some of the drawings from the present collection date from the artist's stay in Mexico City and are executed on the headed paper of the Imperial Hotel, recognisable from its depiction of the building on Paseo de la Reforma in its logotype.
Ivan the Terrible was Eisenstein’s last film, for which he was both awarded a Stalin Prize and heavily criticised for filming during World War II. While shooting began in Moscow, production moved to Almaty after the evacuation of the Mosfilm studio. Some of the present drawings are inscribed ‘AA’, which stands for the former name of the city: Alma-Ata. Andrei Moskvin (1901-1961), a well-known cameraman, worked with Eisenstein on the production of this film and subsequently received a collection of Eisenstein's erotic drawings, a selection of which is offered here.