Fashizm ayaldardyn zaarduu dushmany [Fascism Is the Worst Enemy of Women], a Kyrgyz language poster by Nina Vatolina (1915-2002). Published by Kirgizgosizdat, Frunze, 1941. 89.5 x 61.5 cm.
Another seldom seen regional version of a popular Russian-language poster. Deni considered Nina Vatolina one of his most talented students. Indeed, she went on to become the leading Soviet female poster artist of the 1940s-50s. Yet at the end of her life, the artist, rather shockingly, admitted that she really did not care much about her work in the political poster genre, proclaiming that “I don’t like either posters or my 30 years of work [in the genre]” and “it was really bitter for me that I had to waste my potential on posters” (as reported by Kevin O’Flynn, who interviewed Vatolina in 2001 for the Moscow News newspaper). However, she made an exception for war-time works, which she described as “prompted by genuine feelings,” and for “the posters on innocent subjects, such as children.”
According to O’Flynn, Vatolina talked of her long career as a poster artist almost as it was the result of an accident. She was evacuated to Samarkand with the Moscow Art Institute in the autumn of 1941. Upon graduation, male graduates (including her husband, painter Nikolai Denisov) were drafted. Violating the war-time travel sanctions, Vatolina returned to Moscow, and turned to poster production as she needed a job. Afterwards, it became hard to escape the often profitable work, she said, but she retired as soon as she could and turned to her real love, painting.
In all fairness, one must take Vatolina’s version of events with a grain of salt. She started producing posters as early as in 1939, and by 1942 had a large portfolio of well-received political posters to show, including the famous Ne Boltai!. Being Deni’s daughter-in-law may also have helped her to obtain a lucrative propaganda artist position, and allowed her to work independently, rather then than being assigned to help a more mature artist. In any case, she soon proved that she had all the skills necessary to be successful in her line of work, be it chosen or accidental.