'Every Woman Should Know How to Raise a Child Properly' (top half, 1925).

Alexey Komarov (also written as Alexei Komarov) was an early 20th-century Russian nature painter, sculptor, book illustrator, political cartoonist and poster designer. During the Soviet regime he made many propaganda posters. One of these, 'Every Woman Should Know How to Raise a Child Properly' (1925), makes use of a text comic format to educate women in rural area's about child raising.

Early life
Alexey Nikanorovich Komarov was born in 1879 in Skorodnoye, in the province Tula. He was the illegitimate son of a landowner, P.F. Rosetti, and housekeeper D.K. Inshakova, and therefore mostly raised by his aunts. He already showed a creative mind from a young age, sculpting animals with pieces of bread when he was only four. Between 1897 and 1901 Komarov studied under painter and graphic artist Alexei Stepanovich Stepanov at the School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in Moscow. His first work was published in magazines like Shooting and Hunting with Hounds, Hunting Bulletin and Murzilka, while he also made a name for himself as a children's book illustrator.

Covers for Murzilka, from 1928 and 1943.

Wildlife painting
Komarov was fascinated by nature and travelled a lot throughout his life. In 1906 he explored Sweden and Norway, in 1912 the Ural, in 1915 Persia, in 1924 Altai, between 1927 and 1928 Astrachan and in 1930 Central Asia. During this travels he made many sketches, drawings and paintings of local wildlife. These artworks were used as illustrations for travel diaries, like N.M. Przhevalsky's 1941 book, but also biological books about fauna. His drawings also appeared in many Russian nature and hunting magazines and were used for official postage stamps. He considered Bruno Liljefors his greatest influence in the field of nature painting.

Illustration for nature books. 

Propaganda comics
In 1917 the Russian Revolution broke out, transforming Russia into the first Communist state in the world. In 1918 the Soviet Union established the Russian Telegraph Agency, often shorted to "ROSTA". It was part state news agency, part propaganda production. They made "Okna Rosta" ("Rosta Windows"): stenciled pamphlets featuring propaganda drawings, cartoons and comics with text in captions. Most focused on topical events, unavoidably promoting the Communist regime. Together with fellow artists like Viktor Deni, Yuliy Ganf, Dmitry Moor, Nikolai Kogout, Alexander Mikhailov Rodchenko and Mikhail Cheremnykh, Komarov made countless cartoons and posters which glorified Lenin and the Soviet Union and demonized capitalism, monarchy and organized religion. Others were more educational in nature and informed peasants of the benefits of learning to read and write, modern industry, basic hygiene, vaccination and health care.

'Every Woman Should Know How to Raise a Child Properly' (bottom half, 1925).

Every Woman Should Know How to Raise a Child Properly
One of these Soviet propaganda educational works was a 1925 poster by Komarov of which the title translates to: 'Every Woman Should Know How to Raise a Child Properly' (1925). It was published by the Mother's and Children's Care Division of the People's Commissariat of Public Health and intended for the more rural parts of Russia. Head of state Joseph Stalin strove to turn Russia from a somewhat primitive agrarian culture into a more industrialized super state. Since the country was so large there were still areas where people hadn't caught up with modern times and illiteracy was high. Comics - due to their visually striking look - were a useful aid to promote the new ideology quick and efficiently. Komarov's poster explains its message in a text comic format, with descriptions underneath the images.

In Komarov's comic strip, the bad, old-fashioned way of raising children is shown in the left column, while the good, modern way is demonstrated at the right. Left we see a mother raising her new-born in a poor, unclean house, full with barnyard animals. In this environment her future offspring will just grow up without hope for improvement. By contrast we see a mother at the right in a hygienic bedroom, safe in the comfort of a proper doctor and nurse. Her child grows up in a clean environment and, as an adult, will bring more healthy babies into this world. The final panel suggests that these children will become model citizens who'll change the world for the better. Or, better said, new supporters of the Soviet regime. This watercolour cartoon is nowadays part of the Tate Gallery collection.

In 1947 Komarov was awarded with the title of Honoured Art Worker of the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic. In 1972 he was named a People's Artist of the Soviet Union. Throughout his entire career he frequently exhibited his work in Moscow and Leningrad (nowadays St. Petersburg).

Alexey Komarov passed away in 1977 in Moscow. He should not be confused with the Russian hockey player Alexei Komarov (1978).

'Cavalry attack', 1941.

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