Tatlin became one of the two most important figures in the Russian
avant-garde art movement of the 1920s. Tatlin achieved fame as the
architect who designed the huge Monument to the Third International,
also known as "Tatlin's Tower".
Planned in 1920, the monument, was to be a tall tower in iron, glass and steel which would have dwarfed the Eiffel Tower in Paris. High costs prevented Tatlin from executing the plan. Vladimir Tatlin also founded Russian Constructivist art with his counter-reliefs - structures made of wood and iron for hanging in wall corners.
He conceived these sculptures in order to question the traditional idea of painting. Later prominent constructivists included Manuel Rendón Seminario, Joaquín Torres García, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Antoine Pevsner and Naum Gabo.
Vladimir Tatlin was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine, the son of a railway engineer and a poet. Vladimir Tatlin worked as a merchant sea cadet and spent some time abroad. He began his art career as an icon painter in Moscow, and attended the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. Vladimir Tatlin was also a professional musician and performed as such at the Paris World Fair in 1906. After a visit to Paris in 1914 Vladimir Tatlin became the leader of a group of Moscow artists who sought to apply engineering techniques to sculpture construction, a movement that developed into Constructivism.
Vladimir Tatlin pioneered the use of iron, glass, wood, and wire in nonrepresentational constructions. After the 1917 Revolution, Tatlin worked for the new Soviet Education Commissariate which used artists and art to educate the public. During this period, he developed an officially authorized art form which utilized 'real materials in real space'.
His 1919 project for a Monument of the Third Communist International marked his first foray into architecture and became a symbol for Russian avant-garde architecture and International Modernism.
The Monument to the Third International was a grand monumental building envisioned by the Russian artist and architect Vladimir Tatlin, but never built. It was planned to be erected in Petrograd, which is now St. Petersburg after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, as the headquarters and monument of the Third International. Tatlin's Constructivist tower was to be built from industrial materials: iron, glass and steel. In materials, shape, and function, it was envisioned as a towering symbol of modernity. It would have dwarfed the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
The tower's main form was a twin helix which spiraled up to 400 meters in height, which visitors would be transported around with the aid of various mechanical devices. The main framework would contain four large suspended geometric structures. These structures would rotate at different rates of speed.
At the base of the structure was a cube which was designed as a venue for lectures, conferences and legislative meetings, and this would complete a rotation in the span of one year. Above the cube would be a smaller pyramid housing executive activities and completing a rotation once a month. Further up would be a cylinder, which was to house an information center, issuing news bulletins and manifestos via telegraph, radio and loudspeaker, and would complete a rotation once a day. At the top, there would be a hemisphere for radio equipment. There were also plans to install a gigantic open-air screen on the cylinder, and a further projector which would be able to cast messages across the clouds on any overcast day.
The Monument is generally considered to be the defining expression of architectural constructivism, rather than a buildable project. Even if the gigantic amount of required steel had been available in revolutionary Russia, in the context of housing shortages and political turmoil, there are serious doubts about its structural practicality.
Vladimir Tatlin was regarded as a progenitor of Russian post-Revolutionary Constructivist art with his pre-Revolutionary counter-reliefs. These artworks were structures made of wood and iron for hanging in wall corners. Vladimir Tatlin conceived these sculptures in order to question the traditional idea of painting, though he did not regard himself as a Constructivist and objected to many of the movement's ideas.
Although colleagues at the beginning of their careers, Vladimir Tatlin and Kazimir Malevich quarreled fiercely and publicly at the time of the 'Zero-Ten' exhibition in 1915, apparently over the supremacist works Malevich exhibited there. This led Malevich to develop his ideas further in the city of Vitebsk, where he found a school called UNOVIS (Champions of the new art).
During the 1920s Vladimir Tatlin taught in Petrograd/Leningrad, Kiev and Moscow. In his classes he emphasized design principles based on the inner behavior and loading capacities of material. Tatlin's work with materials inspired the Constructivist movement in architecture and design.
Tatlin retired when the Soviet Union rejected modernism in the 1930s. Tatlin also dedicated himself to the study of clothes, objects and so on. At the end of his life he started to research bird-flight, in order to provide human beings with facilities that would allow them to pursue one of the great dreams of humanity: to fly. Vladimir Tatlin was buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery, Moscow.