Anyone visiting the Dorset Socialist Realism Exhibition currently taking place in the Edna Whisky McNightly Room of the Threadbone Gallery, Crendell will have been thrilled to discover the softer side of mass murderer and "Man of Steel" Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin as revealed in - for example - Flying Frannie, his surprisingly sentimental portrait of charismatic British channel swimmer, famed Olympian and underwater synchronised dialectician Frannie Blankers-Thrupiece (1917-1985). Those who ventured into the inner recesses of the collection will have been equally stirred - though perhaps with mixed feelings - by the sight of the Great Dictator's two acknowledged masterpieces Bukharin Shitting Himself and Meyerhold's Last Cigarette.
Cleverly arranged in antiphonal juxtaposition by curator Valentina-Tereshkova-Lewellyn-Bowlegs, the two portraits draw the eye inexorably towards their subjects' predicaments and, just as inevitably, ask difficult questions of the man who paused mid-slaughter to capture them with such brutal yet affecting honesty.
So what do we make of a man who could order a death and then pause to take up his brushes and lavish such tender attention on those he had already condemned and would shortly dispatch to non-Soviet limbo?
Spanish-born Soviet Realist expert Alphonse Realiste-Experte, a survivor of the Franco Regime ("Francisco was a complete amateur in comparison to the Georgian Tyrant, he burchered far fewer people and, in consequence, his acrylics were almost timid in execution") believes he has the answer. "He was a cold-hearted calculating bastard pure and simple." Ms Valentina-Tereshkova-Lewellyn-Bowlegs is inclined to be less judgemental: "Whilst it is true he is probably responsible for the disappearance of millions, Joseph was almost feminine in his sense of line and colour. No-one who can paint state-sponsored terror with such evident empathy can be all bad".
The Exhibition continues until 18 December.
Joseph Stalin's two undisputed masterpieces Bukharin Shitting Himself and Meyerhold's Last Cigarette are currently on show in the Edna Whisky McNightly Room of the Threadbone Gallery, Crendell until 18 December.