Russian avant-garde artist Natalia Goncharova

Natalia Goncharova was a major figure in early 20th century Russian art, and is now one of the most highly priced Russian artists in history. A controversial figure who scandalized Moscow with her open cohabitation with the modernist painter Mikhail Larionov, she was noted for her avant-garde art which borrowed heavily from Russian icon painting and other forms of primitive art. She left Russia in 1915, spending the rest of her career in Geneva and Paris, where she contributed stage designs to Sergei Diaghilev for his Ballets Russes. The great niece of Natalia Pushkina, wife of Alexander Pushkin, Goncharova's progress as an artist was influenced by her attraction to modern art (inspired by painters from the Ecole de Paris, and Der Blaue Reiter, as expressed in her own interpretations of Futurism, Cubo-Futurism), and also, rather confusingly, to traditional Russian folk art (inspired by Russian medieval painting and other traditional artifacts). At her major solo exhibition in 1913, her primitive-style Russian works were displayed side-by-side with her more modernist paintings. Although she died in poverty, her pictures now sell for multi-million dollar sums.

 Natalia (Natalya) Goncharova was born into a prosperous family in Nagaevo village, near Tula in provincial Russia. After leaving school she moved to Moscow to study sculpture at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (1898-1902), where she completed less than four years of study - instead of the normal ten years - and also met her life partner, the artist Mikhail Larionov. Having abandoned sculpture in favour of painting - she absorbed pastel drawing from Larionov, as well as watercolour painting and oils - Goncharova began exhibiting in Moscow in 1904. Two years later, she participated in Sergei Diaghilev's exhibition of Russian art in Paris.

 Between 1912 and 1914 Goncharova was involved in a number of avant-garde activities. In 1913, for example, she took part in theatrical performances alongside Vladimir Mayakovsky and even acted in a movie. Along with other members of the Russian futurist group, she also produced illustrations for experimental book publications. Like her fellow artists Kasimir Malevich (1878-1935), Lyubov Popova (1889-1924) and Vladimir Tatlin (1885-1953), she was aware of Cubism in Paris and introduced Cubist techniques into her work. This can be seen in the canvas entitled The Laundry (1912) in which Goncharova uses the multiple viewpoint of the Cubist still life while simultaneously introducing fragments of words to suggest the subject of the painting and to emphasize the flatness of the canvas. She was also familiar with Italian Futurism. Goncharova and her Russian colleagues referred to their work as "Cubofuturist", in order to distinguish it from its Parisian sources. A well-known example of her Futurist work is The Cyclist (1912-13). ( ENCYCLOPEDIA OF VISUAL ARTISTS )

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