It’s always a pleasure to discover a new artist, and Natalia Goncharova was totally new to me and a delightful discovery. Intriguing because she was Russian, unconventional and painted in my favourite period of Contemporary Art, the same time as Picasso, Gaugin. Balla, Matisse and others. Multitalented as she designed sets and costumes for the Russian ballet and continued painting and illustrating right up until her death in 1962.
Palazzo Strozzi in Florence housed the exhibition and her paintings were a fabulous blast of colour, a unique mix of artistic styles, ‘forging her own unique fusion of tradition and innovation of East and West’ having spent a considerable part of her life in Paris mixing with various European artists and styles.
In 1901 she meets her lifelong partner Mikhail Larionov, also an artist, and despite their ‘open‘ relationship their creative partnership lasts for their entire lifetime.
Her work is exhibited in Paris and they are both influenced by the Parisian artists and styles, Cezanne, Gauguin and les Fauves ‘the wild beasts‘ like Matisse.
There was an ample description of her life which included her Avant-garde approach – 1910 she is the first woman artist to show nudes in Russia and is arrested and charged with pornography and offending public morality but fortunately acquitted at her trial!
‘In 1913, together with Larionov and Ilia Zdanevich, Goncharova holds body painting performances and they saunter down the most elegant streets of Moscow with their faces painted with images, uttering offensive words intended to shock conservative passers-by in accordance with the principles of futurist body art‘!
All part of the development of a distinct Russian style of Futurist painting which they call Rayonism, a new way to express energy and movement incorporating Russian folklore and traditions in a pre-revolutionary Russia.
Such a fascinating life story and such a complex artist and not only as she moves into designing sets and costumes for the Russian ballet – on religious themes, influenced by the byzantine mosaics in Ravenna, Italy and early Tuscan Renaissance artists,
and Spanish dress when the Russian ballet performs in Spain. Intricate and delicate designs yet bold in their portrayal.
The selection of works exhibited gave a wonderful overview of Natalia Goncharova‘s artistic career and enticed me to find out more and hopefully to see again in a future exhibition. As she said “The art of my country is incomparably deeper than anything that I have come to know in the West”
And what you see here is only a part of what was on display!
After living together for over 50 years Natalia and Mikhail marry in 1955, to ensure that the surviving partner can inherit the other’s paintings. In 1962 Natalia Goncharova dies and her work is left to Mikhail Larionov. He remarries in 1963 to Alexandra Tomilina and dies in 1964. In 1985 Tomilina leaves their entire collection to the Soviet Government, but there is a legal tussle from the French Government during 1988-89 who claim several of Goncharova’s works in lieu of death duties!