Natalia Goncharova Exhibition: UK's First Restrospective of the Russian Avant-Garde Artist

Natalia Goncharova Exhibition: UK's First Restrospective of the Russian Avant-Garde Artist

Goncharova's paintings mostly show humanity's soil in order to counter modernity’s propensity towards detachment and indifference / Pavel Sapozhnikov via Shutterstock

 

Living through a rapidly changing era, Russian artist Natalia Goncharova experienced both the pressures and the possibilities of a new age. She viewed the Russian avant-garde of the early 1900s as “a flowering ​of art in a new form—a painterly form." Although she came from an influential and wealthy family, her interests lay with the rural workers in Russia. Beyond new art genres, the artist's works also addressed the ethical and spiritual needs of her time.

Goncharova was considered a major figure in early 20th-century Russian art. At the same time, she is one of the most highly priced Russian artists in history. According to Society Arts, her paintings mostly show humanity's soil in order to counter modernity’s propensity towards detachment and indifference. ​Although she was inspired by the avant-garde movements in the West, she both used traditional Russian art forms and reinvigorated them to counter the urbanization, mechanization, and individualism of the West that was intruding Russia. 

Additionally, Goncharova was one of the members of the Russian avant-garde generation that was involved in shifting ideological standpoints and exploring various visual styles. The artist also served as a model for Christian artists as they engaged in a secular world that perpetuated the dehumanization of materialism, poverty, and endless war. There's no question why museums and exhibitions around the world feature her works. 

Goncharova was heavily influenced by the modernist painter Mikhail Larionov and other forms of primitive art / Hermogenes Teixeira Pinto Filho via Shutterstock

 

The most recent exhibition of her work will be launched on June 6 at the Tate Modern in London. This is the first ever retrospective of the Russian avant-garde artist in the United Kingdom that will explore her diverse sources and inspirations. 

Natalia Goncharova: Life and Career

Goncharova was known for her avant-garde art which was heavily influenced by the modernist painter Mikhail Larionov and other forms of primitive art. Born on June 4, 1881, Goncharova was an innovative Russian painter, stage designer, and sculptor. She grew up in a wealthy family which gave her access to the art industry. According to Britannica, she went to the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture to study painting and sculpture. 

However, the artist only completed less than four years of her study, which should have been ten years. During this time, she met her life partner, the artist Mikhail Larionov. This is also the time she shifted to painting, specifically pastel drawing, from the sculpture. For the next few years, the couple would create avant-garde artist groups. The first one was the Jack of Diamonds, which immediately dissolved. The other one was the Donkey’s Tail Group, which aimed to cultivate a Russian Modernism through Russian art traditions. 

Goncharova's paintings were heavily influenced by Russian folk art, medieval icons, and popular woodblock prints. At the same time, the artist also experimented with Futurism and Cubism. In 1912, Goncharova and Larionov pioneered Rayonism, which aims to portray in two dimensions the spatial qualities of reflected light. The artist also became a part of the Post-Impressionist exhibition in London that same year. 

According to an article by The Art Story, Goncharova's artworks often depicted women. For instance, some of her paintings portrayed women harvesting fruit, washing and preparing linen, and planting new crops. Some of her most popular works are "Self-Portrait with Yellow Lilies" (1907), "Picking Apples" (1909), "Peasants dancing [Khorovod (Round Dance)]" (1910-11), and many more. 

Goncharova's final years were marked by a new burst of creativity, although she intensely suffered from arthritis and eventually contracted cancer. The artist died in October 1962. However, years after her death, her paintings are still successfully featured worldwide. In fact, her 1909 work Picking Apples was sold for $9.8 million in June 2007, setting a record for female artists. 

Natalia Goncharova Exhibition

According to an article by Russian Art and Culture, Goncharova’s artistic output was wide-ranging and immense, although it was considered controversial at times. Her bold and innovative artworks influenced and transcended the art movements of the 20th century. She was also known to be avant-garde in cinema, designing for fashion houses, and experimenting with book designs. 

The exhibition will show how the artist challenged the limits of social, artistic, and gender conventions. It gathers over 160 international loans which are rarely seen by the public. This includes the largest collection of Goncharova works from the State Tretyakov Gallery in Russia. The exhibition will also feature the artist's remarkable 1913 retrospective which originally showcased over 800 works. 

According to the Tate Modern, the exhibition was worked on by Natalia Sidlina, Curator of International Art, and Matthew Gale, Head of Displays. Some of the artworks that visitors will see are Goncharova's early paintings, her scandalous paintings of nudes, the monumental seven-part work "The Harvest" (1911), and many more. At the same time, the exhibition will also have a section dedicated to the artist's religious paintings such as "Evangelists" (1911). 

Additionally, the exhibition will feature her work in fashion design and her collaborations with several artists like Nadezhda Lamanova.