Alexandra Exter

Born: 1882, Bialystok (Grodno Province)
Died: 1949, Fontenay-aux-Roses (France)

Painter, graphic artist, theatrical designer, applied artist, illustrator, teacher. Born Alexandra Grigorovich in the town of Bialystok in Poland (1882). Moved with her family to the Ukrainian town of Smila (1885) and Kiev (1886). Studied at St Olga’s Grammar School in Kiev (1892–99), Nikolai Murashko School of Drawing in Kiev (1899–1901), under Mykola Pymonenko, Ivan Seleznyov and Vladimir Menk at the Kiev School of Art (1901–03, 1906, 1908) and under Henry Caro-Delvaille at the Académie de la Grande-Chaumière in Paris (1907), where she met Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Gertrude Stein, Guillaume Apollinaire and Max Jacob. Married her cousin Nikolai Exter (1905) and opened a studio in the attic of 27 Funduklei (now Bohdan Khmelnytsky) Street in Kiev, attracting many artists, dancers, writers and poets, including Anna Akhmatova, who dedicated a poem to her called An Old Portrait (1910). Visited Alexei von Jawlensky in Munich and travelled to Switzerland and Paris (1906). Helped to organise such exhibitions of avant-garde art in Kiev as Link with David Burliuk and Nikolai Kulbin (1908) and Ring with Alexander Bogomazov (1914). Passed through periods of interest in Neo-Impressionism and Fauvism (1908–09), Expressionism (1910–11), Futurism (1912), Cubism (1913–14), Suprematism (1915–16) and Constructivism (1920s). Lived in Kiev, Moscow, St Petersburg and Paris (1908–14), where she opened a studio (1913) and had an affair with Italian Futurist Ardengo Soffici (1914). Visited Italy and painted cityscapes of Genoa, Venice and Florence (1910–14). Decorated screens, cushions, parasols, scarves, tablecloths, pillows and dresses (1913), illustrated Futurist books (1914–16). Joined Supremus (1915) and worked alongside the other Suprematists at the village of Verbovka near Kiev (1916). Collaborated with the Chamber Theatre in Moscow, designing the curtain (1916) and the sets and costumes for Alexander Tairov’s productions of Innokenty Annensky’s Thamira Khytharedes (1916), Oscar Wilde’s Salomé (1917) and William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (1920–21) and working on such other planned productions as Gabriele D’Annunzio’s La figlia di Iorio, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s Poupées Électriques and the ballets of Mikhail Mordkin at the Chamber Theatre and Miguel de Cervantes’s Entremeses, Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s La dama duende and Alexander Sukhovo-Kobylin’s The Death of Tarelkin at the Moscow Art Theatre (1920–22). Moved to Kiev (1917) and lived briefly in Odessa (1918), where she taught non-objective painting at the Odessa Children’s School of Art (1918). Returned to Kiev after the death of her husband and mother (1918). Attended the All-Ukrainian Congress of Arts Workers (1918) and helped to decorate streets on Communist holidays (1918–20). Taught at her own studio in Kiev (1918–20), which was destroyed by a fire during the Civil War (1920). Moved to Moscow (1920), where she married the actor Georgy Nekrasov (1920) and taught at the VKhUTEMAS (1921–22). Designed the parade uniform of the Red Army (1922–23) and the sets and costumes for Yakov Protozanov’s silent movie Aelita: The Queen of Mars (1923). Planned the layout of pavilions at the First All-Russian Exhibition of Agriculture, Handicrafts and Industry in Moscow (1923) and the Soviet pavilions at the XIV Venice Biennale (1924) and Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris (1925). Travelled to Italy to work at the Venice Biennale (1924) and emigrated to Paris (1924). Worked with Léon Zack and Pavel Tchelitchew for Boris Romanov’s Ballets Romantiques Russes (1924) and designed the sets and costumes for seven one-act ballets staged by Bronislava Nijinska’s Théâtre Choréographique in London (1925) and the performances of Russian ballet dancer Elsa Krüger in Germany (1927–29). Taught theatrical design at Fernand Léger and Amédée Ozenfant’s Académie de l’Art Moderne (1925–30). Designed marionettes for a planned movie directed by Danish film-maker Urban Gad (1926). Moved to the Parisian suburb of Fontenay-aux-Roses (1930). Illustrated children’s books for the Flammarion publishing house (1936–46), including her own Mon Jardin (1936) and Marie Colmont’s Panorama du fleuve (1937), Panorama de la côte (1938) and Panorama de la montagne (1938). Died in Fontenay-aux-Roses and buried next to her husband at the local cemetery (1949). Contributed to exhibitions (from 1906). Contributed to the Exhibition of Applied Art and Handicrafts (1906), In the World of Arts (1908), Exhibition of Modern Trends in Art (1908), Link (1908), Wreath-Stephanos (1909), Triangle (1910), Vladimir Izdebsky Salons (1909–10, 1911), Union of Youth (1910, 1913–14), Salons des Indépendants (1910–14), Knave of Diamonds (1910–11, 1912, 1913, 1914, 1916), Moscow Salon (1911), Ring (1914), No. 4 Futurists, Rayonists, Primitive (1914), Esposizione Libera Futurista Internazionale in Rome (1914), Tramway V First Futurist Exhibition (1915), Store (1916), Contemporary Russian Painting (1916), 5 x 5 = 25 (1921), Die erste russische Kunstausstellung in the Galerie Van Diemen at 21 Unter den Linden in Berlin (1922), XIV Venice Biennale (1924), Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris (1925, gold medal), Contemporary French Art at the Museum of New Western Art in Moscow (1928), Ukrainian Painting (17th–20th Centuries) at the Taras Shevchenko All-Ukrainian Museum of History in Kiev (1929), Cercle et Carré at the Galerie 23 in Paris (1930), Notre Union in Paris (1936), Cubism and Abstract Art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1936) and the international exhibitions of theatrical art in Moscow (1923), Vienna (1925, 1936), New York (1926, 1934) and Ottawa (1938). One-woman shows at the Galerie der Sturm in Berlin and Magdeburg (1927), Claridge Gallery in London (1928), Galerie des Quatre Chemins in Paris (1929), Musée des Arts et Metiers in Paris (1937), Um?leckopr?myslové muzeum in Prague (1937), Galerie Chauvelin in Paris (1972), New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at the Lincoln Center in New York (1974), Galerie Werner Kunze in Berlin (1974), Leonard Hutton Galleries in New York (1975–76), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington DC (1980), Alexei Bakhrushin Central Museum of the Theatre in Moscow (1986), Odessa Museum of Art in Odessa (1989) and Archivio del Novecento in Rovereto (1991).

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