Natalia Goncharova

Born: 1881, Nagayevo (Tula Province)
Died: 1962, Paris
Selected works:

Painter, graphic artist, theatrical designer. Great niece of Alexander Pushkin’s wife Natalia Goncharova (1812–1863). Born in the family of architect Sergei Goncharov (1862–1935) and Ekaterina Belyaeva in the village of Nagayevo in Tula Province (1881). Spent her childhood at her father’s estates in the villages of Ladyzhino, Nagayevo and Luzhny in Tula Province. Moved with her parents to Moscow (1892) and enrolled at the Fourth Grammar School for Girls (1892) and the Higher History Courses for Women (1898). Met Mikhail Larionov, who inspired her to take up art and became her lifelong friend and partner (1900). Studied sculpture as a part-time student under Sergei Volnukhin and Prince Paolo Troubetzkoy at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (1901–03, 1904–09; expelled for not paying her tuition fees) and painting in the studio of Konstantin Korovin. Travelled with Larionov to Tiraspole and the Crimea (1903). Taught at Ilya Mashkov’s school of art in Maly Kharitonievsky Lane in Moscow, collaborated with the Golden Fleece magazine (1908). Commissioned to designs the sets and costumes for a production of Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s play Die Hochzeit der Sobeide at Konstantin Kracht’s private studio in Moscow (1909). Passed through periods of interest in Impressionism (1901–06), Neo-Primitivism (1906–07), Cubism (1908–10), Futurism (1911–12) and Rayonism (1912–13). Accused of pornography for exhibiting paintings of nude models at her one-day one-woman show at the Free Aesthetics Society in Moscow, but defended in court by Mikhail Khodasevich (father of the artist Valentina Khodasevich) and found not guilty (1910). Helped Larionov to organise the first Knave of Diamonds exhibition, designing the cover of the catalogue and the invitations (1910). Coauthored the Rayonists and Futurists manifesto with Larionov (1913). Illustrated Futurist books (1912–14) and starred with Larionov in the first ever Futurist film, The Drama in Cabaret 13, directed by Vladimir Kasianov (1914). Travelled to Paris with Larionov to design the sets and costumes for Sergei Diaghilev’s production of Mikhail Fokine’s opera-ballet Le Coq d’or (1914). Held a joint exhibition with Larionov at the Galerie Paul Guillaume in Paris, with the foreword to the catalogue written by Guillaume Apollinaire (1914). Returned to Russia following the outbreak of the First World War (1914), travelling via Switzerland, Italy, Greece and Constantinople. Published a series of lithographs entitled Mystical Images of War (1914). Illustrated the War album and Tikhon Churilin’s poetry collection Spring After Death and contributed to the Exhibition of Paintings and Sculptures by Russian Artists in Aid of Belgian Refugees at the Galerie Lemercier in Moscow (1915). Invited by Sergei Diaghilev to join him at Ouchy in Switzerland, travelling with Larionov via Finland, Sweden, Norway, Britain and France (1915). Designed the sets and costumes for Diaghilev’s Liturgie (an unstaged ballet set to the music of Russian Orthodox hymns) and Igor Stravinsky’s ballet Les noces (1915). Briefly returned to Moscow to design the sets and costumes for Alexander Tairov’s production of Carlo Goldoni’s comedy Il ventaglio at the Chamber Theatre in Moscow (1915). Accompanied Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes on tours to Spain (1916) and Italy (1917), settled in Paris with Larionov at 43 Rue de Seine (1917). Illustrated Valentin Parnakh’s poetry collection Mot Dynamo (1920) and the German translation of The Lay of Igor’s Host (1923). Created decorative panels on the theme of the four seasons for the home of conductor Serge Koussevitzky in Paris (1922). Designed the decorations for the Grand Bal Travesti/Transmental (1923) and the invitations for the Bal Banal (1924) and Bal de la Grande Ourse (1925). Met the poetess Marina Tsvetayeva and contributed to the Exhibition of Modern French Art at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, which included many works by Russian émigrés (1928). Designed sets and costumes for theatrical companies in Europe and America (1920s–40s), including Pyotr Sazonov and Yulia Slonimskaya’s Puppet Theatre (1924), Boris Romanov’s Théâtre de la Chauve-Souris in New York (1931) and Colonel Wassily de Basil’s Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo (1934–38). Adopted French citizenship (1938). Confined to her apartment at 16 Rue Jacques-Callot during the Second World War (1940–44). Illustrated Natalia Kodryanskaya’s Les contes (1950). Enjoyed a revival of interest in her work following Mary Chamot’s monograph and Richard Buckle’s Diaghilev Exhibition in Edinburgh and London (1954). Officially registered her marriage with Larionov (1955). Designed the sets and costumes for six ballets at a festival in Monte Carlo in memory of Michel Fokine and painted a series of cosmic pictures in response to the launch of Sputnik, the first artificial Earth satellite (1957). Died of cancer in Paris and buried at the Cimetière parisien d’Ivry in Val-de-Marne (1962). Contributed to exhibitions (from 1904). Contributed to the exhibitions of the Moscow Fellowship of Artists (1905), Sergei Diaghilev’s Exposition de l’Art russe at the Salon d’Automne in Paris (1906) and Russische Kunst-Ausstellung at the Kunstsalon Schulte in Berlin (1906), Stephanos (1907–08), Golden Fleece Salons (1908–10), Link (1908), Vladimir Izdebsky Salons (1909–10, 1911), Union of Youth (1910, 1911), Knave of Diamonds (1910–11), World of Art (1911–13), Roger Fry’s Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition at the Grafton Galleries in London (1912), Donkey’s Tail (1912), Der blaue Reiter in Munich (1912), Erster Deutscher Herbstsalon and Der Sturm at Herwarth Walden’s Galerie der Sturm in Berlin (1913), Target (1913), No. 4. Futurists, Rayonists, Primitive (1914), 1915 (1915), Salon d’Automne (member from 1921), Salon des Tuileries (member from the 1920s), Salon des Indépendants (member from 1921), exhibitions of theatrical art in Paris (1918), Amsterdam/London/Manchester/Glasgow/Bradford (1922), Tokyo (1923), Paris (1933) and New York (1934), International Exhibition of Modern Art in Geneva (1920–21), Russian Arts and Crafts at the Whitechapel Gallery in London (1921), Contemporary Russian and French Theatrical Design in London (1926), International Exhibition of Ballet in London (1928), Exhibition of Modern French Art at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow (1928), Exposition rétrospective de maquettes, décors & costumes exécutés pour la Compagnie des Ballets Russes de Serge de Diaghilev at the Galerie Billiet-Pierre Worms in Paris (1930), Alfred Barr’s Cubism and Abstract Art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1936), Les Ballets Russes de Diaghilev 1909–1929 at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris (1939), Le Rayonnisme 1909–14 at the Galerie des Deux-Îles in Paris (1948), Michel Seupor’s Les Premiers Maîtres de l’Art Abstrait at the Galerie Maeght in Paris (1949), Richard Buckle’s Diaghilev Exhibition at the Edinburgh Festival and Forbes House in London (1954), Evocation de I’époque héroïque at the Galerie de l’Institut in Paris (1955), Beitrag der Russen zur modernen Kunst in Frankfurt-on-Main (1959), Les Sources du XXe siècle at the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris (1960), Les peintres russes de l’École de Paris in Saint-Denis (1960) and Paris (1961), Der Sturm: Herwarth Walden und die europäische Avantgarde at the Nationalgalerie in der Orangerie des Schlosses Charlottenburg in West Berlin (1961), Europäische Kunst 1912 at the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne (1962), exhibitions of Russian art in London (1921, 1935), Paris (1921, 1925, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1936), New York (1923), The Hague (1924), Brussels (1928), Birmingham (1928), Belgrade (1930), Wilmington (1932) and Prague (1935) and international exhibitions in Rome (1923), Dresden (1926) and Bordeaux (1927, honorary diploma). One-woman shows in Moscow (1910, 1913, 1965, 1969), St Petersburg (1914, 2002), Rome (1918), Paris (1914, 1918–19, 1929, 1931, 1939, 1948, 1952, 1956, 1958, 1963), New York (1922), Tokyo (1923), London (1926, 1961), Milan (1961), Basle (1961) and Leeds (1961).

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