Nina Kogan

Nina Kogan
Born: 1889, St Petersburg
Died: 1942, Leningrad

Painter, graphic artist, choreographer, designer, teacher. Born in St Petersburg in the family of Josif (Osip) Kogan, a Jewish military doctor with the Seventh Samogitia Grenadier Regiment, who converted to Orthodoxy and rose to the rank of full state councillor (1889). Graduated with top marks for drawing from the Catherine Institute for Daughters of the Nobility in St Petersburg (1905). Studied under Alfred Eberling, Arkady Rylov and Alexei Schusyev at the School of Drawing of the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts (1905–08), in Jan Ciagli?skj’s studio (1908–11) and at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (1911–13). Unsuccessfully applied to enter the Stroganov School of Art and Industry (1912) and returned to St Petersburg (1913), where she gave private lessons to children and taught drawing at the grammar school of the Philanthropy Society (1913–17). Member of the Free Studio (1917) and the Jan Ciagli?skj Studio (1917). Helped to found a painting studio for workers at the former Winter Palace (1917–18) and taught at a school of labour (1918–19). Worked alongside Nadezhda Lyubavina for the signboard subsection of the planned Museum of Petrograd (1917–18) and dug public allotments in Shuvalovo to the north of Petrograd (1918). Introduced to Kazimir Malevich (1918) and invited by Marc Chagall to move to Vitebsk (1919), where she took the introductory course in painting and drawing at the Vitebsk School of Art (1919–22). Active member of UNOVIS (1920), though unpopular with the other members for constantly flirting with Malevich. Contributed articles to the UNOVIS almanacs (1920), decorated trams (1920) and designed a wooden Suprematist toy called the Kho-Bo-Ro, inspired by a concept in Alexei Kruchenykh’s transrational Declaration of the Word as Such (1913). Choreographed and designed the sets and costumes for a tableau vivant called Suprematist Ballet at the Latvian Club in Vitebsk (1920). Moved to Moscow (1922) and married artist Anatoly Borisov (1922, divorced him in the early 1930s). Worked as a consultant and administrator at the Museum of Painterly Culture (1922–24), where she read lectures and held exhibitions of the works of Kazimir Malevich and Pyotr Miturich (1923). Raised money to treat Velimir Khlebnikov in hospital (1922), published a posthumous collection of his poems and excerpts from The Boards of Fate (1922–23) and gave his sister Vera Khlebnikova money to travel from Astrakhan to Moscow to marry Pyotr Miturich (1924). Illustrated textbooks and worked as an artist for the Reservoir Committee in Moscow (1924–26). Moved to Leningrad (1926), where she abandoned Suprematism and returned to realistic art (late 1920s). Curated exhibitions at the Vyborg House of Culture and the Museum of the Revolution (1926–27), contributed to the permanent exhibition of modern art at the Russian Museum (1927). Worked under Vladimir Lebedev at the department of children’s literature of the State Publishing House (from 1928), illustrated Rabbits and Doves (1930), The Aquarium (1930), Birds (1930), In Winter and in Summer (1931) and Hide-and-Seek (1931). Drew silhouette portraits of Anna Akhmatova (early 1930s). Arrested along with Vladimir Sterligov and Vera Yermolaeva (1934) and spent three months in prison (1934–35). Taught drawing at an art studio for children in the Narva district of Leningrad and collaborated with the Siskin magazine (second half of 1930s). Lived at 43 Marat Street in the apartment previously belonging to her parents, which was now a communal flat with twenty other tenants. Suffered from nervous stress and skin rashes, sought cures using electric shocks and auto-suggestion (1936). Spent the last years of her life in obscurity and solitude, kept a white cockerel in her room with which she reputedly shared her wartime ration (1941–42). Died of hunger during the Siege of Leningrad and buried in an unmarked grave (1942). Contributed to the exhibitions of UNOVIS in Vitebsk (1920, 1921) and Moscow (1921, 1922), Die erste russische Kunstausstellung in the Galerie Van Diemen at 21 Unter den Linden in Berlin (1922), Exhibition of Works by Women Artists in Leningrad (1938), Exhibition of Works by Periphery Artists in Moscow (1940), Sixth Exhibition of Works by Leningrad Artists (1940), Seventh Exhibition of Works by Leningrad Artists (1941) and a posthumous one-woman show at the Galerie Schlégl in Zurich (1985).

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