At the turn of the century, the whole of Europe was swept by a wave of interest in primitive art. African and Asian folk art was discovered and aestheticized, and Russia was no exception. Unlike their Western colleagues, however, the accent in the oeuvre of the Russian masters (Natalia Goncharova, Mikhail Larionov) was on the national culture of the Russian town and countryside. This idiosyncrasy of the Russian Primitivists was not, however, linked in any way to their nationalism. Unlike the French, Italian, German and other West European cultures, which had never lost touch with their roots, Russia's relationship with her traditional art was of a somewhat different nature.

At the start of the twentieth century, Russia was primarily a peasant country and therefore permeated with folk aesthetics. Icons filled both homes and churches and cathedrals. Embroidered towels, home-made mats and rugs, wooden houses with carved window casings, jambs and lintels, painted clay toys – all this and more was, until quite recently, part of the daily life of both rural and urban families.

Russians spent all their lives surrounded by these objects. Made by the hands of friends and relatives, they were not considered works of art.

Natalia Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov were the first Russian artists to perceive and value the high artistic merits of Russian national creativity. Goncharova's choice of motifs from everyday peasant life (Bleaching Canvas) and the proximity of her graphic tongue to the folk art of the common people (wood carvings, painted decorations, folk toys) distinguished her oeuvre in the late 1900s from the then popular and fashionable Symbolism, with its intricate themes and motifs and refined aesthetical plastics and colours.

Mikhail Larionov's brutal Venuses seemed equally shocking in the early 1910s. Their sources were the images written on Russian walls and fences, often accompanied by inscriptions of an unprintable nature.

The simple pictures of amateur Russian artists, adorning the entrances to shops and village stores, were also frequently the sources of inspiration for Mikhail Larionov (Barber).

The aesthetics of simple objects, seemingly unworthy of art, was thus incarnated by these artists through the prism of their own creative perception. They entered the Russian art of the late 1900s and early 1910s and overturned the traditional concepts of the possible and the impossible.

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