NATALIA GONCHAROVA (June 4, 1881 – October 17, 1962)
was a Russian avant-garde artist, painter, costume designer, illustrator, set designer and writer. She was born in a small village south-east of Moscow in the Tula province. Young Goncharova was brought up in a highly intellectual environment of her family.
Her Great aunt was Natalia Goncharova-Pushkina, wife of the Russian poetAlexander Pushkin.
In 1891 the family moved to Moscow. In 1901 she entered Moscow Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, where she met Mikhail Larionov, who was a student of the same art school.
In 1906 Goncharova and Larionov exhibited their works at a World of Art exhibition put on by Diaghilev, and he subsequently invited the pair to exhibit in Paris at the 1906 Salon d’Automne. Goncharova’s professional relationship with Diaghilev didn’t end there, and in 1914, after having spent eight years developing and perfecting her artistic techniques in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, she returned to Paris to work again with Diaghilev on stage designs for his Ballets Russes.
In 1911 Goncharova became a founding member of Der Blaue Reiter group of avant-garde artists led by Wassily Kandinsky. She participated in the first show of Der Blaue Reiter in Munich. In 1912 she took part in organizing the Russian avant-garde group „Osliny Khvost“ (aka.. Donkey’s Tail), together with her partner, artist Mikhail Larionov. At that time she was inspired by the lectures by the Italian ideologue and founder of Futurism Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in Moscow. Marinetti’s lectures about Futurism and the influence on masses of people through art, provoked Goncharova and Larionov on making their own lectures on Futurism, albeit their Russian lectures were less politically charged compared to their Italian counterpart.
Goncharova was also a graphic artist who created design and illustrations for books in the style of Futurism. In her innovative compositions, Goncharova often broke traditional forms by introducing an intricate fabric of images intertwined with music notation, letters, fragments of words and textual messages.
In 1913 Goncharova had her first and biggest „one-man“ show which covered the enormous range of her talent, from her Neo-primitive works and Russian icon-inspired images, to her most modern endeavors in Cubo-Futurism and Rayonism. At that time Goncharova emerged as an important and also a highly controversial figure, often breaking social conventions as well as rigid cultural dogmas. She was among the first women in Russia who shocked the public with her casual cross-dressing, and also with her sharp comments on art and society.
Between 1922 and 1926 Goncharova created fashion designs for Marie Cuttoli’s shop, Maison Myrbor on the Rue Vincent, Paris. Her richly embroidered and appliqued dress designs were strongly influenced by Russian folk art, Byzantine mosaic and her work for the Ballets Russes.
During the 1920s she played a significant role within the Ecole de Paris and continued to live and work in France until her death.
Natalia Goncharova was a major figure in early 20th century Russian art, and is now one of the most highly priced Russian artists in history. A controversial figure who scandalized Moscow with her open cohabitation with the modernist painter Mikhail Larionov, she was noted for her avant-garde art which borrowed heavily from Russian icon painting and other forms of primitive art.
1938 Goncharova became a French citizen. In 1955 she and Larionov were finally married. Goncharova died on October 17th, 1962 in Paris, France.