Goncharova, Natalia Sergeyevna

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(18811962), artist, book illustrator, set and costume designer.

Natalia Sergeyevna Goncharova was born on June 21, 1881, in the village of Nagaevo in the Tula province; she died on October 17, 1962, in Paris. She lived in Moscow from 1892 and enrolled at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture in 1901 to study sculpture. She met Mikhail Larionov in 19001901 who encouraged her to paint and became her lifelong companion. They were married in 1957. In 1906 she contributed to the Russian Section at the Salon d'Automne, Paris. In 19081910 she contributed to the three exhibitions organized by Nikolai Riabushinsky, editor of the journal Zolotoe runo (The Golden Fleece ) in Moscow. In 1910 she founded with Larionov and others the Jack of Diamonds group and participated in their first exhibition. In 1911 the group split and from 19111914 she participated in a series of rival exhibitions organized by Larionov: the "Donkey's Tail" (1912), the "Target "(1913), and the "No. 4" (1914). Throughout this period she worked in several styles Primitivist, Cubist, and, in 19121913, Futurist and Rayist. Her work immediately became a lightning rod for debate over the legitimacy and cultural identity of new Russian painting. In 1910 a oneday exhibition of Goncharova's work was held at the Society for Free Esthetics. The nude life studies she displayed on this occasion led to her trial for pornography in Moscow's civil court (she was acquitted). Major retrospective exhibitions of Goncharova's work were organized in Moscow (1913) and St. Petersburg (1914). Paintings of religious subject matter were censored, and in the last exhibition temporarily banned as blasphemous by the Spiritual-Censorship Committee of the Holy Synod.

On April 29, 1914 Goncharova left with Larionov for Paris to mount Sergei Diagilev's production of Rimsky-Korsakov's Le Coq d'Or (a collaboration between herself and choreographer Mikhail Fokine). Also in 1914, the Galerie Paul Guillaume in Paris held her first commercial exhibition. During the 1920s and 1930s she and Larionov collaborated on numerous designs for Diagilev and other impresarios. Returning briefly to Moscow in 1915, she designed Alexander Tairov's production of Carlo Goldoni's Il Ventaglio at the Chamber Theater, Moscow. After traveling with Diagilev's company to Spain and Italy, she settled in Paris with Larionov in 1917. In 19201921 she contributed to the "Exposition internationale d'art moderne" in Geneva and in 1922 exhibited at the Kingore Gallery, New York. From the 1920s onward she continued to paint, teach, illustrate books, and design theater and ballet productions. After 1930, except for occasional contributions to exhibitions, Larionov and Goncharova lived unrecognized and impoverished. Through the efforts of Mary Chamot, author of Goncharova's first major biography, a number of their works entered museum collections, including the Tate Gallery, London, the National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, and the National Art Gallery in Wellington, New Zealand. In 1954 their names were resurrected at Richard Buckle's "The Diagilev Exhibition" in Edinburgh and London. In 1961 Art Council of Great Britain organized a major retrospective of Goncharova's and Larionov's works, and numerous smaller exhibitions were held throughout Europe during the 1970s. In 1995 the Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris organized a large exhibition of their work in Europe. Exhibitions were also held at the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow (1999, 2000). The first retrospective of her Russian oeuvre since 1914 was held at the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg in 2002.

See also: diagilev, sergei pavlovich


Artcyclopedia Web site. (2003) <www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/goncharova_natalia.html>.

Chamot, Mary. (1972). Gontcharova Paris: La Bibliotheque des Arts.

Lukanova, Alla and Avtonomova, Natalia, eds. (2000). Mikhail Larionov, Natalia Goncharova. Exhibition Catalogue. Moscow: State Tretiakov Gallery.

Petrova, Evgeniia, ed. (2002). Natalia Goncharova: the Russian Years. Exhibition Catalogue. St. Petersburg: The State Russian Museum and Palace Editions.

Jane A. Sharp