Sofronova, Antonina (1892–1966)

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Sofronova, Antonina (1892–1966)

Russian artist best remembered for her urban landscapes. Name variations: Antonina Fedorovna; Antonina Fyodorovna Sofronova. Born in 1892 in Droskovo in Orel Province, Russia; daughter of a doctor; graduated from the Girls' Commercial College in Kiev, 1909; studied art at the School of Feodor Rerberg in Moscow, 1910; studied under Ilya Mashkov, 1913.

Born in 1892 in Droskovo, a village in Orel Province, Russian artist Antonina Sofronova is best remembered for her cityscapes. Sofronova graduated from the Girls' Commercial College in Kiev in 1909 and moved to Moscow the following year to study art at the School of Feodor Rerberg. In 1913, she began studying under Ilya Mashkov, where she stayed until the Revolution. In 1914, the "Knave of Diamonds" exhibition included her work among those of French painters Georges Braque and André Derain, Russian painters Petr Konchalovsky, Aristarkh Lentulov, Kazimir Malevich, Ilya Mashkov, and Alexei Morgunov, and Spanish painter Pablo Picasso. Her paintings were also featured at the "World of Art" exhibition in 1917.

During the 1910s, Sofronova focused on figurative paintings, but by the end of the decade, her style was of a more Expressionist nature, focusing on the abstract and other subjective graphic explorations into the areas of form and color. Her Portrait of My Daughter (1919) provides a glimpse into a new approach to art by yielding attention to color and spatial arrangement. During the 1920s, she taught with Mikhail Sokolov at the State Art Studios in Tver. Her work from this time included Expressionist landscapes and Cubist portraits.

For a brief period Sofronova turned to the graphic designs of production art, aligning herself with Constructivism, a movement that originated in the Soviet Union and is characterized by abstract geometric design. Her later work, however, shows that her foray into Constructivism was merely a phase and not representative of her own philosophy of art.

Sofronova went on to become an artist of the urban landscape, and cities show up as a recurrent theme in her works. She grew to see profound similarities between urban and rural subjects, recognizing not only likeness of form but an inherent organic sameness in which one emerged from the other and could easily return to it. From 1924 to 1925, she completed watercolors and ink drawings titled Moscow Street Types. In this series, she juxtaposed the city's down-and-out, the homeless and drunk, with such rural images as sunflowers. By the end of the 1920s, she was still working on Moscow cityscapes, producing a series of paintings noted for their unique use of color and evocative tone. According to M.N. Yablonskaya , Sofronova's work during this period reveals the influence of French painter Maurice Utrillo, whose "quiet and nostalgic cityscapes" of Paris had been exhibited in Moscow in 1928.

In 1929, Russian artists influenced by the Impressionist trends came together to form "Group 13" (the number of artists in its first exhibition). The group's goal was to communicate their impressions of nature with immediacy, and they considered their study sketches and watercolors complete works of art. Intrigued by their approach, Sofronova participated in the group's 1931 exhibition, which would be its last because of negative reviews generated by the changing attitude toward art under the Communist system. The Soviet government labeled as "formalist" any work that did not take a realistic approach or lacked what it considered social or political value. Sofronova herself was criticized, and she rarely showed her work in public after a restrictive decree issued by the government abolished all official art groups in 1932. Two years later, Socialist Realism was declared to be the only avenue of expression appropriate for artists in the Soviet Union. Sofronova continued painting but eventually retreated to isolation, dying in 1966.


Yablonskaya, M.N. Women Artists of Russia's New Age, 1900–1935. Edited by Anthony Parton. NY: Rizzoli International, 1990.

Lisa Frick , freelance writer, Columbia, Missouri