Udaltsova, Nadezhda (1885–1961)

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Udaltsova, Nadezhda (1885–1961)

Russian artist. Name variations: Nadezhda Andreevna Udaltsova. Born in 1885 in Orel, Russia; died in 1961; studied at Moscow School of Painting, at a school run by Konstantin Yuon, and with various artists in Paris and in Russia; married second husband Aleksandr Drevin (a painter), in 1920s (died 1938).

Nadezhda Udaltsova was born in the small town of Orel, Russia, in 1885. She and her three sisters grew up under the strict discipline of their military father and the tender care of their mother, who loved art and taught her daughters to draw. "Drawing was a second life to us," said Udaltsova. "We invented people and children and depicted them as if they were alive. We took the subjects from our own environment and from the books we read."

An introverted child, Udaltsova moved with her parents at the age of six to Moscow, where she attended school. After graduating from high school with distinction, she began training at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture. In 1906, she entered the school run by Konstantin Yuon in Moscow. Insecure about her art, Udaltsova believed it was inferior to that of the other students. One teacher in particular, Nikolai Ulyanov, was especially encouraging, however, and convinced her to commit herself to painting.

In the early 1900s, Russian art underwent a renaissance, and Udaltsova was spurred by artists and ideas from Western Europe. In 1908, she visited the Dresden Gallery and was inspired by the work of Tintoretto. Upon returning to Russia, she was offered the opportunity to study Sergei Shchukin's collection of works by Cézanne, Van Gogh, and Gauguin, which she viewed as "new, unprecedented forms, new visions of the world." A year later, Udaltsova began to study the principles of Cubist painting with Karol Kish. And in 1912, Udaltsova and Liubov Popova went to Paris, where they studied with Cubist painters for a year. Nadezhda loved Paris. "My particular aspirations and endeavors began to define themselves," she wrote. "Cognition of the world of phenomena, clarity of construction, the composition of space, the correlation of masses—these were elements which I had sought long and importunately."

Upon her return to Russia in 1913, she began working with other artists who had also been influenced by Cubism. Udaltsova was involved with three major exhibitions and established herself as a prominent Cubist painter, and although this avant-garde art received a mixed critical reception, she published a persuasive essay defending the techniques and style of the movement. Despite executing a series of reliefs entitled Painterly Constructions for the State Tretyakov Gallery in 1915, Udaltsova did not follow other artists into Constructivism but remained interested in the use of color and texture on the canvas; she was, therefore, more aligned with Suprematism.

After the Russian Revolution in 1917, Udaltsova and her friends were on the side of the Soviets, whom they considered progressive, and her art received wide recognition by the new regime. She became an assistant at the Free State Studios and by 1920 had become a professor and senior lecturer at Vkhutemas, the former Higher Artistic and Technical Studios, where she would teach until 1934. She also became a member of the Institute of Artistic Culture (Inkhuk) in 1920. Deemed highly progressive during these years, Udaltsova was also implacable in her views on art. When the Inkhuk abandoned the concept of easel painting, she resigned.

During the 1920s, Udaltsova's style changed, with some critics labeling it regressive. According to M.N. Yablonskaya, "Udaltsova was theoretically astute, and seems to have understood that her non-objective art now needed the introduction of concrete natural impressions." Her art became more representational and included more landscapes. It was also around this time that she married her second husband, Aleksandr Drevin, a fellow painter with whom she often shared ideas. In the mid-1930s, they traveled across Russia, painting the Ural and Altai Mountains, Armenia, and Central Asia. Drevin died in a concentration camp in 1938. Udaltsova continued working after his death, despite an injury that had limited her mobility. Living on a small pension, she painted until her death in 1961.


Yablonskaya, M.N. Women Artists of Russia's New Age. NY: Rizzoli, 1990.

Kelly Winters , freelance writer

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Udaltsova, Nadezhda (1885–1961)

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