If the name of Natalia Goncharova has never been unknown to anyone interested in early 20th century Russian painting, it has not always been easy to grasp the range of her work. The opportunity was given during an exhibition organized by the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1999: “the Amazons of the avant-garde”. Besides Goncharova, there were Alexandra Exter, Lyubov Popova, Olga Rozanova, Varvara Stepanova and Nadezhda Udaltsova. Each would have its place in this series of little-known women artists. All of them, in different ways, contributed to this great utopian dream of Russian art at the beginning of the last century. Art historian John Ellis Bowlt wrote: “The triumph of the Russian avant-garde is unthinkable without these six women, each of whom contributes directly to its development. »
Natalia Sergeyevna Goncharova was born in 1881 (the same year as Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger and another great artist who was to become the man of her life, Michel Larionov), in a rather wealthy Russian gentry family. Her childhood, spent in the Tula region, left a deep mark on her: traditional fabric factories, the rural world, peasant dances, field work and even traditional icons. Nevertheless, the poet Marina Tsvetayeva singles out Goncharova’s biography, her “outdoor life”, his creative work and his personality. However, paintings like the reapers (1907-1908) or even Peasants gathering grapes (1912) find their origin in the observation of work in the fields. Another thing is the technique used.
Natalia Goncharova never settled down in artistic comfort, in a ” how to “, evolving according to schools and its own research. Thus in 1910, in Moscow, with her companion, Larionov, she participated in the creation of the Jack of Diamonds group, which claimed Paul Cézanne, the Fauves and Post-Impressionism. Group that she will abandon quickly enough to seek other horizons through popular art. It will be, still with Larionov, the Donkey’s Tail, inspired by Russian and Oriental neo-primitivism. The exhibition they organized in 1912 caused a scandal. They are accused of blasphemy and pornography. Paintings are seized by the police. Then it is the adventure of the futurist movement and of rayonism (lutchizm), which aims to make visible the vibrations of an object. These works are known. She exhibited for the Blue Rider (Der Blaue Reiter), in Munich, and, in 1913, at the Der Sturm gallery in Berlin.
The year 1914 will mark a turning point. In this apocalyptic era, Goncharova produced a series of lithographs entitled Mystical images of war. Then began his collaboration with the Ballets Russes, in this case, the sets of the golden rooster, by Rimsky-Korsakov. She left Russia in 1915 but, from 1917, worked with Diaghilev’s troupe, of which she was one of the main painters. It will see the Bolshevik revolution from afar, but will share its hopes. The artistic whirlwind of the 1910s already foreshadowed the political upheaval she was calling for. Larionov and Gontcharova will take part in the “Cubism and Abstract Art” exhibition organized by Moma, in New York, in 1936. The couple will settle in Paris. She died on October 17, 1962. The Museum of Modern Art in Paris will devote a retrospective to her. Natalia Goncharova remains however still unknown.