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Natalia
Goncharova

Russia 
1881−1962
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Everything about Goncharova just in two words: she’s gifted and hard-working”, Marina Tsvetaeva wrote about her.
Goncharova worked, it seemed, in all directions, which there were many at that time: revolutions in society and in art had a tendency to synchronize, Russian history was the proof of that. Sincerely admiring the artist, Tsvetaeva assured that Goncharova’s life was not divided into the history of her life and the history of her creativity, and, perhaps, she was right.

Open your eyes to what you’re doing

Natalia Goncharova was a cousin of the great-granddaughter of Pushkin's wife Natalie Goncharova. She was born in the village of Ladyzhino, in the Tula province of Russia. She retained love for that village for life, and perceived the city purely as a necessary measure. Her father was an architect, and Natalia herself saw her way in that direction.

In 1901, she entered the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture at the sculpture department. And she absolutely succeeded in that field, studying with distinction. But soon, the most important meeting in her life took place, which changed everything. Mikhail Larionov, not particularly ceremonious, told Natalya: “You have eyes for color, and meantime you are busy with shape. Open your eyes to what you’re doing!” According to one legend, soon after that, a split broke out between them, the young people did not see each other and did not talk for three days. What did the girls do in that case? Did they cry and suffer? Did they try to forget everything while being with someone else? Did they complain about friends? Natalia Goncharova chose none of those ways. When Larionov couldn’t stand their fall out anymore and, eventually, came to her, he was met with a painted wall, hung with paintings, scraps of drawings, strokes of paint. It seemed that the entire Goncharova’s room turned into a canvas. “Each time I come to her - the whole wall is in miracles. “Who did this?” - “I did...”, ”Larionov recalled.

And there it all began. Goncharova went on a painting course to Korovin. And she painted a lot, non-stop, very bright. She began with impressionistic things (“Haymaking”, “Landscape at Ladyzhino”, “Still life with shoe and mirror”).

“Everything that was before me is mine”, or the great hoax

In fact, Goncharova was the first Russian avant-garde female artist. And the first solo exhibition ended for her with an arrest. A couple of her paintings were also “arrested” and declared pornographic. And it’s not that naked women have not been portrayed before. But it was done by a woman for the first time. However, the next day Goncharova was acquitted, the lawyer appealed to the fact that the “exhibition was private,” which was true exclusively from a formal point of view. The exhibition was not positioned as an open event, but at the same time was held in the Society of Free Aesthetics - and that was one of the most popular cultural sites at that time, and getting to it was not difficult at all.

But the main exhibition of the artist was waiting to take place. It happened in 1913. Many previous scandalous actions, flamboyant Larionov (painting ladies’ naked breasts), painted futurists walking along the streets of the city (the famous face-art depicting David Burliuk was from there). Sergei Diaghilev perfectly articulated what was the peculiarity, freshness and originality of what Goncharova then did: “If Goncharova simply painted her cheeks, I would be bored. Goncharova did not paint over wrinkles; she painted roses.” Goncharova turned her own face into a canvas.

The PR campaign did its job: the exhibition of the artist Natalia Goncharova in the autumn of 1913 at the Art Salon on Bolshaya Dmitrovka became one of the most visited ones. Visitors were told a bewitching biography of the artist. Being in Paris and working under the personal guidance of Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh – that was not enough for her! Tahiti! Island of St. Dominic and learning from Gauguin. Cezanne? That was a miss again! She returned to Russia and worked on religious paintings in one of the monasteries. After that was Madagascar, excavations and sculptures! And there was her, turning to the East. “Europe is a recidivist thief!” said Goncharova. Why did we need the West when you can get all the best first-hand in Russia? One caveat: a fascinating biography - pure mystification. Goncharova at that time did not leave Russia ...

Who is she?” - visitors were interested. “What style does she work in?” “Everything that was before me is mine,” said Goncharova. And she worked in all styles. The talent and incredible hard work of the artist did not allow her to set limits and follow the only one direction. It seemed she was working in all possible directions. She had done it all: impressionism, primitivism, cubism, futurism, luchismpaintings on religious topics and numerous non-canonical paintings of saints which were condemned by the church. “Allness”! Goncharova absolutely insisted that “allness” was in no way an eclecticism: “Eclecticism is a blanket of rags, continuous seams. Since there is no seam, it’s mine. The influence of the icon? Persian miniatures? Assyria? I'm not blind. I wasn’t looking at things to forget them later.

The exhibition presented 761 works by Goncharova. She painted so much in 13 years of work. That was, in a week - more than one painting. The exhibition had changed the attitude not only to Natalia Goncharova, but also to the avant-garde as a whole. The Tretyakov Gallery acquired several paintings by the artist, among them was “Albero Rowan. Panino. Vicino a Vyazma” and “Still Life with a Bouquet and a Bottle of Colors”.

Natalie and Natalia Goncharova

Marina Tsvetaeva, passionately idolizing Pushkin, having heard from someone about Natalia Goncharova, became interested in the coincidence. Having discovered that it was not about coincidence, but about kinship, she wished to meet up, and then write about them, about both of them. Two Universes, two Natalia Goncharova. Tsvetaeva described Natalie as an absolute of beauty and emptiness. Natalia Goncharova was described as a creator who became the opposite of the first one: “For the reverse beauty is not a monster, as it might seem in the first second, but rather an essence, personality.

Surprisingly enough, Pushkin’s Natalie Goncharova, who was always the star of evening events, “beauty and that’s all”, according to Tsvetaeva’s definition, made herself known in an unexpected way. Her cousin, great-granddaughter of the artist, was not a fan of social events, but proved to be in the fashion field. In Russia, all the ladies put on shirt dresses because of her, and she began to wear trousers and caps one of the first, when that was a serious challenge to society at that time.

Natalia Goncharova made sketches for the Russian Fashion House of Nadezhda Lamanova, and later in Paris collaborated with the Chanel Fashion House and Mirbor. The sketches of her outfits were published by Vanity Fair and Vogue magazines.

Sceneries by Natalia Goncharova

In 1915, Diaghilev sent 50 telegrams to Natalya Goncharova, offering collaboration. But she refused. In 1951, he came up with an idea to make it known that he was going to invite both Goncharova and Larionov. And they accepted the invitation. That was an acceptance made for life, although they did not suspect that.
Goncharova painted sceneries and costumes for “The Golden Cockerel”, and that became a real revolution. Brightness, sincerity, not imitation, not the “a la rus” style, but authenticity, a subtle sense of detail, tradition, and not restoration — those were the sceneries by Goncharova. “The Cockerel” became an event, Goncharova’s scenery opened a new chapter in decorative art. The artist’s followers in that area were: Larionov, Sergey Sudeikin, Nikolai Remizov. The theatrical works by Pablo Picasso had an undeniable influence of Goncharova’s “The Golden Cockerel”, costumes for the ballet “Tricorne”, in particular.

The invented biography suddenly began to be embodied. From then on Goncharova travelled all over Europe - together with Larionov they accompanied Diaghilev and his ballets. By the way, until the death of Diaghilev, Natalia Goncharova was his prima in the field of scenery, a leading artist.

Spain made the strongest impression on her - and for almost 10 years that country became a source of inspiration. Goncharova’s “The Spaniards” - one of its most powerful series.

Bigger than love

In 1918, Goncharova and Larionov settled in France. Up until now, you can go to the “La Palette café” on the ground floor of their house in Paris, in the Latin Quarter, on Jacques Callot Street. They often dined there.

Larionov and I, as soon as we met, we never ever parted,” said Natalia Goncharova. Larionov was very proud of her success and was much more serious about it than about his own. Their lives were united by something more than love. Vocation? Art? Soulful intimacy? Whatever you call it, the fact remains the same: even when Larionov had got his Shurochka (Alexandra Tomilina, Larionov’s mistress for 30 years, and after the death of Natalia Goncharova - his second wife), and Natalia Goncharova had got Orest Rosenfeld (emigrant from Russia, French socialist), that did not violate the main thing that happened between them.

They were more than partners for each other, more than lovers, more than husband and wife. By the way, only in 1955, Natalia Goncharova married Larionov - in order to ensure that the paintings, if something happened to one of them, remained in the family. Since they did not have children, the sole heir could be a legal spouse. Over time, they hoped to transfer their paintings to their homeland ... During Natalia Goncharova’s life, that never happened.

Larionov is my working conscience, my tuning fork. There are such children, born to know about everything. A touchstone for falsehood. We are very different, and he sees me from me, not from himself. Like I do see him,”- wrote Natalia Goncharova about Larionov. It cannot be said which of them exerted a greater influence on the other. They couldn’t be without each other, like the Russian avant-garde without their names and works.

Author: Alena Esaulova
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