She was innovative, inspired, and at times controversial. And now, Natalia Goncharova will be the subject of a new exhibition at the Tate Modern, in the first retrospective of her work ever held in the UK. Born in 1881 in Nagaevo (now in the Chernsky District of Tula Oblast), Goncharova had several interests growing up, including zoology, history, botany, and medicine. However, she ended up deciding on sculpture and was accepted by the Moscow Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture.
At the Institute, Goncharova studied under Pavel Trubetskoi, who was associated with the World of Art movement. She began exhibiting her work soon after graduating and went on to form Moscow's first radical independent exhibiting group, the Jack of Diamonds, with fellow artists Larionov, Robert Falk, Pyotr Konchalovsky, Alexander Kuprin and Ilya Mashkov. This group became the largest and one of the most significant exhibition societies of the early Russian avant-garde. The founding aim of the group was to support young Russian artists who found it extremely difficult to get accepted for exhibitions. The Jack of Diamonds blamed the situation on the "indolence and cliquishness of our artistic spheres". For her paintings, Goncharova drew inspirations for primitivism from Russian icons and folk art.
Some of the exhibitions of the Jack of Diamonds group were controversial; a religiously-themed piece by Goncharova was removed by the censor for being "blasphemous". Goncharova herself sometimes would appear topless in public with symbols on her chest and, as one of the leaders of the Moscow Futurists, helped to organise provocative lecture evenings. Later in life, she moved to France and designed for fashion houses in Moscow and Paris. Goncharova was a bold and innovative figure of the 20th century and this summer's exhibition will explore her diverse sources and inspirations.
Until 8 September 2019, Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG
BBlog by Jessica Edney