Natalia Gontcharova

Born in 1881 in Nagaevo, Russia, Natalia Sergeevna Goncharova, the daughter of Sergei,  an architect.  She moved to Moscow in 1892, and graduated from the Fourth Women’s Gymnasium in 1898.    In 1901 she enrolled in the Moscow Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture to study sculpture, and in 1903 she began exhibiting in important venues.  Goncharova then met Mikhail Larionov, also a student; shortly they began to live and work together.  She switched to painting in 1904, drawing on Russian folk art and icons and with Mikhail created Rayonism, a style influenced by technology and modernity,  with strong rays of contrasting colors.

Gontcharova: Foret Blu Vert
Foret Blu Vert.  Example of Rayonism

She visited European capitals, seeing the works of Impressionists, Fauvists and Cubists.  Van Gogh, Bonnard, Cezanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse and Picasso all influenced her.  She was even expelled from a portrait class  for imitating contemporary European artists.  Her exhibit in 1910-11 included primitivist and Cubist paintings.

She joined the Der Blaue Reiter avant-garde group from its beginning in 1911.  By 1915 she was designing ballet costumes and sets in Switzerland and a series of designs for a ballet.  In 1921 she moved to Paris and did more set designing and eventually fashion design as well.

In 2007 her 1909 Picking Apples auctioned at Christie’s for $9.8 million, a record for a female artist.  You can see the influence of the impressionists in this painting.

Picking Apples
Picking Apples

It reminds me a bit of this painting.

Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Seurat
Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Seurat


In 2007, Bluebells (1909) sold for $6.2 million. In 1912 her still-life The Flowers sold for $10.8 million.

In Street in Moscow, a woman in black is in motion but all else is still.  Squares, rectangles, and circles dominate and are simple and show little dimension. The blue of the horse reminds me of blue Chagall later uses.

Street in Moscow
Street in Moscow, 1909


Among other artists with whom she shares interest or style are Appel, Chagall, Modersohn-Becker and Wallis.  (see “The Art Book” by Phaidon.

for further background information

Also see My bio of Sonfonisba Anguissola

Coming up: Gwen John, Hepworth, Kahlo


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