We couldn’t have asked for a better birthday gift for Natalia Goncharova: a month before her birthday Tate Modern in London is presenting the first retrospective of her work in the UK ever. The exhibition opens on June, 6th.
The date of her birth might be confusing, some say 21st June, others 3rd of July but we must remember that in Russia the Julian calendar was in use until 1918 and that’s the cause of confusion.
Goncharova equals eclectism. She began studying sculpture at the Moscow Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (where her father had studied before), when she met her love Mikhail Larionov she turned to painting, then when she came across Sergei Diaghilev’s, she was asked to design costumes and backdrops for his Ballet Russes in France. Eclectic was also her style, which combined Russian and Asian folk art, Oriental elements, Cubism… She admitted that when she went to France, “they [the contemporary French artists] opened my eyes to the great importance and value of my country’s art, and by extension, of Oriental art as well.” Moreover, her iconography was eclectic, too: she held dear Russian Orthodox icons but also profane themes of a simple peasant life.
Although she was bron into a well-off family, she spent most of her childhood on her granny’s estate in the countryside. The family moved to Moscow when the girl was ten because her father was going through financial troubles and was hoping for better prospects in a bigger city.
Goncharova- the artist made a prosperous career quite early: it was Diaghilev who invited both Larionov and Goncharova to exhibit in Paris in 1906 and despite some controversies (like parading semi-naked the streets of Moscow displaying futurist tattoos), she was growing increasingly popular also in Russia. She held a major avant-garde exhibition in Moscow in 1913, aged just 32.
The exhibition at Tate Modern will explore Goncharova’s visual inspirations, it’s been organized in collaboration with Palazzo Strozzi, Florence and the Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki.