Thursday, March 15, 2012

Russian State Museum - Natalia Goncharova

I am still catching up on my experiences of Russia and art.  After 2 days of visiting the Hermitage, we headed off to spend the day in the “The Russian State Museum”.  It was another experience of "wow".

Four Apostles

The plan was to head straight for the Kandinsky and Malevich section (Marie-Claire's influence...they are her favourites).
But on the way to see Kandinsky, we first encountered Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962).

A blue apostle
 Initially, I will admit that I stopped because she was a woman. I hadn't heard of her, but get so few chances to see women in museums that I wasn't moving on until I had taken a closer look at her paintings.

OK. A qualification. Of course there are tons of women in museums, but they are generally there as the subject of some man's painterly imagination, rather than as painters themselves.

The result is that I am always excited to take a look at those women artists who managed to push their way past the glass/oil/acryllic ceiling! :-)

a green (apostolic!) foot
I was totally taken with the picture above of "The Four Apostles". 

What I haven't captured is their size.  They are beautifully long and in vibrant colours. 

They are also NOT named: you cannot say which is (for example) Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.... you can say only what colour they are!  :-) 

I will also say that our earlier discussions with Alexander and Evgeny about the Russian Orthodox tradition of "icons" made me look more closely at these pieces (thinking about the ways they are both drawing on and disrupting those inherited traditions).

"Bleaching Linen" - Goncharova
 I also spent some time in front of the painting "Bleaching Linen".  We had just spent the previous day looking at all the Matisse paintings, and this one has a similar feel to me.  I knew she was Russian, not French, but there was something similar in the richness and vibrancy of the colour and the flatness of the forms. 

I was totally happy when I finally listened to the audio guide on the painting, and they said it was in the Russian version of the Fauvist style (ie. she and Matisse were doing similar things)...i felt like my eyes were starting to get a bit better at seeing links.

Anyways, after getting home, I went out on the web to read up a bit more on her. You can try clicking on these links if you want to read the same pages I did:

After reading more, I will admit I was a bit irritated with myself at not knowing who she was, since it seems that in 2007, one of her paintings sold for nearly $10 million, which is the record for a female artist. But... aside from records, I just thought her paintings were beautiful.

Things I learned AFTER the visit include the fact that she lived (unmarried!) with Mikhail Larionov (1881-1964), with the two of them marrying only in the final years right before they died (and they died in total poverty within a year of eachother). 

This little fact made it see odd to me that other websites talked about her "and her husband" being the founders of the Russian Futurist movement back in the 1915s... yes... he was her husband, but not til much much later!  :-)

Knowing that, it became all the more interesting to me that the curators had placed two paintings with trees (one by her, and one by him) on either side of the door leading into the room which carried so many of her pieces of art.  I had noticed that when standing in the room, and had wondered why, but didn't know the connection between the two artists.
Trees, a la Goncharova
Trees, a la Larionov

In any event, it seems she also painted right until the end, even though debilitated by cancer and arthritis (and poverty). I am in love with her now.  

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