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Natalia Goncharova at the Tate Modern


From the 6 Jun 2019 – 8 Sep 2019

Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962)

"A leader of the Russian avant-garde, Natalia Goncharova blazed a trail with her experimental approach to art and design"

This must see exhibition at the Tate Modern brilliantly encapsulates a life-time of work which ranges across many artistic mediums. The diversity of Goncharova's work is reflected in the underlying cultural and religious connotations of her palette.

"Goncharova’s personality is revealed through the entire spectrum of her work" - Guillaume Apollinare.

The presentation of Goncharova's work at the Tate Modern represents the first retrospective synopsis of her career ever seen in the UK. According to the Tate Modern's official website, many of the works featured in the exhibition have not been seen in the UK before. From room to room, one embarks on a transitional journey from the primitive, Russian folk-art influence of her earlier years right up to the theatrical cubo-futuristic style of her later years.

Goncharova found acclaim early in her career. Not only did she establish herself as a leading Russian avant-garde artist, she also designed many costumes and set backdrops for Ballet Russes. Examples of which can be seen as part of the exhibition.


Goncharova's use of bold colours and minimal forms resulted in flattened surfaces, reminiscent of works by her contemporaries such as Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin and Pablo Picasso. Her technique of capturing the dynamism of the modern era sparked the development of Rayonism. This abstract style embraces the refraction of light. The fractured perspectives associated with cubism, combined with the effect of Rayonism, is known as cubo-futurism - an artistic movement associated with Russian avant-garde artists.

Extensive Artistic Output

Goncharova's immense artistic output resulted in what can be described as a wide-ranging and a controversial body of work. From her large, imposing and ecclesiastical representations of The Evangelists to her abstract and cubist-like depiction of The Weaver, Goncharova's creative dialogue has the power to both amaze and intrigue.

When Goncharova produced her version of iconographical religious painting, she was aware that she was engaging with the soul of Russian culture. In 1912, authorities removed The Evangelists from a group exhibition for the reason that an "avant-garde" setting was deemed severely inappropriate for the representation of sacred images.

The physical mergence of the woman with her work at the loom in The Weaver, captures the close relationship between an individual engrossed in one's work and the finished artistic output. The Weaver shows the incorporation of urban and industrial themes into Goncharova's extensive body of work.

A Range of Themes

Goncharova's work not only spans across a diverse range of media, it also addresses a substantial assortment of themes. From self-portraits to landscapes, from devotional religious imagery to patriotic war illustrations, from industrial subjects to stage sets, the Goncharova exhibition exalts all areas of the artist's creative output thought her life.

Spanish Influence

A visit to Spain in 1916 resulted in an outstanding cultural influence on Goncharova's work, in terms of her painting and also her costume/set design. A strong affinity with the Spanish culture of Flamenco dancers, dress and music is captured in her painting entitled Spanish Woman. It depicts an elongated, female figure holding a fan. The myriad of patterns placed alongside each other reflect upon her use of contrasting and bright colours in other works. Addressing Spanish themes became a means of exploring form and style.


Goncharova's engagement across various artistic media is captured in this retrospective collection of her work. From painting, to textiles, book designs and even designs for fashion houses in both Paris and Moscow, the extent of her artistic diversity can be sensed throughout the exhibition. The diverse range of themes in her work show that she is surely the pioneer of "everythingism".

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