The Artists

Natalia Goncharova
Art-Punk in Futurist Moscow

Portrait of Natalia Goncharova

Natalia Goncharova welcomed a good scandal. A rich girl from the country, she moved to the city and set up court among the rebels, primitivists, and shrieking anarchists. Natalia became the dismissive queen of Moscow’s avant-garde empire, and at age thirty-three she left it behind.

Natalia arrived in Moscow in 1898, at age 17. Enrolled at the Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, Natalia cut a strong line between herself and her peers. Growing up in the country left Natalia outside of the urban expectations and pervasive visual language of the city. She painted peasants and rural scenes, borrowing from the fauvist styles of Cezanne and Matisse. Natalia described her early years saying “At the beginning of my development, I learned most of all from my French contemporaries.”

At the Moscow Institute Natalia met her lifetime lover, collaborator and co-conspirator, the artist and troublemaker Michael Larionov. Michael had been expelled from the Institute numerous times, and in 1900 the two artists left together—Natalia having only completed three of the expected ten years of study. The next decade was a whirlwind for Natalia and Michael. Natalia reduced her style to its simplest primitive forms, seen in Peasants Dancing and The Evangelists, which was confiscated on grounds of blasphemy after hanging in an exhibition titled The Donkey’s Tail. The duo took their art to the streets, painting each other’s naked torsos with hieroglyphs and profanities and marching through wealthy neighborhoods. In 1910 Natalia was charged with creating pornography after a show of nude works, and in 1913 and 1914 she held solo exhibits. Together with Michael, Natalia developed the ‘Rayonism’ movement, further abstracting cubism into shards of painted light. From 1900-1914 Natalia reigned supreme as Moscow’s aesthetic agitatrix. Art critic Sergei Diaghilev described the influence of Natalia’s creative vortex saying “this woman has all Saint Petersburg and all Moscow at her feet…she has imitators not only of her paintings but of her person. She has started a fashion of nightdress-frocks in black and white, blue and orange…She has painted flowers on her face. And soon the nobility and Bohemia will paint on their cheeks, foreheads and necks.”

And then, in 1914, Natalia and Michael moved to Paris. Invited by gallerist and friend Sergei Diaghilev, the pair were introduced to the world of stage and costume design. With Natalia’s history of body art and transgressive style, she brought the bright colors and moral contrasts of Russian folk art to life for Diaghlev’s Le Coq D’Or, the Ballets Russes, Les Noces, Cinderella and dozens more productions in Paris, Lausanne Switzerland, and London.


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Reed Enger, "Natalia Goncharova, Art-Punk in Futurist Moscow," in Obelisk Art History, Published March 02, 2016; last modified November 06, 2022,

Natalia Goncharova was a Russian Woman Artist born on July 3, 1881. Goncharova contributed to the Futurist movement and died on October 17, 1962.

Harvesting, Natalia Goncharova

Harvesting 1907

Fishing, Natalia Goncharova

Fishing 1909

L'Electricité, Natalia Goncharova

L'Electricité 1910

I condemn without hesitation the position of the Knave of Diamonds, which has replaced creative activity with theorizing.

Cubism — a Diatribe 1912

Landscape, 47, Natalia Goncharova

Landscape, 47 1912

Forest, Natalia Goncharova

Forest 1913

Peasants Gathering Grapes, Natalia Goncharova

Peasants Gathering Grapes 1913

Queen Of Shamakhan from 'Le Coq d'Or', Natalia Goncharova

Queen Of Shamakhan from 'Le Coq d'Or' 1913

Rayonism, Blue-Green Forest, Natalia Goncharova

Rayonism, Blue-Green Forest 1911 – 1913

Art for life and even more—life for art!

Rayonists and Futurists: A Manifesto 1913

The Cyclist, Natalia Goncharova

The Cyclist 1913

The Forest, Natalia Goncharova

The Forest 1913

I shake off the dust of the West, and I consider all those people ridiculous and backward who still imitate Western models in the hope of becoming pure painters and who fear literariness more than death.

The Rise of Russian Art 1913

Costume for 'Le Coq d'Or', Natalia Goncharova

Costume for 'Le Coq d'Or' 1914

Curtain for Le Coq d'Or: Third Act, Natalia Goncharova

Curtain for Le Coq d'Or: Third Act 1914

Designs for the stage wings of ‘Le Coq d’Or’, Natalia Goncharova

Designs for the stage wings of ‘Le Coq d’Or’ 1914

Set design for 'Le Coq d'Or', Natalia Goncharova

Set design for 'Le Coq d'Or' 1914

Study for a Curtain for 'Le Coq d'Or', Natalia Goncharova

Study for a Curtain for 'Le Coq d'Or' 1913 – 1914

The Nativity, for Liturgy, Natalia Goncharova

The Nativity, for Liturgy 1915

Costume for Sadko, Natalia Goncharova

Costume for Sadko 1916

The Bridge, Natalia Goncharova

The Bridge 1916

Two Russian maidens, Natalia Goncharova

Two Russian maidens 1920

Coronation backdrop for ‘The Firebird’, Natalia Goncharova

Coronation backdrop for ‘The Firebird’ 1926

Stage Design for The Firebird, Act II, Natalia Goncharova

Stage Design for The Firebird, Act II 1926

Composition with Blue Rectangle, Natalia Goncharova

Composition with Blue Rectangle 1950 – 1959

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