Natalia Goncharova, born on June 4th (June 21st in Julian calendar which was in use until 1918, which is when the Russian Federation adopted the now used Gregorian calendar) 1881, in Nagaevo, Tula Oblast’, Russian Empire. Goncharova, along with her life long collaborator and life partner, Mikhail Larionov, established a short lived yet incredibly important art movement in Russian art, Rayonism. Rayonism, deriving from the word “ray” sought to present an object as intersecting rays of light, as opposed to its physical manifestation. This idea that an object should be sensed as opposed to represented at face value is the driving force of both Cubism and Abstract Expressionism, and with that of Cubo-Futurism, a medium which best describes Goncharova’s own work. In a statement regarding Rayonism, Goncharova and Laironov stated, “We do not sense the object with our eye, as it is depicted conventionally in pictures and as a result of following this or that device; in fact, we do not sense the object as such. We perceive a sum of rays proceeding from a source of light; these are reflected from the object and enter our field of vision.”
It was important for both artists to transcend time and space as we perceive it and focus on the most essential of the world around us. As one views a painting, what the viewer sees is not just a pictorial representation of a subject matter, what they see is time and space, history, literature, science and mathematics all come together in a magnificent collision, and at that pinnacle of all the senses meeting, the greatness of the universe presents itself in the form of that aforementioned painting, which is as best a representation of the universe coming together as we can have without using the prism as another example.
This idea of representation allowed for freedom to depart from conventional ideas of art, which would oppress and confine the artist and the artistic community. Goncharova, in that sense, was a major driving force behind this liberation. This was a woman in 1910s Russia who lived with a man to whom she was not married, she also wore pants, and at times would appear topless in public with flowers painted on her face. One of Goncharova’s paintings, The Evangelists (1910-11), exhibited with the Donkey’s Tail exhibition group, was confiscated by the Russian sensors. Depicting a religious subject matter and shown with a group whose name derived from the backside of an animal, the work was deemed blasphemous by a government that controlled everything from art, to literature and music. The Donkey’s Tail was specifically created as a rebellion against conventional European art and as a way to establish a strictly Russian school, and after a few brief experiences at the Jack of Diamonds, a radical independent exhibiting group created by Goncharova, Larionov, Robert Falk, Pyotr Konchalovsky, Alexander Kuprin, Ilya Mashkov, Natalia and Mikhail decided to develop a style of their own, that was purely Russian, moving away from any movements that were influenced by foreign artists. Later in life, Goncharova created costumes and set designs for a ballet by Sergei Diaghilev, Ballets Russes in Switzerland, the Royal Ballet and a multitude of other productions. Pictured here is Natalia Goncharova, Religious Composition, Archangel Michael, 1910, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California.