Goncharova Stays Between East and West

File:Goncharova cyclist.jpg

Looking back at the famous names of 20th century art, individuals like Kandinsky, Picasso and Franz Marc all spring to mind. While Natalia Goncharova may not be as well recognized, over the course of her career she mingled with many of the big-name artists of the Western European avant-garde.

Goncharova, who died in 1962, left behind a body of work that acts like a sampler platter for the artistic movements that dominated the first half of the last century. The full range of the artist is now on display at the State Tretyakov Gallery on Krymsky Val, where "Natalia Goncharova, Between East and West" has gathered together about 400 of the artist's works from museums throughout the world and showcases her paintings with an impressive level of breadth.

Goncharova's life and work can be divided into fairly distinct periods, as is done in the Tretyakov exhibit. Born in 1881 in Russia, she was one of the founding members of the Der Blaue Reiter group in Munich, which included Franz Marc and fellow Russian Vasily Kandinsky. She then traveled throughout Western Europe, spending time in Geneva and Paris, while mingling with the artistic styles of Pablo Picasso and doing design work for Sergei Diaghilev's ballets russe.

Indeed, the different influences on Goncharova can be seen in her different periods. Her early work uses religious images, and in paintings of Russian peasants from about 1910, she used the broad shaded shapes of pink and teal commonly seen in Marc Chagall. Her later change of styles in Europe show how a vase of flowers can be changed from a cluster of visible brushstrokes reminiscent of Vincent Van Gogh to intensely detailed petals to cubist squares, to a painting of sunflowers done in the 1950s that looks like black flying saucers surrounded by glowing auras of yellow.

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