Home » Exhibitions » Exhibition Review: Natalia Goncharova at Tate Modern from 6 June to 8 September 2019

Exhibition Review: Natalia Goncharova at Tate Modern from 6 June to 8 September 2019

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Tate Modern presents the UK’s first ever retrospective of the Russian avant-garde artist Natalia Goncharova. It features a survey of an artist who is largely unknown but was considered a pioneering and radical figure and celebrated during her lifetime as a leading modernist artist. The exhibition features over 160 international loans which are rarely outside of Russia , including from Russia’s State Tretyakov Gallery which houses the largest collection of Goncharova works in the world.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Goncharova was born in 1881 and grew up on her family’s country estate  in the Tula Province, this period was important for the artist because despite her being an aristocrat’s daughter,  she was exposed to the traditional customs and cultures of her native Central Russia which provided inspiration throughout  her artistic career.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The second room charts Goncharova’s move from the provinces to Moscow when she was eleven, whilst in Moscow she decided to pursue an artistic career and was greatly influenced by the works of Cezanne, Gauguin and Picasso. At the age of 20 she enrolled at the School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture where she met fellow artist Mikhail Larionov. In the room, Picasso’s Queen Isabeau 1909, is displayed near Goncharova’s Peasants Picking Apples 1911 and Orchard in Autumn 1909.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Goncharova  gradually found herself as a leader of the Moscow avant-garde and was prolific in her output, the third room plays tribute to  Goncharova’s remarkable 1913 retrospective that was held at the Mikhailova Art Salon in Moscow, which originally featured some 800 works. The room includes work from the 1913 exhibition and covers the full range of the artist’s work from folk art, work about the countryside like the monumental seven-part work The Harvest 1911 to more modernist works like her paintings of nudes.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The success of the 1913 show led to Goncharova being in demand in a number of ways,  room four is dedicated to her work in fashion design and her collaborations with Nadezhda Lamanova, couturier of the Imperial court.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Although Goncharova and Larionov arrived in Paris in 1914 at the invitation of Sergei Diaghilev, to work on costume and set designs for the Ballets Russes, the start of the First World War led to the couple returning to Moscow. The exhibition features her series of lithographs entitled Mystical Images of War that illustrate the bravery and futility of the conflict.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

A section devoted to Goncharova’s religious painting include the Evangelists 1911, a four-panel work which had delighted London in 1912 but shocked Russia’s capital of St Petersburg in 1914, Christ the Saviour 1910-11 and Mother of God 1911.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Like many artists at the start of the 20th century, Goncharova was attracted to futurism and produced a number of works that dealt with technology and machines. The exhibition reunites Linen from Tate’s own collection with Loom + Woman (The Weaver) from the National Museum of Wales and The Forest from the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, all created in the same studio in 1913 and on display together for the first time since then.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Goncharova and her partner left Moscow to tour with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1915 in Europe, the political turmoil leading to October Revolution of 1917 meant it was not advisable to go back to Russia and they set up home in Paris. After her success with Ballets Russes , Goncharova was in demand with commissions for fashion, costume and interior design, she also exhibited her work in Europe and the United States. The exhibition features a decorative screen Spring 1928, commissioned by the Arts Club of Chicago and Bathers 1922, a monumental triptych displayed in the UK for the first time.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The final room in  the exhibition is dedicated to her collaborations with the Ballets Russes, the work for which she was best known from 1914 to the 1950s. It presents the artist’s most groundbreaking work for the theatre, including costume designs for Le Coq d’or (The Golden Cockerel) and Les Noces (The Wedding), both performed on London stages in the 1920s and 30s, as well as examples of actual costumes used in historic ballet productions.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

This fascinating exhibition introduces the work of Natalia Goncharova to a wider audience, the artist like her contemporary Kazimir Malevich tried to combine the traditions of Russian culture with the modern world. Her prolific output in a variety of media is testament to her talent to work in a number of styles to gain commercial success.  Unfortunately Goncharova like many Russian artists suffered after the 1917 Revolution, the images of peasants was not required by the new Russian state and the people outside of Russia began to view the new state as a threat.  It is only after the collapse of the Soviet Bloc that artists like Goncharova are being reassessed and recognised as pioneering and radical figures.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information and tickets, visit the Tate Modern website here

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