Natalia Sergeevna Gontcharova (Russian:
June 4, 1881 – October 17, 1962) was a prominent Russian avant-garde
artist (Cubo-Futurism), painter and costume designer. Her great-aunt
was Natalia Pushkina, wife of the poet Alexander Pushkin.
Gontcharova was born in Nagaevo village near Tula,
Russia in 1881. She studied sculpture at the Moscow Academy of Art,
but turned to painting in 1904. She was deeply inspired by the
primitive aspects of Russian folk art and attempted to emulate it in
her own work while incorporating elements of fauvism and cubism.
Together with her husband Mikhail Larionov she first developed
Rayonism. They were the main progenitors of the pre-Revolution
Russian avant-garde organising the Donkey's Tail exhibition of 1912
and showing with the Der Blaue Reiter in Munich the same year.
The Donkey's Tail was conceived as an intentional
break from European art influence and the establishment of an
independent Russian school of modern art. However, the influence of
Russian Futurism is much in evidence in Gontcharova's later paintings.
Initially preoccupied with icon painting and the primitivism of
ethnic Russian folk-art, Gontcharova became famous in Russia for her
Futurist work such as The Cyclist and her later Rayonnist works. As
leaders of the Moscow Futurists, they organised provocative lecture
evenings in the same vein as their Italian counterparts. Gontcharova
was also involved with graphic design - writing and illustrating a
book in Futurist style.
Gontcharova was a member of the Der Blaue Reiter
avant-garde group from its founding in 1911. In 1915, she began to
design ballet costumes and sets in Geneva. She moved to Paris in 1921
where she designed a number of stage sets of Sergei Diaghilev's
Ballets Russes. She became a French citizen in 1939.
In 1962 she died in Paris. On June 18, 2007
Gontcharova's 1909 painting "Picking Apples" was auctioned at
Christie's for $9.8 million, setting a record for any female artist.