An exhibition of Natalia Goncharova’s work will be shown on the third floor of the Ateneum Art Museum from 27 February to 17 May 2020. Natalia Goncharova (1881–1962) is known as a central figure in Russian avant-garde art, inspiring experimental artists in both Russia and Western Europe. The exhibition offers a comprehensive overview of the artist’s work from the first four decades of the 20th century.
Before coming to the Ateneum, the exhibition is on display at Tate Modern in London and the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. The exhibition continues the work done by the Ateneum in highlighting women artists, examples of which are the Alice Neel exhibition, held in the summer of 2016, and displays by female Finnish artists.
Natalia Goncharova received recognition early on in her career. She proclaimed herself the leading figure of the Russian avant-garde before her artist colleagues, who have since risen to fame, including Kazimir Malevich, Marc Chagall or Wassily Kandinsky, by staging a huge private exhibition in Moscow in 1913. In 1916, she moved to France and became a key figure in the whirling art world of Paris.
Goncharova’s extensive artistic work was inspired by folk art and religious icons. Her art was also contradictory: Goncharova could at one moment be taking part in a street performance in Moscow with a painted face, and at the next be working on creating religious art inspired by old icons. In addition to visual art, Goncharova designed costumes and sets for Sergei Diaghilev’s famous Ballets Russes. She also created designs for fashion houses in Moscow and Paris, was involved in avant-garde cinema, and provided illustrations for experimental poems. The term “everythingism” (Russian “vsechestvo”) aptly captures Goncharova’s multifaceted oeuvre.
Goncharova’s bold and innovative work was influential among her contemporaries, crossing the boundaries that typically existed between 20th-century art forms. The exhibition focuses on the artist’s most innovative period from the early 1900s to the 1920s, when she inspired experimental artists in both Russia and Western Europe. The exhibition features more than one hundred works, including a large number of paintings, but also illustrations, costumes, sketches of set designs, and recordings of ballet performances. Almost all the works in the exhibition will be seen in Finland for the first time.
The exhibition is organised by the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki, Tate Modern in London and Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, in collaboration with State Tretyakov Gallery. The exhibition is curated by Timo Huusko, chief curator at the Ateneum Art Museum; Matthew Gale, head of displays at Tate Modern; and Natalia Sidlina, curator of international art at Tate Modern.
On the left: Natalia Goncharova: Self-Portrait with Yellow Lilies (1907–1908). The State Tretyakov gallery. © The State Tretyakov gallery
On the right: Natalia Goncharova, face painted in rayonist style, 1913. © The State Tretyakov gallery