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Women on Wednesday

October 30, 2013


Last week I wrote a little about Natalia Goncharova, the Russian avant-garde artist, painter, costume designer, writer, illustrator, and set designer. After seeing her painting the Cyclist I wanted to find out more about her.

I did find a book published in 1999, on the occasion of the exhibition called the Amazons of the avant-garde ; Alexandra Exter, Natalia Goncharova, Liubov Popova, Olga Rozanova, Varvara Stepanova and  Nadezhda Udaltsova. The exhibition celebrates the evolution of modern Russian painting from 1900-1920 by the artists who at the fore then.  The women contributed to the development and the subsequent triumph of the Russian  avant-garde.  The exhibition concentrates on the studio paintings of each of the women; careful not to mention the other applied arts in which they all excelled, for instance,  book design, textiles fashion, ceramics and stage costumes and sets.

In fact one author says that, the paintings of the women artists include images of tools and machinery, but goes on to say that the women do not ‘renounce their female occupations’ or feminine creativity.  She lists the artists who have kept a female presence in their paintings, a sewing machine, thread, lace, trinkets etc. She mentions the loom in Natalia Goncharova’s the Weaver but goes on to say that ‘in this case in indicates an escape from the four walls of domesticity, towards  a Futurist machine …  This is where I perhaps gave up reading … thinking that maybe these women (all from the landed class) were not aware that most weavers at that time were not escaping domestic tedium but escaping the debt collector!

It is a hefty tome and I will not pretend to have read much and let alone understood it.

However it  will be a good book to dip into over the next few months and make comparisons with the women I have written about who fought  tirelessly in the early 20th century here in UK for women’s right to vote etc. Not just through the Art and Crafts Movement, active also at that time but through sheer determination and need.

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