Natalia Sergeevna Goncharova, 1881-1962
- Natalia Sergeevna Goncharova
- Flowering trees
- signed in Latin l.r.; further signed in Latin on reverse, titled and dated 1911
- oil on canvas
Leonard Hutton Galleries, New York
Mr and Mrs R. Freeman, New York
Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, Sotheby's New York, 8 October 1986, lot 201
As a critical participant in the Russian avant-garde, Natalia Goncharova was both a revolutionary painter and a social agitator. Her many canvases from her Russian years (pre-1915) exhibit a thoughtful reflection of Western modernist styles and an increasing awareness of Russian and Eastern traditions, which she promoted with nationalistic fervor and in defiance of academic tradition. In doing so, she loosely experimented with such trends as Neo-primitivism, Cubism, Futurism, Expressionism and Rayism, adapting motifs from each style as she painted extremely structural canvases, rich with geometric patterns, dynamic colours and thick impasto.
Flowering Trees is dated in the middle of her most creative and productive period, circa 1911 and based on a theme she returned to many times in her oeuvre (figs.1 and 2). However, Goncharova and her colleagues were known for pre-dating their works, so it is possible she executed this work slightly later. The composition reflects her interest in Cubism and her awareness of such Western artists as Picasso and Braque. Following their example, and perhaps the example of Russian and Eastern folk art (including "lubok" woodblock prints), she deconstructs tree trunks and branches into broad geometric quadrilaterals, establishing their monumental presence with bold contour lines and thick impasto. Layers of pink and white flowering foliage explode outward around these branches, saturating the composition with colour and distinguishing spatial planes through visual occlusion. Interestingly, she also creates a thin border of darker colours around the upper portion of the canvas, thereby balancing the chromatic density throughout the composition.
In 1963, the present lot was included in the exhibition Der Blaue Reiter at the New York Leonard Hutton Galleries, where it was linked to Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky's Expressionist school of the early 1900s (fig.3). By including Goncharova's Flowering Trees in this exhibition, it was suggested that Goncharova's aesthetic sensibility was similar to that of the Blaue Reiter artists, and that her method of expressing national identity was linked to Blaue Reiter ideology, which sought to express spirituality through colours and abstracted forms.