Painter, Theater Designer. A major figure of Russia's pre-World War I avant-garde. Born in Negaevo, in the Tula Province, she was a descendant of poet Alexander Pushkin's wife. In 1898 she enrolled at the Moscow Art Academy as a sculpture student but switched to painting with the encouragement of artist Mikhail Larionov, who became her lifelong companion. Prodigiously talented, freewheeling and eclectic, Goncharova first attracted attention with her religious scenes, which applied the Post-Impressionism of Gaugin to traditional Russian icon paintings. She then became a leader of her country's Futurist movement, while also experimenting with Cubism, Rayonism, Eastern folk art, and the bold colors of the Fauves. Her later style was more cooly abstract. Goncharova's career peaked in August 1913, when she displayed over 700 canvases in a solo exhibition in Moscow; this resulted in an invitation from Serge Diaghilev to design the sets and costumes for his Paris production of "Le coq d'or" (1914). With Larionov as her manager she settled in the French capital in 1919 as a designer and artistic advisor for the Ballets Russes, and was a trusted member of Diaghilev's inner circle until the impresario's death in 1929. Among the ballets she designed were Prokofiev's "The Buffoon" (with Larionov, 1921) and the brilliant 1926 revival of Stravinsky's "The Firebird". Her fortunes faded in the 1930s and she worked as a textile designer and illustrator. Goncharova and Larionov became French citizens in 1939 and finally married in 1955. Their final years were spent in poverty and Goncharova was all but crippled by arthritis, but she continued to paint by tying brushes to her wrists. In 1957, inspired by the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik, she executed a series of 20 canvases on the theme of "Space" which demonstrated that her creative powers were still intact. She died of cancer at 81; Larionov survived her by two years. Goncharova was largely forgotten in the West until 2007, when her painting "Picking Apples" (1909) was sold at Christie's in London for $9.8 million, a record price for a work by a female artist.
Bio by: Bobb Edwards