Natalya Goncharova, Linen 1913 © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2002
This painting shows various items of laundry, depicted in a fragmented, semi-abstract style. Starched and ironed men’s shirts, collars and cuffs are arranged down the left side of the work while a women’s lace collar, apron and blouse are on the right. There is an iron in the bottom right corner of the picture and painted in red across the surface of the painting are snippets of various Russian words, which stand out boldly against the linen. The blue-white of the cotton items is the dominant colour in the image, bright against the dark greys and midnight blues of the background. It is not a large work and its size seems to enhance the intimacy of the subject matter.
Natalya Goncharova was an extremely prolific artist. She produced over 700 works for her first solo exhibition alone. She worked in many styles and creative areas including fashion, book illustration, stage and even wallpaper design. However, she is best known for the costume and set designs she made for Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes at the beginning of the last century, and for developing a short-lived artistic movement called Rayonism with her partner, the artist Michel Larionov. The couple met at art school in Moscow in 1900 and became lifelong companions and artistic collaborators. Larionov encouraged her to switch her studies from sculpture to painting and Goncharova later said 'I renounced (sculpture) because I was fascinated by the play of light, the harmonies of colour'.
Rayonism was an avant-garde movement exclusive to Russia, although it was influenced by both Cubism and Italian Futurism. The movement was launched in 1913 in Moscow with an exhibition and an accompanying manifesto signed by thirteen artists. Linen was painted in the same year and in addition to demonstrating Rayonism’s ideas, the painting also references Goncharova’s relationship with Larinov.