Although she holds record for any female artist as to price achieved for a painting in an auction ($10.8 million), Russian avant-garde artist Natalia Goncharova is much less known than any of her western counterparts. Along with her husband, Mikhail Larionov, she was an important part of the Russian Cubo-Futurism as well as Rayonism, which them two introduced to public exactly 100 years ago; but she was also a member of Der Blaue Reiter, from its founding in 1911. Very open minded - to say the least - Goncharova and Larionov were known for scandalizing the public by painting their faces, or writing offensive words on their bodies; Natalia was even said to have walked topless and in 1910 she got arrested for organizing an exhibition of nudes.
No wonder then that eventually they ended up in Paris ;) and there Natalia, who was working in other fields of art in Russia too, devoted herself to design - most famously and importantly to set and costume designs for the famous Ballets Russes of notorious Sergei Diaghilev. Not as famous as those by the legendary Leon Bakst, these are still very interesting - and it is those that I wished to post today, on her birthday :)
In 1914 Natalia did designs for The Golden Cockerel spectacle ballet, and in 1915, while in Switzerland, she started a series of designs for Diaghilev’s never realized ballet titled Liturgy, in which Larionov, Léonide Massine and possibly Stravinsky were also involved. You can see them on a cover photo of the album in which Leonide Massine, Natalia Gontcharova, Mikhail Larionov and Leon Bakst surround Igor Stravinsky at Bellerive, Diaghilev’s abode near Lausanne; it was taken in July 1915. Goncharova was especially suitable for the project, since before turning to Futurism and in search of art that would be essentially Russian, she was preoccupied by primitivism and icon painting.
After Diaghilev’s death in 1929, Larionov and Goncharova struggled financially; she gave art lessons and designed clothes
for Marie Cuttoli’s shop, Maison Myrbor on the Rue Vincent, in Paris, although she did more stage work - for example in 1937, the Russian Ballet of Col. W. de Basil re-staged The Golden Cockerel, for which she redesigned the set and costumes; in 1954 the ballet critic Richard Buckle organized an exhibition on Diaghilev, during which her work received attention again. She died in 1962 in Paris, having married Larionov only 7 years before, after around 45 years of relationship.
Here you can see some of her designs, The Golden Cockerel ones and those fot Liturgy; most are from WikiPaintings, and http://collections.vam.ac.uk/.