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Natalia Goncharova ,born Russia,
active Russia and France, 1881-1962
Model (on a Yellow Background), ca. 1909
Oil on canvas
The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Curator: Meira Perry-Lehmann, Michael Bromberg Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings
On view March 17 - August 21, 2004

Great Expectations focuses on Russia's leading avant-garde artists from the early part of the 20th century, among them Kazimir Malevich, Natalia Goncharova, Mikhail Larionov, El Lissitzky, and Vladimir Tatlin. Combining elements from the major European art movements of the time with local folk art, these artists formulated a new language which helped promote the later emergence of abstract art.

Comprising some seventy paintings and drawings, of which over fifty are on loan from the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, t he exhibition spans the period before World War I through the start of the Soviet era. Many works from the Tretyakov Gallery are exhibited in Israel for the first time, including a group of drawings which were recently acquired by the gallery and have not been exhibited publicly before .


The first third of the twentieth century was a golden age in Russian art, as indigenous folk styles were combined with features of the movements emerging in Western Europe - Fauvism, Cubism, Futurism, and Orphism - to produce a new avant-garde language that eventually led to abstraction. During its brief existence, the Russian avant-garde aspired to create a body of art that, just as it brought eastern folk art and western modernism together, would embrace all creative fields - painting, sculpture, poetry, music, and even science - while giving voice to the spirit of social revolution.

"The influence of Suprematism and Constructivism was short-lived and, ironically, the works these movements produced came to be seen as expressions of high culture," said Meira Perry-Lehmann, Michael Bromberg Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings. "The great expectations of those who had envisioned an artistic utopia were dashed by a post-revolutionary regime with a different agenda, by a crippling lack of financial support, and by the impossibility of convincing a proletariat desperate for food and housing that art lay at the center of human existence."



Aristarkh Lentulov, Russia, 1882-1943
Self-Portrait with His Wife, Paris, 1911-12
Oil on canvas, 91x128 cm


Vladimir Tatlin, Russian, 1885-1953
Fishmonger, 1911
Glue paint on canvas, 76x98.5 cm

The first movement represented in the exhibition is Neo-Primitivism , illustrated by the early works of Kazimir Malevich, Natalia Goncharova, and Mikhail Larionov. These artists abandoned the studio in order to depict the peasant way of life and portray the people in a naive style, vividly colored and two-dimensional.

Neo-Primitivism was succeeded by Cubo-Futurism , a distinctive Russian combination of French Cubism, which translated reality into geometrical forms, and Italian Futurism, which extolled the machine and its dynamism. The evolution from early Neo-Primitivism to a distinctive, brightly colored, version of Cubism can be seen in two paintings by Mikhail Larionov, The Dancers (1908), and The Prostitute at the Barber (1920). Rayonism , a term coined by Larionov to describe the forms created by the conjunction of refracted light rays, also emerged at this time and is illustrated in the exhibition by Rayonist Garden (1912-13), a work by Larionov's wife, painter Natalia Goncharova.


The move away from figurative depictions of the physical world toward total abstraction emerged during World War I with Suprematism -- the movement which relied on the three essential forms of the square, circle, and cross and the colors black, white, and red, on which its formulator, Malevich, believed art was based.

The exhibition is made possible by the Palm Beach Friends of the Israel Museum and the donors to the Museum's 2004 Exhibition Fund: Melva Bucksbaum and Raymond J. Learsy, Aspen, Colorado; Hanno D. Mott, New York; and the Nash Family Foundation, New York.


El Lissitzky, Russian, 1890-1941
Proun, ca. 1920
Gouache ,ink ,silver paint ,& pencil on paper, 13.6x26 cm
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem,
Gift of Anne-Marie &Victor Leob, Bern

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