Nataliya Goncharova
Russian, 1881 - 1962
Grand Bal de Nuit, 1923

H. 47-1/4 x W. 28-7/8 in.

This Cubist-inspired poster is quite rare. It was designed by Nataliya Goncharova who, with Mikhail Fedorovich Larionov, initiated a new art movement in 1913 called Rayonnism (a synthesis of Cubism, Futurism, and Orphism) while in Russia. The couple left Russia in 1914 and settled in Paris, designing sets for Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes. The Russian impresario was quick to engage many such painters to design his scenery and his posters. Their Montparnasse life often led to jointly organized galas and balls, and in 1923 Goncharova designed this poster for the Grand Bal de Nuit. Larionov designed the invitation, one of which is represented in this collection.

The poster’s composition is fragmented against a flat space, with hard-edge silhouettes suggesting figurative elements. The manner in which the segments are aligned so that edges never quite butt together, permitting slivers of background to show through, prefigures similar compositional devices used so masterfully by Henri Matisse in his paper cutouts. Parallel with her paintings in near-abstract idioms, Goncharova produced theater and ballet décors inspired by Russian popular art. Her theatrical career, like that of Larionov, was bound up with that of Diaghilev, whose ballets from 1909 to the 1920s were a focal point of Paris cultural life.


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