Course aux etoiles signed with monogram (lower left) oil on canvas 55 x 46cm (21 5/8 x 18 1/8in).
PROVENANCE: Acquired directly from the artist in Paris, c. 1960 Thence by descent
Natalia Goncharova was born in 1881 in the Russian village of Negaevo near Tula. Although she studied sculpture in Moscow, winning a gold medal at the culmination of her course in 1902, she soon turned her attention from sculpture to painting and drawing. Here began the diverse and fluctuating approach that was to characterise the style and subject matter of Goncharova's oeuvre. Although often preoccupied with costume and set design for theatre productions in Russia and beyond, she is praised as being one of the leading artists in Russia's pre-revolutionary avant-garde movement and the co-founder of Rayonism, along with her husband Mikhail Larionov. In 1912 she and Larionov organised 'The Donkey's Tail' exhibition in Moscow, which showed works by the eponymous group of Russian avant-garde artists, including Chagall and Shevchenko. In his review of this show Varsanafy Parkin writes of the great variety of her output, explaining, 'Goncharova's works can be divided into realist painting, religious compositions and scenes of peasant life, as well as into different styles, for example, Venetian, Chinese, Futurist, Cubist etc.' [Varsanfy Parkin, The Donkey's Tail and The Target, Moscow, 1913, Review of Exhibitions, in Mary Chamot, Goncharova, p. 121]
The current lot, whose title translates as 'Journey to the Stars' is likely to be one of Goncharova's later works, painted towards the end of her life. Air travel had long been a fascination of hers, and aeroplanes had appeared in her paintings as early as 1912. However, the launch of Russia's Sputnik 1 in 1957 took this interest of hers a step further, inspiring a series of around twenty compositions representing the cosmos. A selection of these works was displayed in Paris in 1958 by Eduard Loeb in his Gallery on the Rue de Rennes. Despite the fact that she was suffering, at this time, from such severe arthritis that she could not lift her hand to paint at an easel, these works are subtle and sensitive, exuding an evocative impression of an ethereal vista waiting to be explored. The orbit of the planets, the stars, and the infinite nature of space are all represented. After her death Larionov wrote, 'Goncharova was someone who fulfilled the lives of her friends because she marvelled at the beauty of the world around her. She was the gentlest of women, but a warrior against the barricades of art.' [Mary Chamot, Goncharova, p. 111]