For my project, I am studying books, illustrated and designed by avant garde artist Natalia Goncharova after her emigration to France in the late 1910s. The major goal of my research is to analyze Goncharova’s illustrations, focusing on the changes in her approach to Russian culture and Christian Orthodox religion, as she was observing them from afar.
Studying Western influences on Goncharova’s book illustrations in emigration, I am planning to delve into her epistolary legacy from the archives of the Bibliothèque Kandinsky at the Centre Georges Pompidou and the Tretyakov Gallery.
In my research, I also attempt to trace the influence of the Old Believers’ art and crafts on Goncharova’s style of illustrations. While living in Russia, Goncharova would showcase her works in exhibitions in 1910-1913 in Moscow next to Old Believers’ icons and popular prints. In my opinion, Old Believers represent traditions and culture of Russia before its “westernisation”, and this is exactly what Goncharova and other avant garde artists would admire in the early 20th century.
The next major step in my research is to actually access the books.
Throughout the last semester, I’ve already discovered numerous collections, primarily in France, where I am eager to work as soon as possible. I’ve organized a list of nine books from 1919 to 1955 with Goncharova’s illustrations and designs that I will focus on and that I can find in France and its adjacent countries. The map below shows all the places where the books with Goncharova’s illustrations are available for readers and researchers.
Among the highlights of the books that I will study are Le Conte de Tsar Saltan by Alexander Pushkin, translated to French for the first time in 1921 for Editions de Sirene in Paris. This book is available at the BNF and Lyon library.
Another book that I want to focus on is Die Mär von der Heerfahrt Igors (The Tale of Igor’s Campaign), a German translation of the medieval epic poem in the Old East Slavic Language, printed at Orchis in Munich in 1923. This book is available at the BNF or at the Bibliothèque Cantonale et Universitaire Lausanne.
Apart from the most popular books with Goncharova’s illustrations, I found a few unique copies that are not well studied by the modern scholars yet. For instance, a book titled with a made-up futurist word Samoum (Самумъ) by Vyacheslav Parnakh has lithography illustrations by Goncharova and her life partner Mikhail Larionov for La Gible (Мишень) printhouse, known as one of the main places to publish Russian emigres works in Paris.