Forty-one

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Velosipedist

1913 by Natalia Goncharova
State Russian Museum, St Petersburg

Russia is perhaps not duly credited in its contributions to Futurism; the art style and ethic was perfect for a country in desperate need of mechanical modernisation and Velosipedist shows just how Futurism burrowed its way in to Russian painting. Goncharova was originally inspired by Russian folk-art, wanting to explore the roots of her heritage, yet the precedence or relevance of Futurism was enough to attract her. As a woman, Goncharova was also somewhat iconic in the Futurism movement itself, let alone in Russia. Visually Velosipedist is immediately satisfying, possessing those decisive lines of movement of Braque or Severini. Earth billows out in clouds of dust, the cyclist’s legs multiplying as they peddle furiously, his curved back fragmenting as he pushes himself onward –Goncharova captures his movement itself. The wonderfully expressive earthly brown, fragmenting into its many shades, is juxtaposed by the richness of the deep blue that frames the word weak; this painting is not only a celebration of style but a slightly harrowing depiction of struggle. The cyclist’s face is one of determination, sharp knuckles clinging pink onto the handlebars and, though moving, he is frozen in the midst of a composition that ridicules him in words from behind — weak – as an ominously shaded hand points him in the opposite direction.

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