Ninety-eight

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Peasants

1911 by Natalia Goncharova
The State Russian Museum, St Petersburg

It is remarkable to look at this painting in light of Goncharova’s later work (postcard forty-one), where the difference in style, just two years later, is acute. Velosipedist was a distinctly Cubist painting, fragmenting shape and focusing on the articulation of speed and movement. Peasants shows a very different influence, that of Russian history itself, with bold outlines and bright block colour. The style is brightly celebratory, encouraging what is an honest and fond depiction of the peasant life in which the artist grew up. Simply drawn and simply coloured, there is no agenda to complicate their portrayal, romantically or otherwise; the peasants are reflective of one another, similar in pose and clothing, differing only in the colour of their clothes. Echoing Russian repetitive textile pattern, or indeed the infamous multiplying dolls, this approach ties the peasants’ depiction to local technique. We can see this comforting recognition of home in the faces of the peasants which, though simple, are painted with tenderness; large almond eyes guiding them forward, over-sized field hands grasping their heavy loads.
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