Throughout her artistic career Natalia Goncharova routinely incorporated elements from nature in her works. On numerous occasions it had been noted that this interest stems from her early upbringing on her family’s estate in the Tula Province south of Moscow, which left an indelible mark on her life and work. Goncharova herself often fondly recalled her childhood memories, even years later when living in Paris, which indeed seemed inextricably tied to the expression in her art. The abundant surrounding flora and fauna of her family home, particularly during the summer months, was as the artist professed, ‘my first introduction to life-happiness experienced not so much through seeing and hearing, as with one’s entire body and soul.’ (quoted in Y. Petrova, Natalia Goncharova. The Russian Years, St Petersburg, 2002, p. 10). The landscapes, seasonal cycles and various traditions tied to the local folk culture made a deep impression on the artist as a young girl, and were elements that stayed with her and decidedly informed her work for the remainder of her life. Goncharova’s interest in Russian folkloric themes set the tone for the Neo-Primitivist style that she would eventually embrace. A fundamental element of Russian folkloric design, floral imagery was frequently used by Goncharova in her works, from the earliest period through the last years of her life in Paris.
Initially showing distinct influences of post-Impressionism and Expressionism created by artists in the West such as Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) or Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890), eventually Goncharova developed her own unique style fusing these early influences with a new language. Floral designs would continue to form a significant part of the subject matter of her works, depicted in structured Cubo-Futurist, and near-abstract forms that Goncharova championed at the height of her career. This is clearly illustrated in her seminal work Les arbres en fleurs (Pommiers en fleurs), 1912, sold Christie’s London February 2011 for £3,961,250.
After having left Russia together with her partner Mikhail Larionov (1881-1964) in 1915 at the request of Sergei Diaghilev (1872-1929) to collaborate on various theatrical productions, Goncharova would be exposed to a myriad of new realities and influences, which undoubtedly would have an effect on the direction of her work.
Traces of the Cubo-Futurist, Neo-Primitivist and Rayonnist elements that she had experimented with in Russia would continue to inform her theatrical designs as well as her paintings, however in the 1920s and 30s the artist’s works would begin to move toward Classical form and line.
Still life with apple blossom is an impressive and sumptuous example of Natalia Goncharova’s later experimentations with Classicism, yet with clear underpinnings of her earlier structured works. This still life depicts heavy apple blossom branches recently cut and placed at the edge of a table. A faint work on paper can be seen pinned to the wall just above the table; it is nearly as dark as the wall on which it hangs. Overall the painting is executed with ideal harmony of line, colour and composition. This is counterbalanced with the constructivist aspects of the table and the paper wrapping, as well as the sharp, jagged lattice of branches. A fine synthesis of Goncharova’s techniques, this work represents a refreshing period in the ever-changing evolution of the artist’s oeuvre.