From about 1905 Russian art became a maelstrom of groups, styles and 'isms', as it absorbed decades of European change in a few years. It finally gave birth to its own avant-garde futurist movements.
Mikhail Larionov and Natalya Goncharova were the centre of a Cezanne-influenced group known as the Knave of Diamonds. This husband-wife team went on to develop neoprimitiv-ism, based on popular arts and primitive icons. They worked closely with Sergei Diaghilev, the founder of Ballets Russes, designing costumes and sets for the ballet company that brought together some of the era's greatest dancers, composers and artists (see p43).
The most radical members of the Knave of Diamonds formed a group known as Donkey's Tail, which exhibited the influences of cubism and futurism. Larionov and Goncharova were key members of this group, as well as Marc Chagall and Kazmir Malevich.
In 1915 Malevich announced the arrival of Suprematism. His utterly abstract geometrical shapes (with the black square representing the ultimate 'zero form') finally freed art from having to depict the material world and made it a doorway to higher realities. See one of his four Black Square paintings - and other examples of Russian avant-garde - at the Hermitage (p143).
Works by all of these artists are on display at the Russian Museum, as well as the Brodsky House-Museum.
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