Natalia Goncharova and the Mystical War Prints: The Use of Mystical Imagery to Express Russian Identity
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AuthorPetrikovsky, Hannah R.
Term and YearSpring 2021
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractIn this thesis, I explore Goncharova's possible motivations and influences for producing Mystical Images of War. Chapter 1 introduces Goncharova's printmaking and provides a detailed formal analysis of Mystical Images of War. Chapter 2 investigates Goncharova's life and critically examines how her experiences contributed to her artwork., Next, Chapter 3 examines her attitudes regarding the West and as well as her statements and artwork to understand her stance. These ideas are closely linked to her rejection of the credos of individuality in art production, which was a direct affront to notions of individuality and originality so valued in the West. It compares and contrasts her attitude vis a vis her milieu and the greater societal moment she was a part of, then contextualizes her prints by examining them in connection with those generated by the German Expressionists, specifically Ernst Kirchner, as well as the Russian printmaker Olga Rozanova, in response to World War I. Chapter 3 also explores Goncharova's experience as a female painter, a marginalized identity, intersects with her working in a country that was on the fringes in terms of being included in the Western artistic canon. She chose to make prints, an art form that Luis Camnitzers calls, "the colony of the arts" vis a vis painting and sculpture. She was influenced by icons, an art form that even in Russia was considered secondary and unimportant. I argue that Goncharova used printmaking and the influence of the icon in Mystical Images of War specifically because it symbolized Russianness, in part because of its being 'other'. Finally, to fully understand Goncharova's motivations Chapter 4 investigates the Christian tradition of iconography. Goncharova culled her imagery from icon-painting, lubki (traditional Russian woodcut prints), and images of the apocalypse. She did this in part because the tradition of iconography does not value artistic originality as much as it does faithfulness to the stock image. Printmaking considers each print in an edition to be equally valuable; there is no "original" print. Moreover, icon-painting and lubki were seen as the most authentic forms of Russian art prior to Peter the Great's modernizing efforts. Using these traditions in the Mystical Images of War revitalized Russian culture by creating a uniquely Russian contemporary art form. Mysticism, similar to Nationalism in its ability to give people the illusion of unity, was the perfect vehicle for the unifying Russian art form that Goncharova was striving to articulate.