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Olga Rozanova

Russian Painter, Poet, and Designer

Olga Rozanova Photo

Born: June 22, 1886 - Melenki, Russia

Died: November 8, 1918 - Moscow, Russia

"Don't complain of anything; complaining is a return to the past, while the future is bright..."

Summary of Olga Rozanova

Olga Rozanova was a member of many of the most important art groupings and movements in early-20th century Russia, while the development of her work across the 1910s represents in microcosm the evolution of the Russian avant-garde over the same period. In this sense, she is significant as an exemplary artist of her era, but in many ways, Rozanova was also an exceptional figure: not just as one of few women attached to movements such as Cubo-Futurism and Suprematism, but in bringing her individual theories of spiritual energy and color interaction to bear on those movements, resulting in a unique and emotionally dynamic body of work. Had she not died of diphtheria in 1918 at the age of just 32, she might well be placed alongside Kazimir Malevich as one of the pioneers of 20th-century abstract painting.

Key Ideas

Rozanova was at the center of the artistic debates and experiments in Russia leading to the conception of Suprematism in 1915. This movement is now associated with Kazimir Malevich's iconic reduction of the picture plane in works such as Black Square, but Rozanova's abstract collages and paintings were equally vital exemplars of the pure abstraction which defined the style. Indeed, she spoke of such work as an unacknowledged precursor for Malevich's characterization of Suprematism.
Rozanova's Cubo-Futurist and Suprematist paintings were set apart from those of her peers, including Malevich and El Lissitzky, by her emphasis on the interplay and vibrancy of color, visual exercises in exploring the emotional and conceptual effect of interacting tonal groups. She linked these experiments to her attempts to express an inner spiritual energy through her work, and the resultant body of paintings and collages makes a unique contribution to movements otherwise defined by more purely geometrical forms of abstraction.
The term Cubo-Futurism is applied to a range of Russian art seen to have synthesized the influences of French Cubist and Italian Futurist painting. However, some critics have pointed out that the influence of Italian Futurism was relatively slim, and have instead emphasized the importance of prior developments in Russian art such as Neo-Primitivism and Rayonism to the conception of Cubo-Futurist style. Amongst the various painters associated with the movement, however, Rozanova was uniquely indebted to Italian models, including the work of Umberto Boccioni and Giacomo Balla. This connection was reflected in the display of her work in an exhibition of international Futurism in Rome in 1914.
Olga Rozanova Photo

Olga Rozanova was born in the small town of Melenki in Russia, near the city of Vladimir, about 200 kilometers east of Moscow. Her father, Vladimir Iakovlevich Rozanov, was a district police officer, while her mother, Elizaveta Vasilevna Rozanova, was the daughter of an Orthodox priest, educated to a high level for a woman of her generation. Olga was the couple's fifth child, though only three of her siblings survived infancy. In 1903, Rozanova's father died, leaving Olga's mother as the head of the household. From 1896 to 1904 Rozanova studied at the Vladimir Women's Gymnasium, before leaving her home-town to train as a painter in Moscow, where her brother was already based as a law student.

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