Art Term

Rayonism

An early form of abstract art characterised by interacting linear forms derived from rays of light

Michel Larionov, ‘Nocturne’ c.1913–4
Michel Larionov
Nocturne c.1913–4
Tate
© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2017
Michel Larionov, ‘Rayonist Drawing’ c.1911–2
Michel Larionov
Rayonist Drawing c.1911–2
Tate
© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2017
Natalia Goncharova, ‘Rayonist Composition’ c.1912–3
Natalia Goncharova
Rayonist Composition c.1912–3
Tate
© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2017

Rayonism was one of the Russian avant-garde movements that proliferated in Moscow and St Petersburg in the years from about 1910–20. It was the invention of Michel Larionov and his partner Natalya Goncharova in 1912.

Rayonism, or rayism, was based on the effect of light on landscape or cityscapes. Of his rayonist painting Nocturne Larionov later wrote:

This painting was inspired by the dusk at Odessa. It is a problem of the combination of staircases, interiors and exteriors of houses and represents the pressure of the body of dark colours on the semi-light tones. The problem of this painting is to organise these tones in a certain order. It is the conflict of the semi-light rays with the dark rays.