Russian painter and designer for the ballet. Born at Tiraspol, near Odessa. Entered the School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in Moscow 1898, being suspended three times for his advanced tendencies. In 1900 met Gontcharova, who became his life-long companion. Gave up his early Impressionist style after a visit to Paris in 1906 and began to paint scenes of café life, barbers, soldiers, etc., in a Post-Impressionist and later a neo-primitive style inspired partly by Russian sign painting. Organised the Golden Fleece exhibition in Moscow 1908 which included works by Gauguin, van Gogh, Matisse, Derain and Braque, followed by other group exhibitions of modern art to which the contributors included Tatlin, Malevich and Chagall. First one-man exhibition (one-day exhibition only) in Moscow 1911. In 1912 created Rayonism, the first phase of near-abstract art to be developed in Russia, and was the movement's theorist and leader. Left Russia in 1915 and joined Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes in Switzerland, finally settling in Paris with Gontcharova 1919. Gave up easel painting almost entirely and devoted himself to the ballet and the theatre; he designed the sets and costumes for a number of Diaghilev's ballets, including Soleil de Nuit 1915, Contes Russes 1916 and Renard 1922. Died at Fontenay-aux-Roses (Seine).
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.405