Russian painter and designer for the ballet. Born at Negaevo, near Toula; descended from a brother of Pushkin's wife, who was also called Nathalia Gontcharova. Attended the School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in Moscow 1898-1902 to study sculpture under Troubetzkoy, but in 1900 met Larionov, who encouraged her to paint and with whom she was to spend the rest of her life. Her early Impressionist period was succeeded from 1906 by a synthesis of the influence of modern French painters such as Gauguin and Matisse with the indigenous traditions of Russian folk art and Byzantine icons. Paintings of peasant life, religious subjects, flowers and landscape. Began in 1912-13 to paint in a near-abstract Rayonist style, but also continued to work in Cubist, Futurist and other idioms. First one-woman exhibition at the Art Salon, No.11 Bolshaya Dmitrovka, Moscow, in 1913 of 761 works; joint exhibition with Larionov in Paris 1914, catalogue preface by Apollinaire. Moved with Larionov to Switzerland in 1915 to work with Diaghilev, and settled in Paris 1919. Designed sets and costumes for a number of Diaghilev's ballets, including Le Coq d'Or 1914 and The Firebird 1926, and became one of the most celebrated designers for the ballet. Continued to paint intermittently to the end of her life. Died in Paris.
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.295