Natalya Goncharova

Linen

1913

On display at Tate Modern

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 956 x 838 mm
frame: 1028 x 911 x 67 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Eugène Mollo and the artist 1953
Reference
N06194

Display caption

Goncharova met her partner, the artist Michel Larionov, in 1900. This painting can be seen as a coded commentary on their life together. The two sides of the work are divided between male (shirts, collars and cuffs) and female (lace, blouses, aprons) items of laundry. The Russian inscriptions suggest a commercial launderette sign: Prache is part of the word for laundry, b.s. is an abbreviation for ‘white wash’, and BOT possibly part of the word rabota meaning ‘work’. The iron bears a monogram with the artist’s initials NG.

Gallery label, May 2012

Catalogue entry

Nathalie Gontcharova 1881-1962

N06194 Linen (Futurist) 1913

Inscribed 'N. Gontcharova. 912.' b.r., 'NG' (in cyrillic letters) on the iron and 'N. Gontcharova. [in cyrillic letters] 1912. | N. Gontcharova'. on back of canvas
Oil on canvas, 37 5/8 x 33 (96 x 84)
Presented by Eugene Mollo and the artist 1953
Exh: Vuistavka kartin Natalii Sergyevnui Goncharovoi, 1900-1913, Art Salon, No.11 Bolshaya Dmitrovka, Moscow, August 1913 (644, repr.); [?Vuistava kartin Natalii Sergyevnui Goncharovoi, 1900-1913, Art Salon of N.E. Dobytchina, St Petersburg, April-May 1914 (repr., probably exhibited as one often pictures 110-11, 139, 160, 171-2, 225, 229, 230, 241 listed as 'Still Life')]; Nathalie de Gontcharova et Michel Larionow, Galerie Paul Guillauine, Paris, June 1914 (38) as 'Le Linge (1912)'; Le Cubisme (1907-14), Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, January-April 1953 (not in catalogue)
Lit: Eli Eganbury, Nathalia Goncharova, Mikhail Larionov (Moscow 1913), p.xii; Mary Chamot, Gontcharova (Paris 1972), pp.58, 104, repr. p.51 in colour
Repr: Art News, LII, April 1953, p.27 (dated 1914); Studio, CXLIV, 1954, p.5

Painted in Russia. The longest of the inscriptions in cyrillic characters reads 'Prache', which is the beginning of the word for laundry. The other inscriptions are 'Bot' (again possibly the beginning of a word), and 'V.S.'.

This picture was reproduced in the catalogue of Gontcharova's exhibition in Moscow in August 1913 as 'Linen' and appears in the lists of exhibits as 'Linen (Futurist)'. (The actual Russian word used was 'Belye', which can be translated as either 'Linen' or 'Underclothes'). It was also listed by Eganbury as 'Linen (Futurist)' among Gontcharova's works of 1913, that is to say as one of her latest pictures. When exhibited in Paris in June 1914 it was given the date 1912, which it now bears on the front and the back. Gonteharova and Larionov seem to have first begun to predate their works at the time of this exhibition and the incorrect inscriptions may have been added then or a few years later. (Gontcharova's painting of 'Cats' now in the Guggenheim Museum, New York, was also listed by Eganbury among the works of 1913, was exhibited in Paris with the date 1910 and is now dated 1910 on the back - see Angelica Zander Rudenstine, The Guggenheim Museum Collection: Paintings 1880-1945, New York 1976, Vol.1, pp.175-7). The paintings from the Paul Guillaume exhibition were in transit to Russia at the outbreak of war and were seized by the Germans. In order to save them, Herwarth Walden claimed them as his own, stuck labels of his gallery Der Sturm on the backs (there was originally one on this painting, which has now been removed and is in the Gallery's files), and returned them to the artists after the war. The inscriptions may have been added then or later, in accordance with the dates in the Paris catalogue. The fact that only one of the three signatures is in cyrillic would tend to confirm that the picture was signed and dated after Gontcharova left Russia. The possibility that the picture was begun in 1912 and finished early in 1913 cannot, however, be ruled out.

Published in:
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, pp.296-7, reproduced p.296