Liubov Popova, Study for a Portrait 1914-15 Abstracted portrait with face fractured into planes.

Liubov Popova
Study for a Portrait 1914-15
Oil on cardboard

State Museum of Contemporary Art, George Costakis Collection, Thessalonika

Fast trains and telegraph wires - the improved communications that so thrilled the Futurists - meant that avant-garde artists working in Russia were extremely well-informed about activities in the West. Marinetti’s Manifesto of Futurism was translated in March 1909 and the painters’ The Exhibitors to the Public in April 1912. Many artists, including Liubov Popova and Alexandra Exter, spent time in France and Italy, while Sonia Delaunay was among those who emigrated to Paris. Though they were fiercely independent of their western colleagues, this fluidity of connections informed the emergence of Russian Cubo-Futurism in 1912-13. 

Most of the artists in Moscow and St Petersburg who would go on to pioneer abstraction passed through a Cubo-Futurist phase. For Malevich, Cubo-Futurism was an intermediary state between static Cubism and the introduction of movement and dynamism. This in turn was a stage towards a greater abstraction in works such as his Aviator. However the independence of Russian developments led to a hostile rejection of Marinetti when he toured in early 1914. The Russian avant-garde included a high proportion of prominent female artists, several of whom considered Marinetti’s misogyny to be particularly unappealing.