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Olga Rozanova. War.

Rozanova, Olga Vladimirovna (1886-1918). Born in Melenka, in the province of Vladimir. She attended art studios of K. Bolshakov, K. Yuon, the Stroganov School of Applied Art in Moscow (1904-1910), and the private school of E.N. Zvantseva in Petersburg (1911). Member of the organizations Union of Youth (since 1911) and the Supremus (1916). Exhibited at the International Exhibition of Free Futurists in Rome (1914), Tram B, 0.10 (both in Petrograd, 1915), The Jack of Hearts (Moscow, 1916, 1917), Magazin (Moscow, 1916) and many others. In 1918, she worked for the IZO Narkompros (Arts Department of the People’s Commissariat of Education) and the Proletcult. Died in Moscow of diphtheria.

A painter and a graphic artist. One of the most talented and original masters of the Russian avant-garde. Her works reflected all the latest searches by the pioneers of the avant-garde (Neo-Impressionism, Neo-Primitivism, Fauvism, Cubo-Futurism, Suprematism). One of the authors of the Union of Youth Manifesto, illustrated the books of the Russian Futurist poets Velimir Khlebnikov and Alexei Kruchenykh. Showed interest for the folk art.

Her creative experimental spirit peaked in the book illustrations of Olga Vladimirovna Rozanova. It was as if she picked up the slack from Goncharova who illustrated her last lithographic book in 1913. Rozanova became the most active participant at many futurist editions ever since. An artist who was not less talented than Goncharova, a talented painter and graphic artist, Rozanova was still waiting for her discovery. Little was written about her and a long time ago. In 1912, after she had mover from Moscow to Petersburg, Rozanova entered the Union of Youth and exhibited her works at its exhibitions. At the same time she took to illustrating books.

In the first books of Rozanova there is still some dependency from Goncharova, for instance, on the cover of A Forestly Rapid (Bukh Lesinnyi) (1913). The animals depicted there remind by their quirkiness Goncharova’s ones from her collection «Mirskontsa». In the second publication «Games in the Hell» (Igry V Adu) (1914) this dependency grows into an imitation up to the repetition of mistakes from her first publication, and the Rozanova’s pictures were also placed near the inside margin of the page. The pictures show the variety in the strange world of demons, witches and monsters which Goncharova revealed in the first edition of her book. Only the Malevich’s cover gives the book a unique, memorable look. Yet even these first books have pictures performed with Rozanova’s plastic energy. Such was the Explosion (Vzryv) from the collection of Kruchenykh Explodity (Vzorval’, 1913), a very dynamic one, built on a violent, strong-willed collision of the black and white which was so characteristic of the artist’s works.

Her most important illustrated collection was A Duck’s Nest of Bad Words (Utinoe Gnezdyshko durnykh slov) (1913) in which she did not follow any artist, raising the issues which had not been put by anyone before, and revealing for an illustrator a totally new field of art. In A Duck’s Nest colours play a particular role. Black pictures and a hand written text were printed on a grey paper. Not only illustrations, but text pages were also painted. It was as if Rozanova was giving a colourful score of poems with a focus on page illustrations where a colour and a pictorial image dominate.

The artist was herself quite an enthusiastic poet and at times she would fear to be totally absorbed by her poetry, «My poetry took me so far’, she wrote to Kruchenykh, ‘that I start getting worried for my painting… What if I might suddenly switch from painting to poetry?»

In 1916, Rozanova in co-authorship with Kruchenykh made a sketchbook War (Voina) with engraved illustrations. Unfortunately only a few texts by Kruchenykh were engraved on linoleum, the remaining were typographically printed. The title and the theme remind of the Goncharova’s lithographic sketchbook Mystical Images of War («Misticheskiye Obrazy Voiny») issued in 1914, but that was only an affinity. In the engravings in this book there is not a hint to stylization which was strongly present the pages of the Goncharova’s sketchbook. Rozanova’s War is a deeply authentic, innovative book which has no analogue in the west. Khardjiev reports that the artist considered this edition her best achievement in the art of printing.

A monumentally designed cover of the book was performed by Rozanova by using the lynoengraving (text) and collage (coloured suprematic stickers) Rozanova was the first artist who widely used collage in an artistic design of the book. In one of the illustrations to Transrational (zaumnaia) poems by Kruchenykh – Airplanes over the City (Aeroplany Nad Gorodom) – the artist blended in a single composition the lynoengravings depicting airplanes, a falling aviator and non-objective colour blendings. All this was glued onto the grey cardboard sheet. Her blendings grow into complex collages, and a synthetic image emerges full of emotional tension because of its active colour inclusions contrasting with the black and white engravings. The bright blue sticker leaves in the subconsciousness an impression of a sky in which airplanes are floating. The purple colour gives the same emotional imaginative aspect, being partly overlapped by the black circle of the sticker as if by the dark sun. Although there is a «danger» in trying to translate into words the effect of these collages which is only suggestive and actually ineffable, but it is them that incorporate the engravings into some new and supreme imaginative synthese. Likewise, it is hard to convey a feeling of spaciousness which causes blending in one image of non-objective and figurative elements. This particular feature anticipates the impression of later post-suprematic boards by Malevich or Matyushin’s paintings in which specific and natural are blended with non-objective. A sensitive artist, Rozanova is like a barometer which foretells a late change of weather. This engravings cycle by Rozanova was a protest against the world slaughter, a denial of militarism proving how disgusted were the Russian Futurists by the cult of war as the «world hygiene» advocated by Marinetti. In many aspects Rozanova had anticipated that interpretation of images of contemporary war which was encountered later works of art, such as Guernica by Picasso…

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