A lot can happen in a lifetime, even when that lifetime is only 32 years long. Russian artists at the beginning of the 20th Century witnessed massive amounts of upheaval. 1914 marked the start of the First World War. Russia allied with Britain and France against Germany and Austria-Hungary. This violent conflict ended in 1918. In 1917, the Tsarist rule was overthrown in the Russian Revolution and a Communist government took over, eventually placing Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks in power. Civil war followed. The Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was established in 1922. That’s a lot of shit for 8 years.
Olga Rozanova was born in a village in Russia in 1886. In 1904, she moved to Moscow and studied at K. Bolshakov’s and Konstantin Yuon’s art studios. She also attended the Stroganov School of Applied Art. Her art was seen in exhibitions in St. Petersburg starting in 1911. Rozanova was very interested in Italian Futurism. She became friends with many of the Russian Futurist poets of the time and married one of them, Aleksei Kruchenykh. She illustrated her husband’s books of poetry starting in 1912. Her work was seen in Rome in 1914. In 1916, Rozanova worked at the Verbovka Village Folk Center along with many other Russian artists. Also in 1916, Rozanova joined Supremus, a group of avant-garde artists led by Kazimir Malevich. But her art soon grew beyond Futurism and Suprematism, becoming more and more abstract, and utilizing more vibrant colors. She did a series of paintings that reinterpreted playing cards.
As the country transformed, so did Rozanova’s artwork. By 1917 and 1918, Rozanova’s paintings, which she called tsv’etopis’, were completely abstract and non-objective. Rozanova died in 1918 from diphtheria, a bacterial infection that destroys the tissues in the respiratory system. Diphtheria is pretty fucking gnarly and even with treatment 1 in 10 infected patients die. Without treatment, that the mortality rate is 1 in 2. Thank goodness there is a vaccine that prevents the disease. At least until the anti-vaxers decide that the mumps and whooping cough are passé and need a new disease to bring back into the mix. Get your kids vaccinated, for fuck’s sake. Olga Rozanova would approve. Shit, she’d be first in line.
Rozanova had two posthumous exhibitions: one in Moscow in 1919 and one at the Tretyakov Gallery in 2007 that featured her artwork and documents. Despite her short life, Rozanova’s art explored key artistic movements of the 21st century and her abstract work was beautiful and revolutionary. Tumultuous times makes for great art and Olga Rozanova certainly made some wonderful, kick-ass art.