Artists & Designers

Lyubov Popova (Russian, 1889–1924)

Born into a prosperous Russian family in 1889, Lyubov Popova was well traveled and educated. Between 1907 and 1908, she studied with Stanislav Zhukovsky and Konstantin Yuon, both Russian painters who introduced her to avant-garde styles. In the winter of 1912 she began studying at the Académie de la Palette, a private art school in Paris directed by Henri Le Fauconnier and Jean Metzinger, where she was greatly inspired by the Cubist and Futurist movements. Moving back to Russia in 1913, she occasionally worked in the studio of Vladimir Tatlin, a painter and architect known for his Constructivist ideology. This environment encouraged her to investigate new artistic forms such as collage and painted reliefs or Space-Force Constructions. She produced her first non-objective paintings from about 1912 to 1918, including the series Painterly Architectonics. She also joined Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematist circle in 1916. Although she adopted the Suprematists’ white grounds and geometric forms, she developed a unique aesthetic characterized by boldly colored geometric planes that intersect, abut, and overlap in dynamic compositions.

During the Russian Revolution of 1917, Popova became an active member of the artistic community and taught in the Fine Art Department of the People’s Commissariat for Enlightenment and the Proletarian Cultural Organization. In 1918 she began working at the State Free Art Studios and taught color construction with Aleksandr Vesnin when it became the Higher Artistic and Technical Workshops. That year she also married and had a child, but the death of her husband the following year left her a single parent. Popova was an active participant in the formation of Russian artistic theory and practice from 1920 until her death in 1924, joining the Institute of Artistic Culture and helping to shape the First Working Group of Constructivists in 1921. Though not a member of the latter group, she collaborated with its founders Aleksandr Rodchenko and Varvara Stepanova in their 1921 exhibition 5 x 5 = 25. Her paintings became increasingly geometric and mathematic, and in 1921 she abandoned painting to focus solely on theater and textile design, a reflection of Constructivism’s emphasis on the creation of utilitarian art. By early 1924, she joined Stepanova in designing textiles for the First State Textile Factory in Moscow, producing geometric patterns aligned with Constructivist principles. She died that year at the age of 35 from scarlet fever, just four days after it took her son.

Excerpt from

Kelsey Martin and Nicole Myers, DMA exhibition text Women Artists in Europe from the Monarchy to Modernism, 2018.

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