Liubov Sergeyevna Popova (April 24, 1889 - May 25, 1924) was a Russian avant-garde artist (Cubist, Suprematist and Constructivist), painter and designer.
Liubov (also spelled Lyubov) Popova was born near Moscow and grew up in an enlightened merchant family with a strong interest in art, especially Italian Renaissance painting. At eleven years old she began art lessons at home and in 1907 she studied art with S. Zhukovskiy. From 1908-09 she attended the art school of Konstantin Yuon and Ivan Dudin.
Popova traveled widely to investigate and learn from diverse styles of painting, but it was the ancient Russian Icons and 15th and 16th century Italian painters, Giotto and others which at first interested her the most.
In 1909 she traveled to Kiev, then in 1910 to Pskov and Novgorod. The following year she visited other ancient Russian cities, including St. Petersburg, to study icons. In 1912 she worked in a Moscow studio known as the Tower with Ivan Aksenov and Vladimir Tatlin, and also visited Sergei Shchukin's collection of modern French paintings.
In 1912-13 she studied art with Nadezhda Udaltsova in Paris, where she met Alexander Archipenko and Ossip Zadkine in 1913. After returning to Russia that same year, she worked with Tatlin, Udaltsova and the Vesnin brothers. In 1914 she traveled in France and Italy at the development of cubism and futurism.
Development of style from Cubo-Futurism to Constructivism
Through a synthesis of styles Popova worked towards what she termed painterly architectonics. Exploring firstly Impressionism, by 1913, in Composition with Figures, she was experimenting with the particularly Russian development of Cubo-Futurism; a fusion of two equal influences from France and Italy.
From 1914-15 her Moscow home became the meeting-place for artists and writers. In 1914-1916 Popova together with other avant-garde artists (Aleksandra Ekster, Udaltsova, Rozanova ) contributed to the two Jack of Diamonds Exhibitions, then in Petrograd Tramway V and the 0.10 ,The Store in Moscow.
In 1916 she joined the Supremus group with Kazimir Malevich, the founder of Suprematism, Aleksandra Ekster, Ivan Kliun, Nadezhda Udaltsova, Olga Rozanova, Ivan Puni, Nina Genke, Ksenia Boguslavskaya and others who at this time worked in Verbovka Village Folk Centre. However there was a tension between those who like Malevich saw art as a spiritual quest and others who responded to the need for the artist to create a new physical world. Popova embraced both of these ideals but eventually identified herself entirely with the early aims of the Revolution working in poster, book design, fabric and theatre design, as well as teaching.
Her painting The Violin of 1914 reveals the development from cubism towards the painterly architectonics of 1917-18. Before joining the Supremus group her paintings, the architectonic series defined her artistic trajectory, quite distinct from that of Malevich, Rozanova, Tatlin and Mondrian, in abstract form. The canvas surface is an energy field of overlapping and intersecting angular planes in a constant state of potential release. At the same time the elements are held in a balanced and proportioned whole as if linking the compositions of the classical past to the future. By 1918 colour is used as the iconic focus; the strong primary colour at the centre drawing the outer shapes together.
In 1918 Popova married von Eding, and gave birth to a son, but von Eding died the following year of typhoid fever. She worked on Agitprop designs, and in 1919 she contributed to Tenth State Exhibition: Non Objective Creativity and Suprematism. She painted more advanced abstract works in 1919-21. In 1921 she exhibited in the 5 x 5 Exhibition.
From 1921-24 Popova became active in Constructivist projects, sometimes in collaboration with the architect Alexander Vesnin. She was active in stage designs: Vsevolod Meyerhold's production of Fernand Crommeldynck's The Magnanamous Cuckold, 1922; and in teaching: Spatial Force Constructions were used as the basis of an art teaching theory. She designed typography of books, production art and textiles, and contributed designs for dresses to LEF.
Popova died in Moscow. A large exhibition of her work opened in Moscow 21 December 1924.