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 Varvara Stepanova


Born:   November 5, 1894
Deceased:   May 20, 1958

Soviet painter, graphic artist, stage designer, decorative artist

      

Varvara Fyodorovna Stepanova was born on November 5, 1894 in Kovno (nowadays Kaunas, Lithuania). She studied at the Kazan art school, where she met her future life partner and close associate in art Alexander Rodchenko. After arriving in Moscow in 1912 she worked at factory and attended Yuon’s private art studio and Stroganov’s Arts and Crafts College. The youngest among representatives of Russian avant-garde art, she was nevertheless distinguishable. The union with Rodchenko determined her transition from her early graphic art and symbolistic verses to non-objective painting and poetry.

Varvara Stepanova’s non-figurative compositions are based on stylized figurative and subject motives. They gravitated toward geometrical forms rather than to language philosophy. The specificity of gift nature itself predetermined her proximity to constructivists who moved away from abstract art towards direct production of things. She participated in the constructivist exhibition 5×5=25 (1921), created furniture and costumes for V. E. Meyerhold’s stage production Tarelkin’s Death based on Sukhovo-Kobylin’s play (1922) and for the Breakaway movie (1926), and made textile sketches for a cotton-printing factory (1924-25).

Varvara Stepanova’s inclination to applied arts and design led her to polygraphy and design of photo albums.  From the mid 1920s she worked in the field of typographical design and poster. She was engaged in photomontage and made covers of books and magazines, such as Soviet Cinema, Radio Listener, Red Students, Abroad, Book and Revolution, and others.  In the late 1930s Varvara Stepanova returned to painting. During World War II the artist was evacuated to Perm, where she designed exhibitions of the State Literature Museum and drew TASS Windows, i.e. satirical posters agitating for defending Motherland from the Nazi.

In post-war years she went on working as a graphic designer. Works by Varvara Stepanova are kept in many leading museums of the world, among them the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, and others. One of the largest collections of her works is stored in the Private Collections Department of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. 

Varvara Fyodorovna Stepanova died on May 20, 1958 in Moscow.


Tags: Varvara Stepanova Russian Artists    




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