Russian Constructivist Painter and Designer, 1889-1924
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.
Portrait of a Philosopher (Artists's brother, Pavel Sergeyevich Popov), 1915From 1914-1915 her Moscow home became the meeting-place for artists and writers. In 1914-1916 Popova together with other avant-garde artists (Aleksandra Ekster, Nadezhda Udaltsova, Olga 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- 1918. 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 on 21 December 1924.