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Russian Futurist Highlight

Gorod: stikhi [The city: verses].

Paris: [Aleksandr Rubakin], 1920. Octavo (25.5 × 16 cm). Original pictorial wrappers by Nataliia Goncharova; [6], 54 pp. and nine leaves of plates. Illustrated with full-page lithographs and vignettes by Goncharova. A very good copy, with the usual light wear to the overlapping wrapper edges, but else bright and apparently unread.

Reproduced entirely by lithography, the book combines Rubakin’s poems, written in an elaborately stylized script, and Goncharova’s full-page lithographs and vignettes (altogether 42 illustrations). The poems reflect Rubakin’s emotional turmoil after the death of his wife in 1918, as well as his intense experience of urban life, strikingly interpreted by Goncharova. Her drawings “complement the text providing insights into the scope of her work up to 1920, ranging from Neo-Primitivism to Futurism to theatrical lyricism” (Ryan, Letter Perfect: The Art of Modernist Typography, p. 62). Each pair of facing printed pages is followed by two empty pages, creating a rhythmic experience that accentuates her contrast-heavy drawings. The choice of avoiding letterpress printing and other forms of mechanical reproduction in favor of lithography reflects the Futurist attempt to convey a more immediate and spontaneous type of artistic expression.

Together with her companion, Mikhail Larionov, Natalia Goncharova (1881–1962) left Russia in 1915 and permanently settled in Paris in 1917. After training and exhibiting widely in Western Europe, she had developed a highly original style that incorporated Russian iconography, folk culture (lubki), as well as cubofuturism and abstract “rayonism,” a tendency she pursued together with Larionov. Building on her successful career as a Russian avant-garde painter, she was primarily active as a stage and costume designer for the Ballets Russes, both in Paris and internationally.

A highlight of Russian futurist book design. One of 325 copies printed; this copy out-of-series and unnumbered. Getty 686. MoMA 292.

Book ID: 50850

Price: $9,500.00