After Russia entered World War I in 1914, Natalia Goncharova and Olga Rozanova each made a series of prints dramatizing the conflict. Goncharova’s visions of angels watching over the Russian troops reflected the prevailing patriotism of the war’s early years. Rozanova began producing her War prints one year later, when the country had begun to suffer disastrous military defeats; her fractured forms convey the cataclysmic confusion.
Both series extend from the artists’ preoccupation with handmade books—thin, crudely bound volumes in which their rough, almost childlike illustrations mingle with the experimental language of their poet-collaborators.
Their radical approach to art, spurred by exchanges with French and German avant-garde groups, was meant as a rebuke to Russia’s conservative traditions. “Typical of our age is a hunger for freedom,” said Rozanova, “a longing for freedom, a hunger to see the world transformed.”