Obelisk Art History
The Artists

Olga Rozanova
The intellectual mother of Abstract Expressionism

Olga Rozanova, The Artists
Portrait of Olga Rozanova

Olga Vladimirovna Rozanova burned hot and died young. Emerging from the provincial aristocracy of turn of the century Russia, she swept into Moscow with a focus and intellectual rigor that drew her immediately into the city’s artistic avant-garde. It was a heady time. A time for manifestos. Rozanova debated with the art group Soyuz Molodyozhi, the ‘Union of Youth,’ and experimented with the styles and theories of Italian Futurism in her works The City and Fire in the City, which impressed Filippo Marinetti, the founder of futurism himself. She blended futurism back into cubism in a series of playing card portraits that immortalized her fellow artists as kings, queens, and knaves.

In 1912, Rozanova met the poet Aleksey Kruchonykh, her future husband, and illustrated his indecipherable Zaum poetry, Futurism’s trans-rational language of pure expression. Then suddenly, futurism was no longer enough. Rozanova joined Kasimir Malevich’s Suprematist group, diving into pure abstraction. Her vivid compositions expanded expanded the supremacist goals of expression without figures.

But Rozanova burned out. A weakened immune system left her victim to diphtheria, and she died in 1917. Her last works contain a final innovation: the fledgling concept of color painting—bold, radically simple canvasses that 30 years later influenced the Abstract Expressionist movement. Rozanova painted color fields before Rothko, and vertical lines before Barnett Newman. If only she'd lived a bit longer.

Reed Enger, "Olga Rozanova, The intellectual mother of Abstract Expressionism," in Obelisk Art History, Published May 15, 2016; last modified October 14, 2022, http://arthistoryproject.com/artists/olga-rozanova/.

Olga Rozanova was a Russian Artist who Died Young and Female Artist born on June 21, 1886. Rozanova contributed to the Suprematist movement and died on November 8, 1918.

Illustration for Souz Molodyozhi, Olga Rozanova

Illustration for Souz Molodyozhi 1913

Illustration for Souz Molodyozhi, Olga Rozanova

Illustration for Souz Molodyozhi 1913

Man on the Street (Analysis of Volumes), Olga Rozanova

Man on the Street (Analysis of Volumes) 1913

There is nothing more awful in the world than repetition, uniformity

The Bases of the New Creation 1913

City On Fire, Olga Rozanova

City On Fire 1914

The City, Olga Rozanova

The City 1914

Jack of Hearts, Olga Rozanova

Jack of Hearts 1912 – 1915

King of Clubs, Olga Rozanova

King of Clubs 1912 – 1915

Queen of Spades, Olga Rozanova

Queen of Spades 1914 – 1915

Non-Objective Composition, Olga Rozanova

Non-Objective Composition 1916

Non-Objective Composition (Flight of an Airplane), Olga Rozanova

Non-Objective Composition (Flight of an Airplane) 1916

Color Painting, Olga Rozanova

Color Painting 1917

Green Stripe, Olga Rozanova

Green Stripe 1917

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