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A movement or trend in Russian painting in the early 20th century in which influences from the Western avant-garde were combined in a deliberately crude way with features derived from peasant art, lubki (brightly coloured popular prints), and other aspects of Russia's artistic heritage. Neo-primitivism in Russia was distinguished by being a movement in its own right rather than one aspect of something else, as in Expressionism, Fauvism, and Cubism. The main exponents of Neo-primitivism were Goncharova and Larionov, and it was given its name by Alexander Shevchenko in a book published in 1913—Neo-Primitivism: Its Theory, its Possibilities, its Achievements. Shevchenko's view was strongly nationalist, based on a vision of Russia which was unequivocally anti-European. He wrote: ‘Russia and the Orient have been indissolubly linked since the Tartar invasions, and the spirit of the Tartars, the spirit of the Orient is embedded in our lives’ (Harrison and Wood). This bias towards the national was reiterated in the Donkey's Tail and Target manifestos and led Larionov and Goncharova to break from the Knave of Diamonds on the grounds that it was too slavishly devoted to French painting. Among the other painters influenced by Neo-primitivism were David Burliuk, Chagall, Filonov, and Malevich. It also affected Russian poets, for example Mayakovsky, in their choice of peasant themes or use of deliberate archaisms, incorrect spellings, and other deviations from standard usage.

Further Reading

D. V. Sarabianov, Russian Art from Neo-Classicism to the Avant-garde (1990)

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