Goncharova and her reputation suffered in her own time, too. She was frequently cast as second fiddle to Larionov, even though evidence suggests that they were equal partners. Art historian Evgenia Petrova writes in the catalogue, “elements of Rayonism that appeared in Goncharova’s works before the theory itself was formulated prompt one to wonder if it was Larionov or Goncharova who actually pioneered Rayonism in practice. One account maintains that it was Goncharova who made Larionov write the manifesto.”
Still, public opinion followed along the lines of British scholar Camilla Gray, who once declared “Larionov was the leader and Goncharova the brilliant pupil.” Another critic suggested that Goncharova had been “largely guided” by Larionov. In some ways, this is true. Goncharova relied on her partner for the business aspects of her career, and he expertly curated and organized exhibitions and press for their work. She called him “my working conscience, my tuning fork.”
Despite their love of country, Goncharova and Larionov were never able to return to Russia after the First World War. Goncharova died in 1962 in France, where she spent most of the rest of her life. She would be pleased to know that today the state-run Tretyakov Gallery is the largest repository of her work, with 413 paintings, 6,924 works on paper, and archival and photographic materials, in its collection, and plans to digitize much of it for the public.