Natalya Nesterova was born into a family of artists: her parents were both architects and her grandfather, who lived with the family during her childhood, was a Russian Avant-Garde painter and art instructor. Encouraged from an early age to pursue her creative interests, she attended the Moscow Secondary Art School as a teenager and, later, the Moscow Surikov Art Institute, where she received classical training in composition, still life, and figure painting.
Shortly after graduating from the Institute, Nesterova became a member of the Artists’ Union of the USSR, an organization of professional visual artists who were approved and supported by the Soviet state. Although she enjoyed the benefits of her “official” status – a guaranteed job, free studio space, and the exposure of all-union exhibitions – she rejected the heroic and propagandistic subject matter typically endorsed by the Union, preferring instead to paint the everyday lives of ordinary Russians.
Rendered in a heavily impastoed, neo-primitive style, her works conjure familiar scenes made mysterious through the use of psychological allegories. Figures engaged in such common activities as lounging on a beach or strolling through a park are positioned and manipulated by the artist to suggest isolation and confinement. The resulting image communicates impressions of social commentary, nostalgic fantasy, and emotional expression, yet eludes concrete analysis. Nesterova has perpetuated the air of mystery that permeates her works by refusing to discuss their psychological and metaphysical subtexts.
Although Nesterova came to prominence in the art world as a markedly Soviet artist, her themes have proved autonomous and durable, and today, in the post-Soviet era, she is recognized simply as one of the most important contemporary Russian artists. She continues to live and paint in Moscow.