Natalya Goncharova

Rabbi with Cat

About this artwork

For many years this painting was known as 'Monk with Cat', though the figure is in fact a Rabbi. The two men carrying sacks in the background are Jews fleeing a pogrom. The Hand of God can be seen in the top-left corner, blessing the Rabbi, who may be stroking the cat for the last time before he too departs. The picture is indebted to Russian icons. We can read an analogy between the Rabbi and cat and the Virgin and Child. The painting delivers a poignant message about compassion, suffering and religious intolerance.

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Natalya Goncharova

Natalya Goncharova

Goncharova was born near Tula in Russia. While studying in Moscow, she met fellow artist Mikhail Larionov who became her lifelong companion and encouraged her to concentrate on painting instead of sculpture. As a prominent figure in the Russian avant garde movement, Goncharova was an exponent of the neo-primitivist style, which combined elements of contemporary French fauvist art with traditional Russian folk art. After settling permanently in Paris in 1917, Goncharova worked with Diaghilev's 'Ballets Russes', designing sets and costumes.