In 1907 Sonia eloped with the young writer Alexei Nicolaevich
Tolstoy and was disowned by her Jewish family. Together, she
and Tolstoy began a Bohemian, artistically adventurous life among
what later became known as the Russian Avant-Garde. In 1917, working closely
with the artist Vladimir Tatlin, she was among the first of that
group to embrace wholeheartedly the Revolution and its utopian
promise. However, unlike a number of Russian painters of that
time such as Goncharova, Larionov, Bakst and Chagall, by 1917 she never
left the Soviet Union.
The remainder of her life was spent in Leningrad where she endured
the brutal Purges of the thirties, the Siege in which she was evacuated
in February 1942, and finally after Stalin’s death in 1953, some
relaxation of the overriding atmosphere of fear and repression.
But, this was not the life and society she had sacrificed everything
to create. How did she survive, not only materially but also
spiritually? What was she able as an artist and as a person to
bring to her circumstances to retain her own humanity and soul?
20TH CENTURY RUSSIAN ART HISTORY
JEWISH CULTURE AND HISTORY
Photo: Sonia with her sisters, second from the right.
© 2010 Lucy Kostelanetz Productions, LLC