Rayism By Parton, Anthony
An abstract and non-objective style of painting, Rayism (“Luchizm”) was pioneered by the Russian artist Mikhail Larionov in early 1912. The style represented the first theoretically coherent and practically consistent response on the part of the Russian avant-garde to the challenges of French Cubism and Italian Futurism. In divorcing art from figuration and in its emphasis on the purely formal qualities of painting, Rayism prepared the way for the development of both Suprematism and Constructivism. Larionov’s innovative style was practiced chiefly by those artists in his immediate orbit: painters such as Natalia Goncharova, Alexander Shevchenko, and Mikhail Le-Dantiyu, who belonged to the Donkey’s Tail and Target group. While Rayism had a limited life-span in Russia, being overtaken by Suprematism in 1915, Larionov and Goncharova continued to practice the style throughout their careers, executing Rayist paintings right up to the 1950s.
In its earliest phase, known as “Realistic Rayism” (“Realistichesky luchizm”), the style proceeded from Larionov’s interest in optics and Impressionist color theory and specifically from the idea that the color, contour, and form of our world is defined by rays of light reflected from all material objects. According to Larionov’s booklet Rayism (Luchizm) of 1912, his initial aim was to explore the nature of visual perception as it exists before the brain converts what we see into a comprehensible form.