Alexandra Ekster - Founding Art Deco

Alexandra Ekster, or Exter, was born into the very wealthy family of A.A. Grigorovich, on 6 January 1882, in Belostok, Imperial Russia. Imperial Russia is now known as Poland. She was a multi talented artist that was a suprematist, constructivist, cubo-futurist painter and also a designer. Alexandra Ekster would also become a founder of the Art Deco. After studying at the Kiev Art School, Ekster (Exter) attended the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere in Paris, in 1907. She moved and lived for various amounts of time in Rome, Kiev, Odessa, St Petersburg, Paris and Moscow, during the years of 1908 to 1924.

Alexandra Ekster participated in an exhibition in 1908, together with members from the Zveno group. The exhibition was organized by various Kiev residents including Wladimir Burliuk and David Burliuk. The Salon des Independants exhibitions in Paris was held in 1914, and Ekster took part in this exhibition as well, with other artists such as Vadym Meller, Kazimir and Alexander Archipenko. She also took part in the International Futurist Exhibition in Milan in the same year, and joined the avant-garde artist group, Supremus, in 1915.

For Alexandra Ekster, there was never a moment to be spared and in 1915 to 1916 she joined a peasant craft cooperative in villages such as Verbovka and Skoptsi. Also taking part in the initiative was Natalia Davidova, Nina Genke, Ivan Puni, and others. During the years 1918 to 1920, Alexandra founded a teaching and production workshop in Kiev, with the help of Nikritin, Meller, Red’ko, Shifirin and Petrytsky. She was also a leading name during this period at Alexander Tairov’s Chamber Theatre.

The year 1919 saw Alexandra Ekster take her art to the streets, literally. Ekster, together with Nina Genke-Miller and Kliment Red’ko, decorated Kiev and Odessa’s streets with their unique abstract art. She also tried her hand at designing costumes, and worked in the Ballet Studio of Vaslav Nijinsky’s sister, Bronislava Nijinska.

1921 would prove to be another interesting year for Alexandra, as she became the director of the course “Colour”, as the Higher Artistic Technical Workshop in Moscow. Ekster held this position until she immigrated to France in 1924. She became a professor in Paris at the Academie der Moderne and from 1926 to 1930, Alexandra held the position of professor at Leger’s Academie d’Art Contemporian.

Alexandra took on another busy year in 1936, with an exhibition in New York, the Cubism and Abstract Art, and solo exhibitions in Paris and in Prague. In the same year, Alexandra Ekster began to work as a book illustrator, a position this wandering, restless artist seemed to enjoy.

Alexandra Ekster died in the Paris suburb of Fontanay-aux-Roses on 17 March 1949, still illustrating books, and creating new works of art. She will always be remembered as a wonderful Russian artist and free spirited artist.


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