Donkey's Tail

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Donkey’s Tail


a group of young artists headed by M. F. Larionov that broke away from the Jack of Diamonds group and organized two exhibitions in 1912, one in Moscow and the other in St. Petersburg. The latter exhibition included works by members of the Union of Youth.

The shocking name “Donkey’s Tail,” which reflects one of the excesses that typified the French avant-garde, was intended by the group to emphasize the anarchic and rebellious character of their work, as well as their intense rejection of the accepted norms of artistic creation. [The name “Donkey’s Tail” derives from the incident in which a French painter revealed that a painting highly acclaimed by the critics was in fact painted by the switching tail of a donkey.] The name also reflected the group’s proclamation of completely free formal experimentation. The artists’ extremely controversial slogans and deliberate “vulgarization” of images brought the group close in practice to literary futurism.

The Donkey’s Tail included N. S. Goncharova, K. S. Malevich, K. M. Zdanevich, A. V. Shevchenko, S. P. Bobrov, V. E. Tatlin, M. Chagall, A. V. Fonvizin, and M. V. Le-Dantiu. In contrast to the “Westernism” of the Jack of Diamonds, the Donkey’s Tail turned to primitivism, popularizing the work of N. Pirosmanashvili and other primitivists, and to the traditions of Russian icon painting and popular woodcuts (lubki). They proclaimed their inspiration to be the art of the East, although this proclamation essentially remained a slogan. At the same time, some of the group’s members, such as Goncharova and Malevich, displayed an affinity for contemporary trends in Western European art, including futurism and cubism. At the group’s subsequent exhibitions, The Target in 1913 and No. 4 in 1914, a number of participants presented works executed in the style of rayonnism, a method developed by Larionov, which constituted one of the first forms of abstract art.


Oslinyi khvost i Mishen’ (collection). Moscow, 1913.
D’iakonitsyn, L. F. Ideinye protivorechiia v estetike russkoi zhivopisi kontsa 19-nachala 20 vv. [Perm’] 1966. Pages 190–98.
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