1889- 1924
Lyubov Popova was born in 1889 in Moscow governorate into a wealthy family. Her father, Sergey Maksimovich Popov, owned several textile factories, and her mother, Lyubov Vasilyevna (née Zubova) was from a merchant family. Her parents were interested in arts and attended theater and concerts. Their friend of the name of Orlov, who was a professional artist, gave Popova her first drawing lessons. She also studied at Stanislav Zhukovsky’s studio and Konstantin Yuon and Ivan Dudin’s private art school.

In the late 1900s and early 1910s, Popova traveled a lot. She visited Kyiv, Italy, Saint Petersburg, Pskov, Novgorod, Rostov, and many other places where she encountered works by classic and Old Russian artists. She also was drawn by the art of her contemporaries, such as Paul Cézanne and Mikhail Vrubel. By 1915, her non-figurative painting technique had emerged, which incorporated influences of artistic practices from iconography to Cub-Futurism.

From 1914 to 1916, Popova stayed in Birsk at the home of her friend Adda Robertovna Dege. Some believe that she came there several times. Nina Rybalko, local historian and former employee of the Birsk History Museum, says that Adda Dege was a governess who presumably worked as a teacher at one of the merchants’ houses in Birsk. Birsk of that period cannot be called a typical provincial town: there were wealthy families and intelligentsia living here, and it had a diverse cultural life.

Lyubov Popova painted two works that have Birsk in their titles. The first one is in the Guggenheim Museum collection. In 1981, it was donated to the museum by Georgy Dionisovich Kostaki, a Soviet art collector of Greek descent and citizenship who was born in Moscow and had one of the largest collections of Russian avant-garde.
The Guggenheim Museum website reads, “[Birsk’s] crystalline structure is formally reminiscent of the views of houses in l’Estaque painted by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso in 1908, but the vibrant palette attests to Popova’s sustained interest in Russian folk and decorative art. Birsk, one of the few landscapes from this stage of Popova’s career, was begun during a summer visit to the home of her former governess, who lived near the Ural Mountains in the small town of the painting’s title.”

The second painting, The Town of Birsk, was also created in 1916 and can now be found in the Harvard Art Museum collection. It is located at the Busch-Reisinger Museum, to which it was gifted by Merrill C. and Dalia S. Berman.

Lyubov Popova passed away in 1924 at the age of 35, having left a rich artistic legacy behind.