Urgent Museum Notice

Alexandra Exter

A black-and-white photograph of a light-skinned, adult woman standing in her studio and surrounded by her large, abstract, geometric paintings. Her hair is short, light, and curly, and her hands rest in the pockets of the loosely fitted, dark colored, long-sleeved dress she is wearing.

Photo © Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

1882 to 1949

Born Alexandra Alexandrovna Grigorovich, she attended the Kyiv Art Institute and married Nikolai Eugenovitch Exter. As a member of Russia’s pre-Revolutionary artistic avant-garde, Exter was close to other progressive artists, writers, and composers.

She traveled within Russia and throughout Western Europe, especially Paris, where she began exhibiting her work in 1912. She opened her own studio in Kyiv and taught noted artists, including Pavel Tchelitchew. In 1916, when nonobjective art was still extremely rare, Exter created her first purely abstract paintings. Her set designs and costumes for a Moscow play won critical acclaim and launched her theatrical career.

For the next several decades, Exter produced innovative and influential stage designs for plays, ballets, and experimental films. Like many radical artists, Exter eventually left Russia, settling in Paris in 1924.

Exter continued experimenting with Constructivism and sometimes incorporated modern industrial materials such as celluloid and sheet metal into her futuristic designs. She remained an important influence through exhibitions, stage work, and teaching at Fernand Léger’s Académie d’Art Moderne.

Artist Details

  • Name

    Alexandra Exter
  • Birth

    Belostok (now Bialystok, Poland), 1882
  • Death

    Fontenay-aux-Roses, France, 1949
  • Phonetic Spelling

    oh-lihk-SAN-drah EHK-terr
  • NMWA Exhibitions

    Four Centuries of Women’s Art: The National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1990–91