National Museum of Women in the Arts
Alexandra Exter
January 06 1882 - March 17 1949
Photograph of Alexandra Exter, ca. 1910, unknown photographer, unknown location.
Place of Birth:
French, Russian
Phonetic Spelling:
oh-lihk-SAN-drah EHK-terr
Work Type/Media:
Decorative and utilitarian works, Drawings and prints, Painting, Textiles and clothing
Artistic Role(s):
Costume Designer, Designer, Draftsperson, Fashion Designer, Illustrator, Painter, Textile Artist, Set Designer
Abstraction, Constructivism, Cubism, Other
Artist's Biography:
Although she was also a painter and book illustrator, Alexandra Exter’s principal contribution to twentieth-century culture was that of innovative theatrical design. Born Alexandra Alexandrovna Grigorovich, she attended the Kiev Art Institute from 1901 to 1907. One year after completing her studies she married Nikolai Eugenovitch Exter.

As a member of Russia’s pre-Revolutionary artistic avant-garde, Alexandra Exter was close to other progressive artists, writers, and composers; she traveled frequently within Russia and also spent considerable time in Western Europe, especially in Paris, where she began exhibiting her work in 1912. She opened her own studio in Kiev, where a number of noted artists, including Pavel Tcheltichew, were pupils. In 1916, at a time when nonobjective art was still extremely rare, Exter created her first totally abstract paintings. In the same year she began designing sets and costumes for a Moscow play. Her revolutionary designs won critical acclaim, and her theatrical career was launched.

For the next several decades Exter produced innovative and influential stage designs for plays, ballets, and experimental films. However, like many radical artists whose work did not quite fit with Soviet ideology, Exter eventually left the country, settling permanently in Paris in 1924. There she remained an important influence through her exhibitions, her stage work, and her teaching at Fernand Léger’s Académie d’Art Moderne. Exter continued experimenting and sometimes incorporated modern industrial materials such as celluloid and sheet metal into her futuristic designs. In 1925, she created a set of costumes for a ballet in which the dancer’s bodies were painted, rather than dressed, with colorful shapes and patterns.

Other Occupation(s):
Instructor, Teacher
Place(s) of Residence:
Place(s) of Activity:
Where Trained/Schools:
Académie de la Grande Chaumière, Paris, France (1908-1914) Kiev Art Institute, Kiev, Ukraine (1901-1907)
Related Visual Artists:
friend of Mikhail Larionov friend of Pablo Picasso friend of Ardengo Soffici friend of Lyubov Popova friend of Natalia Gontcharova friend of Varvara Fedorovna Stepanova friend of Alexander Rodchenko friend of David Burlyuk friend of Nikolai Kulbin friend of and influenced by Sonia Delaunay friend of and influenced by Robert Delaunay friend of Alekzandr Vesnin teacher of Amelia Pelaez teacher of Pavel Tchelitchew teacher of Issak Rabinovitch teacher of Aleksandr Tyshler teacher of Klyment Red'ko influenced by Fernand Léger
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Earliest exhibition:
La Rose Bleue, Moscow, Russia (1907)
NMWA exhibition(s):
Four Centuries of Women's Art: The National Museum of Women in the Arts
Related places
Fontenay-aux-Roses (died at)
Costume Design for "Les Equivoques d'Amour"