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Rayonism (or Rayonnism) is a style of abstract art that developed in Russia in 1911.
Mikhail Larionov and Natalia Goncharova developed rayonism after hearing a series of lectures about Futurism by Marinetti in Moscow. The Futurists took speed, technology and modernity as their inspiration, depicting the dynamic character of early 20th century life. They glorified war and the machine age, and favoured the growth of Fascism.
The Rayonists sought an art that floated beyond abstraction, outside of time and space, and to break the barriers between the artist and the public. They derived the name from the use of dynamic rays of contrasting color, representing lines of reflected light — crossing of reflected rays from various objects.
At the 1913 Target exhibition they introduced the style to the public. In their literature they described Rayonism as naturally encompassing all existing styles and forms of the art of the past, as they, like life, are simply points of departure for a Rayonist perception and construction of a picture.
Larionov and Goncharova also wrote:
- The style of Rayonnist painting that we advance signifies spatial forms which are obtained arising from the intersection of the reflected rays of various objects, and forms chosen by the artist's will. The ray is depicted provisionally on the surface by a colored line. That which is valuable for the lover of painting finds its maximum expression in a rayonnist picture. The objects that we see in life play no role here, but that which is the essence of painting itself can be shown here best of all--the combination of color, its saturation, the relation of colored masses, depth, texture.
- We do not sense the object with our eye, as it is depicted conventionally in pictures and as a result of following this or that device; in fact, we do not sense the object as such. We perceive a sum of rays proceeding from a source of light; these are reflected from the object and enter our field of vision.
- Consequently, if we wish to paint literally what we see, then we must paint the sum of rays reflected from the object. But in order to receive the total sum of rays from the desired object, we must select them deliberately -- because together with the rays of the object being perceived, there also fall into our range of vision reflected reflex rays belonging to other nearby objects. Now, if we wish to depict an object exactly as we see it, then we must depict also these reflex rays belonging to other objects -- and then we will depict literally what we see ...
- Now, if we concern ourselves not with the objects themselves but with the sums of rays from them, we can build a picture in the following way:
- The sum of rays from object A intersects the sum of rays from object B; in the space between them a certain form appears, and this is isolated by the artist's will . . .
- Perception, not of the object itself, but of the sum of rays from it, is, by its very nature, much closer to the symbolic surface of the picture than is the object itself. This is almost the same as the mirage which appears in the scorching air of the desert and depicts distant towns, lakes, and oases in the sky (in concrete instances). Rayonism erases the barriers that exist between the picture's surface and nature.
- A ray is depicted provisionally on the surface by a colored line
Rayonists not only painted, they also designed theater sets and produced book illustrations.
Although short-lived, Rayonism was a crucial step in the development of Russian abstract art. As Larionov said, it represented the true freeing of art from the former realistic conventions that had oppressed the artistic community.
Electro act "The Rayonists" took their name from the movement.
See also 
- An essay on the Russian avant-garde by faculty at Northwestern University.
- Russian Painting by Alexander Boguslawski at Rollins College.
- West, Shearer (1996). The Bullfinch Guide to Art. UK: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. ISBN 0-8212-2137-X.