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Kasimir Malevich, a Russian painter and designer, was born near Kiev on February 26, 1878 (Guggeheimcollection.org) and was “one of six children from Russified Poles” (Articons.co.uk). While living in Ukraine, he became absorbed into art during his teens, “largely teaching himself” the basics (Articons.co.uk). After saving his money “from his job as a railroad clerk” (Articons.co.uk), Malevich enrolled in the Moscow Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture in 1903 and began to study art more seriously. Later he trained at Kiev School of Art and Moscow Academy of Fine Arts and “produced portraits, landscapes, and genre scenes” in his early stages of his career (Artstudio.com).
By 1907 Malevich “took part in the Moscow Artists' Society's twice yearly exhibition along with such artists as David Burliuk, Aleksander Shevchenko and Natalia Goncharova” (Articons.co.uk). “He began working in an unexceptional Post-Impressionist manner, but by 1912 he was painting peasant subjects in a massive `tubular' style similar to that of Leger as well as pictures combining the fragmentation of form of Cubism with the multiplication of the image of Futurism” (ibiblio.org).
In these initial years of study, art was not the only interest in Malevich’s repertoire. “In 1913, with composer Mikhail Matiushin and writer Alexei Kruchenykh, Malevich drafted a manifesto for the First Futurist Congress” (Guggenheimcollection.org) and began taking a “more philosophical and theoretical approach to art” (Articons.com). Also in that year, the artist “designed the sets and costumes for the opera Victory over the Sun” for these friends which was showed at the Salon des Independants in Paris in 1914.
Kruchenykh and others introduced Malevich to the “ the notion of ‘zaum’” in 1913, which was a “state where experience occurs beyond the naturally perceived world” (Articons.com). “This concept and his work for the Cubo-Futurist opera Victory Over The Sun (1913) propelled Malevich into the style of Suprematism” (Articons.com). It was at this time he began “creating geometric patterns in style he called Suprematism” (ibiblio.org). Although Malevich claimed to have created a picture “consisting of nothing more than a black square on a white field,” (ibiblio.
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The concept behind Malevich’s Suprematism was to express abstract geometric paintings to “produce pure, cerebral compositions” (ibiblio.org). Many of his paintings were a series of simple colors and shapes such as in Black Cross or Dynamic Suprematism that still cause much confusion in art museums today due to the difficultly in “knowing which way up his paintings should be hung” (ibiblio.org). Malevich’s “famous painting White on White (1918) carried Suprematist theories to absolute conclusion” showing his purest ambitions in simple geometric shapes and colors (ibiblio.org).
For a short time between 1916 and 1918, Malevich altered his Suprematism creations by “tilting rectangles from the vertical, adding more colors and introducing a suggestion of the third dimension and even a degree of painterly handling” (ibiblio.org). During this brief change of artistic views and after the Russian Revolution in 1917, Malevich and other advanced artists were encouraged by the Soviet government and attained prominent administrative and teaching positions” (Guggenheimcollecion.org). In 1919, he taught and became director at Vitebsk Popular Art School and later formed the “Suprematist group Unovis” (Guggenheimcollection.org).
“From 1922 to 1927, he taught at the Institute of Artistic Culture in Petrograd, and between 1924 and 1926 he worked primarily on architectural models with his students” (Guggenheimcollection.org). In 1926, Malevich published a book titled The Nonobjective World based on his theory and in the late 1920s “returned to figurative painting, but was out of favor with a political system that now demanded Socialist Realism from its artists” (ibiblio.org). During this decade the artist also traveled to several countries and to exhibit his art and made many new friends including Jean Arp, Naum Gabo, Le Corbusier, and Kurt Schwitters in Germany. “Because of his connections with German artists, he was arrested in 1930 and many of his manuscripts were destroyed” (Guggenheimcollection.org).
Malevich ended his career and life painting in a representational style, but died with much of his art neglected on May 15, 1935 in his last home in Leningrad (Guggenheimcollection.org). Today the best collection of his work is in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.
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“Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935)” 2004. The Russian Museum ArtStudio.
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“Kazimir Malevich.” http://www.articons.co.uk/malevich.htm
“Kazimir Malevich: Suprematism.” The City Review.
Pioch, N. 2002. “Malevich, Kasimir.” WebMuseum, Paris.