Kasimir Malewitsch

Kasimir Malewitsch
Suprematistische Komposition, 1915
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Currently exhibited at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf

Kasimir Malewitsch
Suprematistische Komposition, 1915

Suprematist Composition, 1915
Oil on canvas, 80.4 x 80.6 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

In 1915 Malevich placed his famous Black Square like an icon in the top corner of a room in an exhibition in St Petersburg, and with it established a new relationship between figure and pictorial ground. The Cubist pictorial lozenge surrounded by empty corners was now replaced by the absolute form of the square hovering in front of a white ground. So began Malevich’s Suprematism, which he defined in 1927 as “the supremacy of pure feeling in creative art”. In the Suprematist composition in the Fondation, the square is joined by the further elementary forms of the circle and a rectangular beam. These are supplemented by smaller elements in signal red, through which Malevich also introduces the dynamic motif of the diagonal. The white of the ground here becomes a dimensionless plane of nothingness, in which the dynamism of the forms would appear to unfold in the universe of non-objectivity.

Kasimir Malewitsch

1878, Kiev – 1935, Leningrad

The Ukrainian-born painter Kasimir Severinovich, called Malevich, soon felt drawn to Moscow, where in 1904 he first saw and was profoundly influenced by Monet’s Rouen Cathedral. Having joined the ranks of the avant-garde in 1907, he first explored Neo-primitivist painting before embracing the Cubo-Futurist style. In 1915 he evolved the radical style of abstract simplicity for which he is now best known, as characterized by the Suprematist composition Black Square. The following years were defined politically by the transformation of the Revolution into a totalitarian state, a process that was reflected by Malevich both in his theoretical endeavours and in his preoccupation with models of utopian architecture. In his later years he reverted chiefly to figurative painting, yet his portraits are less concerned with the prevailing dictates of Socialist Realism than with the aesthetics of Renaissance portraiture – especially in his depiction of clothing. It was a long time before Malevich’s considerable contribution to modern art was recognized in the West.

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