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.