Kazimir Malevich

Kazimir Malevich, founder of Suprematism and painter of the iconic Black Square (1915)
Born: 1878, Kiev
Died: 1935, Leningrad
Selected works:
Black Square

Painter, graphic artist, theatrical designer, writer on art. Born in Kiev (1878) to sugar refinery manager Severin Malevich (1845–1902) and his wife Lyudviga (1858–1942). Grew up in the villages of Parkhomovka (Kiev Province) and the town of Konotop (Sumy Province). Studied at the Kiev School of Art (1895–96). Moved with his family to Kursk (1896), where he joined a local circle of art-lovers and amateur painters. Married Kazimira Zgleits (1889). Moved to Moscow (1904) and attended classes at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and the Stroganov School of Art and Industry (1904–05). Joined the street barricades during the 1905 revolution (1905) and studied at Fyodor Roehrberg’s studio (1906–10). Divorced his first wife and married children’s writer Sofia Rafalovich (1909). Member of the Union of Youth (1910) and Knave of Diamonds (1910, chairman from 1917). Passed through periods of interest in Impressionism and Post-Impressionism (1906), Symbolism (1907), Art Nouveau (1908), Knave of Diamonds (1910–11), Neo-Primitivism (1912) and Cubo-Futurism (1913–14). Held the First All-Russian Congress of Futurists with Alexei Kruchenykh and Mikhail Matiushin in Uusikirrko in Finland (1913) and designed the sets and costumes for the Futurist opera Victory Over the Sun at the Luna Park Theatre at 39 Officers (now Decembrists) Street in St Petersburg (1913). Illustrated books by Alexei Kruchenykh and Velimir Khlebnikov (1914) and held a Futurist demonstration with Alexei Morgunov on Kuznetsky Most in Moscow (1914). Drew anti-German propaganda posters and postcards for the Contemporary Lubok publishing house following the outbreak of the First World War (1914). Founded the Supremus group (1916). Published such theoretical works as From Cubism to Suprematism: The New Painterly Realism (1915) and Concerning the New Systems in Art (1919). ?hairman of the art section of the Moscow Soviet of Soldiers’ Deputies and commissar for the protection of historical monuments (1917). Worked for IZO Narkompros (1918–19) and wrote the Declaration of Artists’ Rights (1918). Moved to Petrograd following a conflict with commissar of art David Sterenberg (1918). Designed the sets and costumes for a performance of Vladimir Mayakovsky’s play Mystery-Bouffe and helped to establish the Museum of Artistic Culture (1918). Taught at the State Free Art Studios in Petrograd (1918) and Moscow (1919). Invited by Marc Chagall to Vitebsk (1919), where he taught at the Vitebsk School of Art (1919–22) and founded the UNOVIS group (1920). Lover of Vera Yermolaeva (1920–23). Wrote Suprematism: The World as Non-Objectivity or Eternal Rest and published God Is Not Cast Down: Art, Church, Factory in Vitebsk (1922). Returned to Petrograd (1922), where he worked for the Museum of Artistic Culture (1922–23) and designed new forms and decorative patterns based on Suprematist principles for the State Porcelain Factory (1923). Head of the formal and theoretical department and director of the Institute of Artistic Culture in Leningrad (1924–26). Suffered the death of Sofia Rafalovich (1925). Worked on volumetric Suprematist models called architectonas (1925), which he exhibited at the Institute of Artistic Culture (1926). Asked Mikhail Larionov to help him acquire a French visa (1926). Married Natalia Manchenko (1927). Visited Poland (1927), where he held a one-man show at the Polonia Hotel and unsuccessfully attempted to emigrate (1927). Travelled on to Germany (1927) and met Walter Gropius and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy at the Bauhaus in Dessau (1927). Published Die gegenstandslose Welt as part of the Bauhausbücher series (1927). Returned to Russia (1927), entrusting his works to German architect Hugo Häring, many of which later found their way into the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1951). Returned to easel painting (1927) and repainted and redated many works of his Impressionist and Neo-Primitive periods in line with his own theory of the history of art (1928–32). Worked at the Institute of the History of the Arts (1928–29) and the House of Arts in Leningrad (1930), taught at the Kiev Institute of Art (1928–30). Arrested on suspicion of being a German spy and spent three months in the Kresty prison in Leningrad (1930). Designed murals for the Red Theatre in Leningrad (1931). Headed an experimental laboratory at the Russian Museum in Leningrad (1932–33). Painted Post-Suprematist works in a figurative style (1932–34). Contracted cancer (1933) and died in Leningrad (1935). Buried beneath his favourite oak tree in the village of Nemchinovka near Moscow (1935) with a Suprematist gravestone designed by Nikolai Suetin (destroyed during the Second World War, restored in 1988, paved over by the Rond development firm to make way for a luxury apartment complex in 2013). Contributed to exhibitions (from 1905). Contributed to a joint exhibition of works by Moscow and Kursk artists (1905), Moscow Fellowship of Artists (1907–10), Moscow Society of Lovers of the Arts (1908), Knave of Diamonds (1910–11, 1914, 1916, 1917), Moscow Salon (1911), Union of Youth (1911–13), Der blaue Reiter in Munich (1912), Donkey’s Tail (1912), Target (1913), Salon des Indépendants (1914), Tramway V First Futurist Exhibition (1915), 0.10 Last Futurist Exhibition (1915), Store (1916), World of Art (1917), X State Exhibition: Non-Objective Creativity and Suprematism (1919), UNOVIS in Vitebsk (1921), Third Congress of the Comintern in Moscow (1921), Die erste russische Kunstausstellung in the Galerie Van Diemen at 21 Unter den Linden in Berlin (1922), Exhibition of Pictures of Petrograd Artists of All Directions (1923), Venice Biennale (1924), Left-Wing Tendencies in Russian Painting Over Fifteen Years (1925), exhibition of architecture at the Galeria Zach?ta in Warsaw (1926), Exhibition of New Tendencies in Art (1927), Die große Berliner Kunstausstellung (1927), Salon Modernistów in Warsaw (1928), Abstract and Surrealist Painting and Plastic Art in Zurich (1929), Sowjetmalerei in Berlin (1930), Russische Kunst von heute in Vienna (1930), Art of the Era of the Crisis of Capitalism (1931), Art of the Imperialist Epoch (1932), Artists of the RSFSR Over Fifteen Years (1932), Woman in Socialist Construction at the Russian Museum in Leningrad (1934), First Exhibition of Works by Leningrad Artists (1935), exhibitions of Russian art in the United States (1932) and one-man shows in Moscow (1919–20, 1923, 1929, 1988–89), Warsaw (1927), Kiev (1930), Düsseldorf (1980), Leningrad (1988), Amsterdam (1989), New York and Washington DC (1991–92), Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia (1993), Florence (1993–94), Cologne (1995), Stockholm (1999) and Helsinki (2000).

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