Kazimir Malevich, Suprematist movement founder
Kazimir Malevich (23 February 1878 – 15 May 1935) was a Russian painter and art theoretician. He was a pioneer of geometric abstract art, the founder and leading artist of the Suprematist movement, and one of Russia’s best-known modern painters.
During his life time Malevich invented a new direction in art, gave it up, and most importantly – created one of the most controversial paintings in the history of painting.
Malevich worked as a draftsman in the Office of the Kursk-Moscow railway. Several times he unsuccessfully tried to move to Moscow and entered the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. It was his mother who helped him to move to Moscow.
In February 1914, Malevich took part in scandalous “futuristic demonstration”, during which the artists walked on the Kuznetsk bridge with wooden spoons in their buttonholes.
Malevich invented new direction in art – Suprematism, which was characterized by the rejection of figurative painting. All important concepts could be expressed using combinations of simple shapes: square, circle, cross, lines and points.
In 1915, Malevich showed his famous “Black Square”. In addition to it two of his other works – “Black Circle” and “Black Cross” were presented at the exhibition. The paintings were the basic elements of the new “Suprematism ABC”.
His Black Square soon became obvious symbol of Avant-garde.
In 1919 Marc Chagall invited Malevich to Vitebsk to teach in the National Art School.
On the basis of the school Malevich created a new avant-garde association “UNOVIS” (New Art Approvers). Its symbol was the black square.
In Vitebsk school they did not just teach art and architecture, but also organized the exhibitions, discussed philosophical questions and staged avant-garde performances, including a unique Suprematist ballet, which can be called the world’s first performance.
He wrote the book The World as Non-Objectivity, which was published in Munich in 1926 and translated into English in 1959.
Immediately after the revolution, Malevich, like many avant-garde artists, was favored by the Soviet authorities. He became Commissioner for the Protection of Monuments and member of the Commission for the protection of artistic values, then he worked in the Commissariat (People’s Commissariat of Education), led the Art Institute, traveled to Warsaw and Berlin with the exhibition.
But there is nothing eternal. By the early 1930s Suprematism aged and Malevich was arrested. With the help of influential friends, he could defend himself, but his works were subjected to harsh criticism.
In the last years of his life the artist returned to the realism.
Kazimir Malevich died in 1935, after a protracted illness that lasted several months. He was buried in the village of Nemchinovka, near Leningrad.
The artist’s funeral was filled with Suprematist symbols. Image of Black Square, his main work, was everywhere – on the coffin, in the civil funeral hall and even in a train driven artist’s body to Moscow.
Black Square, the fourth version of his magnum opus painted in the 1920s was discovered in 1993 in Samara and purchased by Inkombank for $250,000. In April 2002 the painting was auctioned for an equivalent of one million dollars. The purchase was financed by the Russian philanthropist Vladimir Potanin, who donated funds to Russian Ministry of Culture and ultimately to the State Hermitage Museum collection.
On 3 November 2008 a work by Malevich entitled Suprematist Composition (1916) set the world record for any Russian work of art and any work sold at auction for that year, selling at Sotheby’s in New York City for just over $60 million U.S. (far surpassing his previous record of $17 million set in 2000).