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Kazimir Malevich: The Founder of Suprematist School of Abstract Painting

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Exploring pure geometric forms and their relationships to each other and within the pictorial space which served as powerful and multi-layered symbols and mystical feelings of time and space, the Russian avant-garde painter and art theoretician, Kazimir Severinovich Malevich, is revered as the pioneer of geometric abstract art and the founder of the art movement Suprematism.

The revolutionary of Russian art was born Kazimierz Malewicz on February 23, 1878, in Ukraine to parents of Polish origin. Without any particular encouragement from his family, Malevich started to draw around the age of 12. From 1895 to 1896, he attended the Kiev School of Art. In 1904, he moved to Moscow to study at the Stroganov School of Art. He continued his training in the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, and also took private classes from Ivan Rerberg, an eminent art instructor.

In his early work Malevich followed Impressionism as well as Symbolism and Fauvism, and, after a trip to Paris in 1912, he was influenced by Picasso and Cubism. As a member of the Jack of Diamonds group, he led the Russian Cubist movement. He also held memberships in the artistic groups Donkey’s Tail and Target, which focused their attention on Primitivist, Cubist, and Futurist philosophies of art.

In 1913, Malevich created abstract geometrical patterns in a manner he called Suprematism, a term which expressed the notion that color, line, and shape should reign supreme over subject matter or narrative in art. In 1918, he joined the People’s Commissariat for Enlightenment as an employee of its Fine Arts Department, known as IZO. He also taught at the Free Art Studio in Moscow.

In 1919, Malevich completed the manuscript of his new book “O Novykh Sistemakh v Iskusstve” (On New Systems in Art). Later that year, he left the capital for the town of Vitebsk, where he was invited to join the faculty of the local art school directed by Marc Chagall.

On a 1927 visit to the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany, he met Wassily Kandinsky and published a book on his theory under the title “Die gegenstandslose Welt” (The Nonobjective World). He was first to exhibit paintings composed of abstract geometrical elements. He constantly strove to produce pure cerebral compositions, repudiating all sensuality and representation in art. His well-known “White on White” (1918) carries his Suprematist theories to their logical conclusion.

When Soviet politicians decided against modern art, Malevich and his art were doomed. In poverty and oblivion, he died of cancer in Leningrad on May 15, 1935.


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