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Suprematism About this term


Term coined in 1915 by Kazimir Malevich for a new system of art, explained in his booklet Ot kubizma i futurizma k suprematizmu: Novyy zhivopisnyy realizm(‘From Cubism and Futurism to Suprematism: the new realism in painting’). The term itself implied the supremacy of this new art in relation to the past. Malevich saw it as purely aesthetic and concerned only with form, free from any political or social meaning. He stressed the purity of shape, particularly of the square, and he regarded Suprematism as primarily an exploration of visual language comparable to contemporary developments in writing. Suprematist paintings were first displayed at the exhibition Poslednyaya futuristicheskaya vystavka kartin: 0.10 (‘The last Futurist exhibition of paintings: 0.10’) held in Petrograd (now St Petersburg) in December 1915; they comprised geometric forms which appeared to float against a white background. While Suprematism began before the Revolution of 1917, its influence, and the influence of Malevich’s radical approach to art, was pervasive in the early Soviet period. Malevich traced the origins of Suprematism to his sets and costumes for the Russian Futurist opera Pobeda nad solntsem (‘Victory over the sun’), given in St Petersburg in Dec ember 1913. His designs reflected the complex synthesis of Russian and west European art that reached its height on the eve of World War I. The opera exemplified the collaboration of poets and painters that was a cardinal feature of Russian Futurism and reflected the strong irrational trend of pre-war Russian Futurist work. In September 1913 Malevich had collaborated with Velimir Khlebnikov, Aleksey Kruchonykh and Yelena Guro (1877–1913) on the bookTroye (‘The three’), in which Kruchonykh used the term zaum (‘transrational language’) to describe sound poetry. The radical analysis of poetic language provided a precedent for Malevich’s own reassessment of pictorial language, and he subsequently adopted the term zaum to describe his own work. In October 1913, with Ol’ga Rozanova, Malevich had illustrated Slovo kak takovoye (‘The word as such’; Moscow, 1913) by Kruchonykh and Khlebnikov, and this collaboration was at its closest with the production of Pobeda nad solntsem, for which Kruchonykh wrote the libretto and Mikhail Matyushin provided the music. Malevich’s costumes were stiff constructions, and some of the backdrops employed Cubist motifs reinterpreted to incorporate Russian Futurist ideas. One backdrop, however, consisted of a simple square divided diagonally into black and white areas surrounded by a rudimentary framing motif (designs in St Petersburg, Theat. Mus.). For an unrealized production of Pobeda nad solntsem in 1915, Malevich proposed a black square as a backdrop. At the exhibition 0.10, the Black Square (1915; Moscow, Tret’yakov Gal.), painted on a square canvas surrounded by a margin of white, was hung across the corner of the separate room where works by Malevich and his followers were displayed; it was announced as the essential Suprematist work. On the one hand it was radically nihilistic and could be interpreted as a gesture of rejection, providing no narrative, theme, composition or picture space, apparently rejecting all pictorial conventions and offering a canvas of unprecedented blankness; on the other hand suspension across the corner of a room was a common way to display domestic icons, and by referring to this tradition its rejection of convention was not total. Followed by the Black Circle (one version after 1920; St Petersburg, Rus. Mus.) and the Black Cross (Paris, Pompidou), the Black Square can be related to an icon tradition that survived so strongly in Russia, using ancient forms that were increasingly admired by Russian artists seeking to exert their independence from western European traditions. A large exhibition of icons had been held in Moscow in 1913 to celebrate the Romanov dynasty, and in April of that year, also in Moscow, Mikhail Larionov exhibited icons and lubki (popular folk prints). In icon painting the illusion of pictorial space was minimal; figures were frequently centrally placed and frontally presented, the head of Christ sometimes set against a symmetrical cross, circular halo and square format. Malevich declared that the Black Square constituted the ‘zero of form’, an end to old conventions and the origin of a new pictorial language. The forms of this language were strictly geometrical, but they rapidly evolved into

Suetin. Mikhail Menkov. In Weimar he met Dadaists. Pougny. The pervasive influence of Malevich’s work was seen in particular at the exhibition X Gosudarstvennaya vystavka: Bespredmetnoe tvorchestvo i suprematizm (‘Tenth state exhibition: non-objective creation and Suprematism’). with Ivan Puni (Jean Pougny). a development also considered mystical by Aleksandr Rodchenko and other followers. Amsterdam. Supremus. jean). Mus. In 1922 El Lissitzky. Kurt Schwitters and Hans Arp. in Germany. to Inkhuk in Petrograd. In western Europe Suprematist works were assessed simply against developments in abstract art. Among Malevich’s closest Suprematist followers were Il’ya Chashnik (1902–29). dominating the avant-garde in Russia (for illustration see. who had worked closely with Malevich at Vitebsk. From 1924 they also collaborated with Malevich on his arkhitektony. for Malevich. Vera Yermolayeva (1893–1938) and Lev Yudin (1903–41). Later that year Malevich moved to Vitebsk and formed the Unovis group. who were members of Unovis and who followed him to Petrograd in 1922. and Lissitzky himself designed the catalogue cover. On becoming Rector of the Art Institute in Vitebsk she collaborated closely with Malevich.increasingly complex paintings in which the geometrical elements employed richer colours and inhabited an ambiguous and complex pictorial space. When in 1921 Productivist artists and theorists at Inkhuk promoted utilitarian purposes for art and condemned easel painting. Klyun and El Lissitzky in particular. with his followers. Suprematism was widely explored. a survey of artistic groups including Suprematism. The reestablishment of diplomatic relations with western European countries ended eight years of cultural isolation and intense ferment for Russian artists.). studies in architectural form independent of specific commissions (see Malevich. including Tristan Tzara. Stedel. during which every aspect of artistic activity had been called into question in relation to the aims of Communism. 1915. for example. as explored in the mystical speculations of pyotr Uspensky. Kseniya Boguslavskaya (1892–1972) and Ol’ga Rozanova. Such an assessment was encouraged by El Lissitzky from the time of his arrival in Berlin in 1922. before returning to the Soviet Union in 1925. while establishing contact with many groups of artists across Europe. converting El Lissitzky to Suprematism and opening the way to Suprematist design. Yermolayeva developed a particular interest in folk art and children’s books. as did the subsequent non-objective art pursued by Lyubov’ Popova. such as Pictorial Realism of a Footballer—Pictorial Masses in Four Dimensions (c. 1923). left Russia for western Europe. where he helped to install the Erste russische Kunstausstellung at the Van Diemen Galerie. where his work particularly impressed László Moholy Nagy and possibly even Kandinsky. He continued to follow his own development of Suprematism. Suprematism was well represented. who . Nadezhda Udal’tsova also collaborated on the projected magazine Supremus. but for Malevich himself Suprematism remained a mystical experience associated with concepts of the Fourth dimension and the nature of time. Rodchenko. He formed links with De Stijl in the Netherlands and with the Bauhaus in Germany. Lissitzky worked on exhibition displays and also published a series of designs for a puppet version of Pobeda nad solntsem(Hannover. Despite its reference to the icon tradition. During 1915 Malevich also produced paintings relying solely on the textural manipulation of white. Kazimir). Although it created a pictorial language that could be developed into designs ranging from posters to buildings and ceramics. and she headed the colour laboratory at Inkhuk in 1923. Malevich entitled several Suprematist works in comparable terms. 1925). the Black Square presented no recognizably Christian image. the year in which the promotion of recent Soviet art reached its peak in the Soviet pavilion at the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris. Ivan Klyun. his arkhitektony. and his study of the dynamics of geometrical form in pictorial space had an investigative element. In 1922 Malevich moved. Malevich’s rejection of representational imagery was widely influential. discussed and developed. In 1925–6 Chashnik worked with Suetin and with the architect Aleksandr Nikolsky. Gustav Klucis. Nikolay Suetin (1897–1954). Malevich. Suetin and Chashnik applied Suprematist principles to porcelain design after moving to Petrograd and worked at the Lomonosov porcelain factory. where he worked on three-dimensional Suprematist works. his Proun works. In the early years following the Revolution of 1917.10 Malevich formed a Suprematist group. At 0. and with Arp he published Die Kunstismen—Les ismes de l’art—The Isms of Art (Zurich. Suprematism remained primarily a system of painting preceding specific utilitarian demands. appeared to defend the supremacy of art over practicality and politics. who had appeared nihilistic with the Black Square. held in Moscow in 1919.

The fundamental policy. particularly after their installation at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. designed Suprematist cups. Unism. saucers and other utilitarian ceramic objects as well as architecture. an impact that has been increasingly studied since the He painted the Suprematist black square on Malevich’s coffin in 1935. who had both studied under him at Vitebsk.became director of the Lomonosov porcelain factory (1932 –52). Read more: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics: Early Years — Infoplease. Kobro made constructions that approached architectural forms in their planar division of space. While Strzemiński produced heavily textured monochrome compositions. taking with him a substantial retrospective exhibition of his Suprematist canvases. Die gegenstandslose Welt. of the Communist party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) from its beginning was complete socialization. Their own http://www.infoplease. Malevich met artists of the Blok group. Henryk Stażewski. Between 1918 and 1921. In Warsaw. mainly through the centralization of planning and the elimination of management from factories. 11. owed much to Malevich’s textured monochrome paintings. a period called "war communism. including Władysław Strzemiński and Katarzyna Kobro. which were to form the source of much interest in his work after his death. Malevich’s only Western publication of Suprematist theory. Suprematism had an undoubted impact on the development of abstract art in the Soviet Union and in Western Europe. however. John Milner From Grove Art Online © 2009 Oxford University Press SOVIET PERIOD Millions of peasants in the Don region starved to death from 1918 to 1920 as the army confiscated grain for its own needs and the needs of the urbanites. Although Malevich later returned to representational painting." the state took control of the whole economy.html#ixzz2Ko0PHz00 . another member. explored simple geometric divisions of the canvas. was published in Munich in 1928 as Bauhausbuch No. Malevich himself made his only visit to the West in 1927.

which became the centerpiece of his new movement. Ivan Klyun. sizes and angles creates a sense of depth in these compositions.Beginnings Suprematism was an art movement founded in Russia during the First World War. Mikhail Menkov. Together. The variety of shapes. making the squares. the simple shapes that provide a visual foundation for Suprematism appear repeatedly. Their work feature an array of geometric shapes suspended above a white or light-colored background. 1915). they unveiled their new work to the public at 0. . The Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings (1915). While the drawings still have a clear relationship to Cubo-Futurism (a Russian art movement in which Malevich was prominently involved). Of particular importance is the Black Square (c.10. circles and rectangles appear to be moving in space. Rich color is also discarded in favor of black and white. In 1915. Petersburg. Ivan Puni and Olga Rozanova joined with Kazimir Malevich to form the Suprematist group. The first hints of it emerged in background and costume sketches that Kazimir Malevich designed in 1913 for Victory Over the Sun. a Futurist opera performed in St. which Malevich later used as a metaphor for creation in his writings. the Russian artists Kseniya Boguslavskaya.