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Who is…Kazimir Malevich?

Posted 16 July 2014 by Kat

Meet Kazimir Malevich (1879-1935), a Russian artist whose radical artwork tells one of the most important stories in modern art. 

Kazimir Malevich Self Portrait 1908-1910  © State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Kazimir Malevich Self Portrait 1908-1910 © State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

He started his life as an artist painting Russian landscapes, farming and religious scenes. He lived during the First World War and the Russian Revolution.

Kazimir Malevich Harvesting Study for a painting, 1928-1929 © State Russian Museum St Petersburg

Kazimir Malevich Harvesting Study for a painting, 1928-1929 © State Russian Museum St Petersburg

He invented a style of art called Suprematism, a visual language of simple shapes and colours. He used squares, circles and rectangles and only used a few colours to make his artwork. Suprematism was about seeing and feeling art in a new way. Just because he used a few colours and shapes, doesn’t mean his art is impersonal or cold. The trace of the artist’s brush strokes are visible in the paint and the slight change of colour on the canvas.

Dynamic Suprematism 1915 or 1916 by Kazimir Malevich 1879-1935

Kazimeir Malevich, Dynamic Suprematism 1915 or 1916

Don’t you think that the shapes above look like they are floating or falling? Why do you think he did this?

His most famous piece was the Black Square.

Kazimir Malevich Black Square 1913  © State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Kazimir Malevich Black Square 1913 © State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

By reducing painting to a simple shape and a single colour, Malevich removed all the things art had always been about (such as animals, people, food and landscapes). That was why it was so radical at the time! Black Square became one of the most important works of modern art. It was so special that the painting was revealed to the world after months of secrecy and was hidden again for almost 50 years!

Kazimir Malevich Suprematism 1915 © State Russian Museum, St Petersburg

Kazimir Malevich Suprematism 1915 © State Russian Museum, St Petersburg

Malevich’s colourful abstract art still inspires and puzzles people today. So, what do you think? What do you feel when you look at the Black Square? Why not make your own Malevich-inspired artwork using the Tate Kids painting Games?

Malevich is open at Tate Modern from 16 July until 26 October 2014. Under 12s go free!

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3 comments

  1. John Cowell says:

    I found this exhibition exhilarating and contextually radical. The influence of his work on what has obviously been a small but influential number of contemporary artists and especially graphic designers such as Barney Bubbles and Crumb was an eye-opener for us. His Arcitectons were amazing and inspiring. How sad that when we visited on a Private Viewing evening there were only around six people in the gallery..The hoards viewing Matisse missed a treat .

  2. EmcL says:

    It seems odd that this article is presented in a way that suggests the peasant type paintings come first, and then the more abstract – as it there is a progression from representative to abstract. But that’s not the case, which is interesting in itself.

  3. aldebaran says:

    I refuse to be brainwashed into believing that a” Black Square” is a revolutionary
    work of art! I wish there were more sane people around to make their voice heard, and contradict what the glitterati impose on us!