MALEVITCH Casimir (Kasimir)
( 1878-1935) Russian painter, designer, and writer; born in Kiev; died in Leningrad. For a few years he worked for a railway company to raise money, then moved to Moscow, where he continued his studies at the School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture ( 1904-5) and elsewhere. Malevitch was first influenced by the Post-Impressionists and the Fauves. Later he made friends with Larionov and the more advanced Russian poets. The latter, in 1915, helped edit his Suprematist manifesto (vide Suprematism). As a member of the Jack of Diamonds group in 1911, he exhibited works of Cubist inspiration; and he became the leader of the Russian Cubist movement, to which his wife Udalzova belonged as well. In 1912, after a trip to Paris, he began to paint in the manner of Léger, although he emphasized straight lines and clean geometrical figures slightly more ( The Scissors-Grinder, Woman Carrying Water). This step brought him to the threshold of complete abstraction, and in Moscow at the end of 1913 he exhibited a black square on a white background, making a great sensation. The square, whose area was painstakingly filled in with black pencil, was the first element of Suprematism. It was soon joined by the circle, the cross, and the triangle. During the next few years, with these basic shapes, Malevitch painted a number of compositions, most of them quite simple, the shapes themselves being created by clear colours upon a white background. The acme of simplicity and delicacy was reached in 1919, when he painted his White Square on a White Background, exhibited in Moscow in the same year (now in the Museum of Modern Art, New York). He was then appointed professor at the first National School of Applied Art in Moscow. A few years later, when modern art fell into disrepute with the Soviet Government, he was transferred to Leningrad, where he could nevertheless keep on teaching until his death. Until the end he was surrounded by the discreet admiration of a number of friends, but it is not known whether he continued to paint after the opportunity to exhibit was over. He was granted permission, however, to go to Germany in 1926, in order to prepare his book Die Gegenstandslose Welt (The World of Non-Representation), an elaboration of the Suprematist manifesto of 1915, for publication at the Bauhaus. Along with Mondrian and Kandinsky, Malevitch is one of the pioneers and most important representatives of Abstract Art. As in the case of Mondrian, the starting point for his discovery of abstraction was Cubism; but what Mondrian gained as the result of a slow and gradual evolution, Malevitch grasped in a sort of sudden revelation that led him immediately to the most absolute result -the famous black square on a white background -which he afterward devoted years to achieving dialectically. Malevich wrote various theoretical tracts and his influence was spread through these as well as his paintings.
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