Kasimir Malevich in Amsterdam

This video is called Kasimir Malevich Paintings.

Today is the last day of a Kasimir Malevich exhibition in the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam.

It consists of 16 works by the Soviet visual artist Malewich (1878-1935), borrowed from the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum. That museum is being reconstructed and does not have spaces for exhibitions now.

Though sixteen paintings, out of over sixty Malevich works in the Stedelijk Museum collection, are not many, yet they give an idea of Malevich’s evolution and the various influences on his work.

At first, Malevich was influenced by impressionist and post-impressionist painters like Monet, Gauguin, Cézanne, and Van Gogh, and pointillists like Seurat. As he had spent most of his early life in villages, peasant art was another influence.

Later, Pablo Picasso’s cubism inspired geometric forms in his work.

Malevich joined the Russian futurist movement, which brought new influences again. His paintings were at the last common exhibition of the Russian futurists, in 1915 in St. Petersburg (then called Petrograd).

Also in 1915, Malevich for the first time showed paintings in a new style, which he called suprematism. This made him a pioneer of twentieth century non figurative art. Taking Picasso’s cubism one step further, Malevich detached the colours and geometrical forms from the representation of people and objects, making them the only players in his paintings.

The captions at the Van Gogh museum exhibition have only one sentence on Malevich’s views on society and politics: “According to Malevich, art should be autonomous; it should not have social or political aims”. Unfortunately, that only sentence is somewhat dubious. Malevich, having lived in the countryside most of his life, cannot have failed to note the harsh suppression of peasants in the czarist empire. The links to the peasantry in his paintings are links to social issues.

Malevich also was a supporter of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, and considered his art to be an important element in the social change of that revolution.

In my view, the essays by Aleksandr Voronsky collected in Art as the Cognition of Life (translated and edited by Frederick S. Choate, and published by Mehring Books in 1998) are among the most indispensable written on art and aesthetics in the 20th century: here.

Bolshevism and the avant-garde artists (1993)—Part 1, by David Walsh: here. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.

Colin Wilson marks LGBT history month by looking at the Russian Revolution’s impact on gay liberation: here.

6 thoughts on “Kasimir Malevich in Amsterdam

  1. Russian avant- garde masters in Como

    Kandinsky, Chagall, Malevich and Filonov in the limelight

    (ANSA) – Como, April 3 – This lakeside town is offering visitors the rare chance to enjoy a selection of masterpieces by four stars of Russia’s early 20th-century avant-garde movement. The exhibition, opening on Saturday, features over 80 works of art by Wassily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, Kazimir Malevich and Pavel Filonov.

    On show will be a mix of oil paintings, tempera works and drawings on loan from leading Russian museums and private collections, which trace the movement’s development from the early 1900s through to the 1930s. Discussing the development of the movement, Como Culture Councillor Sergio Gaddi, who helped curate the exhibition, underscored the importance of setting it within its historical and geographical context.

    ”Although using different artistic techniques, Chagall, Kandinsky and Malevich distanced the language of art from the logic of tradition and the bourgeoisie,” he explained.

    ”In so doing, they went beyond the prevailing vision of French Impressionism to give life to the formal innovations of Cubo-Futurism, the tensions of Suprematism and the rarefied modernity of Abstraction”.

    Gaddi pointed to the ”extraordinary substance of Russian avant-garde movements spanning the early decades of the 20th century, until the realist turning point imposed by Stalin after 1934”.

    The exhibition is divided into four sections, each of which looks at the work of a different artist. The starting point is Kandinksy (1866-1944), who injected a new element into figurative art in 1910 with his ‘Abstract Watercolour’. The show features a handful of pieces from the immediate period after that, including his 1912 essay entitled ”The Spirituality of Art”. However, a selection of his abstract paintings created between 1915 and 1919 will be of particular interest, such as ‘Two Ovals’ and ‘Overture’, both from 1919, and two oil paintings on glass from 1918.

    There are over 20 pieces on display by Malevich (1878-1930). These map out the sharp shifts in his career, starting with his early fascination with European painting. From this era are pieces such as ‘High Society In Top Hats Relaxing'(1908) and a 1910 self-portrait. Cubo-Futurist influences started appearing in his work not long after, followed by a Suprematist phase, which culminated in ‘Red Square’ in 1915. His later work, produced in the aftermath of Russia’s 1917 Communist Revolution, adopted a neo-figurative approach. This period is represented by works such as ‘Head of a Peasant’ (1928-9), which has been selected as the exhibit’s poster image. The Chagall (1887-1985) section includes a fascinating reconstruction of his studio, complete with furniture, but there are also a number of his masterpieces on show. These include ‘Self-portrait With A Palette’ (1914), ‘The Red Jew’ (1915) and ‘The Mirror’ (1915).

    The final part of the show looks at the work of Filonov (1883-1914) whose work fell into semi-obscurity after it was banned in the 1960s but which has seen a massive revival in recent years. His works combine elements of mysticism and spirituality, at times verging on the apocalyptic, beautifully encapsulated in one of his most famous works, on loan from the Russian Museum, ‘Peasant Family (The Holy Family)’ (1914). ‘Chagall, Kandinsky, Malevich. Masters of the Russian Avant-Garde’ is on show at the Villa Olmo in Como until July 26.


  2. Recovered works by Malevich on show

    Cache of paintings by Suprematists found inside wall cavity

    (ANSA) – Rome, October 1 – Long-lost works by Russian painter Kazimir Malevich and followers of his Suprematist movement are on show in Rome for the first time since their recent chance discovery in the Belarus city of Vitebsk.

    ”The paintings and drawings had been hidden in the cavity of a wall where they had lain for decades. They resurfaced thanks to a stroke of luck, when the owners of the house decided to renovate it,” said Rome art dealer Roberto Gnisci who worked for over a year to mount the event at his Chimera gallery.

    Experts believe the works, tucked inside a cardboard folder, were stashed away sometime after 1927, when avant-garde artists once supported by Lenin were banned, persecuted or killed for not conforming to the strict guidelines of Socialist Realism laid down by his successor Joseph Stalin.

    Vitebsk, best known for being the birthplace of Russian great Marc Chagall, was for a brief period the home of an influential Soviet art school he founded.

    In 1920 Chagall invited Malevich to direct the school and, until it was disbanded two years later, it gathered a number of his friends and followers, including Anna Kagan, El Lissitzky and Gustav Klucis.

    ”We know that many of these innovators – artists like Klucis and Malevich who had believed in and even helped shape the Russian Revolution – met with a tragic fate. To know that I’ve had a share in helping recover some of their missing works has to be one of the most gratifying moments of my career,” said Gnisci, an expert on African art who once worked for Christie’s in Italy.

    Gnisci said the folder’s owner, whom he met during a visit to Latvia last year, feared the state might seize the works and asked him if he would take them abroad.

    He instead agreed to show photographs of the pieces to Italian and French experts of the Russian avant-garde movements.

    A friend, the late art and film critic Mario Verdone – father of popular Italian actor-director Carlo Verdone – urged him to go to Paris and seek the advice of Jain Watson, a reclusive authority on the German and Russian avant-gardes.

    ”Watson was very impressed when I showed him the photographs but stressed he would need to see the original works before ruling out they were not forgeries”.

    Most importantly, the elderly critic agreed to come to Rome to see the paintings, once they were delivered to Gnisci.

    An additional problem was that some of the works – in line with Soviet dictates against individualistic art rather than collective – were either not signed or bore only the artists’ initials.

    ”Despite his frailty and a recent illness, Watson was as enthusiastic as a schoolboy when he examined the works. He was certain they had not been forged. What especially convinced him was the paper: he noticed it was the sort Russian artists were forced to use during the years of the great famine – from 1921 to 1923 – when aside from food other goods were also scarse”.

    Visitors to the show will be struck by the four works by Malevich that have resurfaced – two tempera and two oil paintings – including a sketch for a large Suprematist painting now in a Russian museum.

    The discovery of these lost works by Malevich is certain to whet the art market’s interest, informed sources said, noting that in 2008 a work entitled Suprematist Composition from 1916 sold at Sotheby’s New York for over 60 million US dOllars, setting a world record for any work sold at auction that year. There are several works by El Lissitzky, the artist and architect who served as an important influence on the Bauhaus and Constructivist movements with his variant Suprematist style known as Proun.

    Prouns were a series of abstract, geometric paintings – several of which are on show – in which EL Lissitzky explored spatial elements in paintings through the use of shifting axes and multiple perspectives.

    The Vitebsk folder also contained three works by Klucis, the Latvian artist and photographer executed on Stalin’s order, and these are all on display in Rome.

    The show also includes sketches and drawings by Alexandra Exter, Natan Altman, Lev Bakst and Aleksandr Shevchenko, the highly influential painter and theorist.

    Four works by Vladimir Lebedev, including a seated nude with guitar, are among the few figurative items featured.

    Russia. Avanguardia Tradita 1910-1926 (Russia. The Avant-Garde Betrayed 1910-1926) closes on October 14.


  3. Pingback: Russian painting, 100 years ago | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: Painter Kasimir Malevich, 1879-1935 | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: Unknown Malevich drawing discovery in Amsterdam | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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