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  • Kazimir MalevichThe Evangelist of Abstraction
  • Kris Somerville

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Costume design for Enemy, Victory over the Sun

Italian pencil, watercolor, India ink by brush on paper

The St. Petersburg Museum of Theater and Music

[End Page 73]


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Costume design for Bully; Victory over the Sun; Italian pencil and watercolor on paper

The St. Petersburg Museum of Theater and Music

As a boy, Russian artist Kazimir Malevich accompanied his father, a sugar refinery administrator, on visits to small agricultural towns surrounding Kiev. Malevich remembered his father as a sensitive man who appreciated the natural world. Evenings, they wandered the countryside, taking [End Page 74]


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Costume design for Old Timer; Victory over the Sun; Italian pencil, watercolor, India ink by brush on paper

The St. Petersburg Museum of Theater and Music

in bucolic landscapes and scenes of Ukrainian village life. On one of those memorable walks, just before sunset after a heavy downpour, Malevich recalled standing beside an enormous puddle and observing, reflected in the water’s undisturbed surface, a herd of cows pass by and “shreds of clouds [End Page 75]


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Costume design for Many and One; Victory over the Sun; Italian pencil, watercolor, India ink on paper

The St. Petersburg Museum of Theater and Music

cross the sun.” Such images ignited in him a passion for observed experience and the intrinsic beauty of nature, despite the fact that at the apex of his career he became more interested in the world beyond reality. Pursuing abstraction in art, he would eventually reject imitation of nature in favor [End Page 76]


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Costume design for New One; Victory over the Sun; pencil, watercolor and ink on paper

The St. Petersburg Museum of Theater and Music

of representing pure feeling through shape and color. His key contribution would be to help liberate painting from its mimetic function. In 1916 in “From Cubism and Futurism to Suprematism,” he announced, “Only with the disappearance of a habit of mind which sees in pictures little corners of [End Page 77]


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Costume design for Certain Ill-Intended; Victory over the Sun; pencil, watercolor on paper The St. Petersburg Museum of Theater and Music

nature, Madonnas, and shameless Venuses shall we witness a work of pure, living art.” He would become what art critics called “a painter of painting.”

Malevich was born the first of fourteen children in 1878 in Kiev to Polish-speaking Roman Catholic parents. They were not wealthy and his [End Page 78]


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Costume design for the Chorus Singer; Victory over the Sun; Italian pencil, watercolor, India ink on paper The St. Petersburg Museum of Theater and Music

education at a local agricultural school in the rural factory town was rudimentary. When he graduated at fifteen, he was expected to follow his father into the sugar refinery business. The only painting he saw as a child hung in a shop window, and artists were limited to those who had come from St. Petersburg [End Page 79]


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Costume design for Attentive Worker; Victory over the Sun; pencil, watercolor on paper The St. Petersburg Museum of Theater and Music

to decorate the town’s church. Yet Malevich was unwavering in the desire to paint, despite his father’s disapproval and his early lack of skill.

In 1896, he began to take classes at the Kiev Art School and studied briefly with Ukrainian painter Nikolai Pimonenko, who inspired him to [End Page 80] take his subjects from rural life: laborers working in the field and brightly dressed peasants tending to domestic chores. His paintings were crude and labored, at best, but his passion for rendering nature and provincial life made up for his early shortcomings as a painter.

When the family moved to Kursk for his father’s new job, Malevich found employment as a technical draftsman for the railroad. In 1904, at age twenty-five, he had earned enough money to journey to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 73-84
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-22
Open Access
No
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