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Artists El Lissitzky
El Lissitzky Photo

El Lissitzky

Russian Painter, Typographer, and Designer

Movements and Styles: Suprematism, Constructivism

Born: November 23, 1890 - Pochinok, Russian Empire

Died: December 30, 1941 - Moscow, Soviet Union

El Lissitzky Timeline

Quotes

"The artist constructs a new symbol with his brush. This symbol is not a recognizable form of anything which is already finished, already made, already existing in the world - it is a symbol of a new world, which is being built upon and which exists by way of people."
El Lissitzky
"[Suprematism] will liberate all those engaged in creative activity and make the world into a true model of perfection. this is the model we await from Kasimir Malevich. AFTER THE OLD TESTAMENT THERE CAME THE NEW — AFTER THE NEW THE COMMUNIST — AND AFTER THE COMMUNIST THERE FOLLOWS FINALLY THE TESTAMENT OF SUPREMATISM."
1918
"In the space allotted to me I have not conceived the four walls as retaining or protective walls, but as optic backcloths for the works of art. That is why I decided to dissolve the wall surfaces as such."
El Lissitzky
"The sun as the expression of old world energy is torn down from the heavens by modern man, who by virtue of his technological superiority creates his own energy source."
El Lissitzky
"The image is not a painting, but a structure around which we must circle, looking at it from all sides, peering down from above, investigating from below."
El Lissitzky

"The space must be a kind of showcase, a stage, on which the pictures make their appearance as actors in a drama (or comedy). It should not imitate a living space."

El Lissitzky Signature

Synopsis

Russian avant-garde artist El Lissitzky, made a career of utilizing art for social change. In fact, he made the very first abstract work with a political message. Although often highly abstract and theoretical, Lissitzky's work was able speak to the prevailing political discourse of his native Russia, and then the nascent Soviet Union. Following Kazimir Malevich in the Suprematist idiom, Lissitzky used color and basic shapes to make strong political statements. Lissitzky also challenged conventions concerning art, and his Proun series of two-dimensional Suprematist paintings sought to combine architecture and three-dimensional space with traditional, albeit abstract, two-dimensional imagery. A teacher for much of his career and ever an innovator, Lissitzky's work spanned the media of graphic design, typography, photography, photomontage, book design, and architectural design. The work of this cerebral artist was a force of change, deeply influencing modern art including the De Stijl artists and Bauhaus instructors.

Key Ideas

Lissitzky believed that art and life could mesh and that the former could deeply affect the latter. He identified the graphic arts, particularly posters and books, and architecture as effective conduits for reaching the public. Consequently, his designs, whether for graphic productions or buildings, were often unfiltered political messages. Despite being comprised of rudimentary shapes and colors, a poster by Lissitzky could make a strong statement for political change and a building could evoke ideas of communality and egalitarianism.
He declared that the Proun series existed at "the station where one changes from painting to architecture." The paintings, which combined basic forms grouped together and featuring shifting axes, attempted to provide multiple perspectives of spatial amalgams despite their two-dimensional nature. Lissitzky reasoned that the future of the arts lay in their potential to be integrated. The fusion of drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture, for instance, could be realized with his Prouns. These works may be considered fundamental to the development of modern abstract imagery, and a great influence on acutely industrial modern architecture.
Lissitzky's influence in the world of graphic design cannot be overstated. He utilized a pared-down palette of primary colors, black and white, text, and basic forms - shapes both real as well as invented geometric constructions - to tell stories, including traditional Jewish tales, and to make very powerful political statements.
Architecture was Lissitzky's most favored form of artistic expression, yet he had little success realizing his designs, which often bordered on the utopian and impossible. Dreaming of a non-hierarchical architecture unlike that of the emergent skyscraper culture of the capitalist West, Lissitzky's designs for "horizontal skyscrapers" remained forever in the realm of the imagined yet unrealized. For Lissitzky, the egalitarian ideal of Communism demanded such structures. They could serve as material evidence of the realization of such ideals.

Biography

El Lissitzky Photo

Childhood

El Lissitzky was born Eleazar Markovich Lisitskii, in the town of Pochinok, a small, heavily Jewish-populated community in the western region of the former Russian Empire. Lissitzky spent much of his childhood in the town of Vitebsk (also Marc Chagall's hometown), followed by a ten-year stay with his grandparents in Smolensk, near the present-day Belarusian border, where he spent his secondary school years. A prodigious draughtsman even at age thirteen, Lissitzky was noticed by the local Jewish artist Yehuda Pen, who took the boy under his wing. Pen had founded School of Drawing and Painting in Vitebsk and taught many celebrated artists, including Chagall.

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El Lissitzky Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
El Lissitzky
Interactive chart with El Lissitzky's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Yehuda PenYehuda Pen
Yisakhar RybakYisakhar Rybak
Marc ChagallMarc Chagall
Kazimir MalevichKazimir Malevich

Personal Contacts

Kazimir MalevichKazimir Malevich
Ossip ZadkineOssip Zadkine
Ilya EhrenburgIlya Ehrenburg

Movements

Art NouveauArt Nouveau
SymbolismSymbolism
Russian FuturismRussian Futurism
CubismCubism
SuprematismSuprematism

Influences on Artist
El Lissitzky
El Lissitzky
Years Worked: 1909 - 1935
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Wassily KandinskyWassily Kandinsky
Hans ArpHans Arp
Vladimir TatlinVladimir Tatlin
Ilya EhrenburgIlya Ehrenburg
Piet MondrianPiet Mondrian

Personal Contacts

Alexander RodchenkoAlexander Rodchenko
László Moholy-NagyLászló Moholy-Nagy
Theo van DoesburgTheo van Doesburg
Kurt SchwittersKurt Schwitters

Movements

ConstructivismConstructivism
BauhausBauhaus
De StijlDe Stijl

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Content compiled and written by Justin Wolf

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Justin Wolf
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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