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Artists Kazimir Malevich
Kazimir Malevich Photo

Kazimir Malevich

Russian Painter, Sculptor, and Stage Designer

Movement: Suprematism

Born: February 26, 1879 - near Kiev, Ukraine

Died: May 15, 1935 - Leningrad, Soviet Union

Kazimir Malevich Timeline


"Academic naturalism, the naturalism of the Impressionists, Cézanneism, Cubism, etc., all these, in a way, are nothing more than dialectic methods which, as such, in no sense determine the true value of an art work."
Kazimir Malevich
"Feeling is the determining factor ... and thus art arrives at non-objective representation through Suprematism."
Kazimir Malevich
"No more 'likenesses of reality,' no idealistic images, nothing but a desert!"
Kazimir Malevich
"Suprematism is the rediscovery of pure art which, in the course of time, had become obscured by the accumulation of "things"."
Kazimir Malevich
"The black square on the white field was the first form in which nonobjective feeling came to be expressed. The square = feeling, the white field = the void beyond this feeling."
Kazimir Malevich
"Instead of red, black (zero color); instead of a face, a hollow recess (zero lines); instead of an icon - that is, instead of a window into the heavens, into the light, into eternal life - gloom, a cellar, a trapdoor into the underworld, eternal darkness."
Writer Tatyana Tolstaya on the Black Square placed in corner of gallery

"To the Suprematist the visual phenomena of the objective world are, in themselves, meaningless; the significant thing is feeling, as such, quite apart from the environment in which it is called forth."

Kazimir Malevich Signature


Kazimir Malevich was the founder of the artistic and philosophical school of Suprematism, and his ideas about forms and meaning in art would eventually constitute the theoretical underpinnings of non-objective, or abstract, art. Malevich worked in a variety of styles, but his most important and famous works concentrated on the exploration of pure geometric forms (squares, triangles, and circles) and their relationships to each other and within the pictorial space. Because of his contacts in the West, Malevich was able to transmit his ideas about painting to his fellow artists in Europe and the United States, thus profoundly influencing the evolution of modern art.

Key Ideas

Malevich worked in a variety of styles, but he is mostly known for his contribution to the formation of a true Russian avant-garde post-World War I through his own unique philosophy of perception and painting, which he termed Suprematism. He invented this term because, ultimately, he believed that art should transcend subject matter -- the truth of shape and color should reign 'supreme' over the image or narrative.
More radical than the Cubists or Futurists, at the same time that his Suprematist compositions proclaimed that paintings were composed of flat, abstract areas of paint, they also served up powerful and multi-layered symbols and mystical feelings of time and space.
Malevich was also a prolific writer. His treatises on the philosophy of art addressed a broad spectrum of theoretical problems conceiving of a comprehensive abstract art and its ability to lead us to our feelings and even to a new spirituality.


Kazimir Malevich Photo

Childhood and Early Training

Malevich was born in Ukraine to parents of Polish origin, who moved continuously within the Russian Empire in search of work. His father took jobs in a sugar factory and in railway construction, where young Kazimir was also employed in his early teenage years. Without any particular encouragement from his family, Malevich started to draw around the age of 12. With his mind set firmly on an artistic career, Malevich attended a number of art schools in his youth, starting at the Kiev School of Art in 1895.

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Kazimir Malevich Biography Continues

Important Art by Kazimir Malevich

The below artworks are the most important by Kazimir Malevich - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

The Reaper (1912-13)

The Reaper (1912-13)

Artwork description & Analysis: In The Reaper, Malevich explored the human figure through a pictorial vocabulary reminiscent of the work of the French Cubist Fernand Leger. The body and the dress of the peasant are rendered in conical and cylindrical forms adopted by Malevich from the Cubist school. The flat and vibrant palette of the painting derive from Post-Impressionism and later modernists, indicating Malevich's exposure to the dominating artistic styles of his time. The peasant theme, part of the more general modernist attraction to the "primitive" is reinterpreted from the traditional folk motif, known as Lubok, which was in vogue in popular prints and textile designs within the Russian avant-garde milieu. While still clearly figurative, this composition anticipates the move toward abstraction by the employment of abbreviated and stylized forms.

Oil on canvas - The Fine Arts Museum, Nizhnij Novgorod, Russia

Woman With Pails: Dynamic Arrangement (1912-13)

Woman With Pails: Dynamic Arrangement (1912-13)

Artwork description & Analysis: In this composition, also derived from Fernand Leger (through Paul Cézanne, who believed that all forms in nature could be reduced to the sphere, cylinder, and cone), Malevich moved more decisively toward abstraction by dissecting the figure and picture plane into a variety of interlocking geometric shapes. The figure is still identifiable, as are the pails that she carries; Malevich has not yet abandoned representation entirely. The general palette is comprised of cool colors dominated by blues and grays, though the accents of red, yellow, and ochre add to the visual dynamic of the composition, thus bringing us closer to the feeling that Malevich intended to communicate as indicated by the title. The few identifiably figurative elements, such as the figure's hand, seem to be lost inside the whirlpool of completely abstracted forms that structure the canvas.

Oil on canvas - The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Black Square (c. 1915)

Black Square (c. 1915)

Artwork description & Analysis: Now badly cracked, the iconic Black Square was shown by Malevich in the 0.10 exhibition in Petrograd in 1915. This piece epitomized the theoretical principles of Suprematism developed by Malevich in his 1915 essay From Cubism and Futurism to Suprematism: The New Realism in Painting. Although earlier Malevich had been influenced by Cubism, he believed that the Cubists had not taken abstraction far enough. Thus, here the purely abstract shape of the black square (painted before the white background) is the single pictorial element in the composition. Even though the painting seems simple, there are such subtleties as brushstrokes, fingerprints, and colors visible underneath the cracked black layer of paint. If nothing else, one can distinguish the visual weight of the black square, the sense of an "image" against a background, and the tension around the edges of the square. But according to Malevich, the perception of such forms should always be free of logic and reason, for the absolute truth can only be realized through pure feeling. For the artist, the square represented feelings, and the white, nothingness. Additionally, Malevich saw the black square as a kind of godlike presence, an icon - or even the godlike quality in himself. In fact, Black Square was to become the new holy image for non-representational art. Even at the exhibition it was hung in the corner where an Orthodox icon would traditionally be placed in the Russian home.

Oil on canvas - Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

More Kazimir Malevich Artwork and Analysis:

Airplane Flying (1915) White on White (1917-18) Self-Portrait (1933)

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Influences and Connections

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


Paul CézannePaul Cézanne
Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso
Henri MatisseHenri Matisse
El LissitzkyEl Lissitzky

Personal Contacts

Wassily KandinskyWassily Kandinsky
Mikhail LarionovMikhail Larionov


Byzantine ArtByzantine Art
Russian FuturismRussian Futurism

Influences on Artist
Kazimir Malevich
Kazimir Malevich
Years Worked: 1890 - 1935
Influenced by Artist


Wassily KandinskyWassily Kandinsky
Marcel DuchampMarcel Duchamp
Paul KleePaul Klee
Ad ReinhardtAd Reinhardt

Personal Contacts

Mikhail LarionovMikhail Larionov
El LissitzkyEl Lissitzky
Alexander RodchenkoAlexander Rodchenko


Conceptual ArtConceptual Art

Useful Resources on Kazimir Malevich







The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.


Kazimir Malevich: Suprematism (2003) Recomended resource

By Nina Gurianova, Jean-Claude Marcade, Tatyana Mikhienko, Yevgenia Petrova, Vasilii Rakitin, Kazimir Malevich, Matthew Drutt

Kazimir Malevich and the Art of Geometry

By John Milner

Kazimir Malevich, 1878-1935

By John E. Bowlt

Kazimir Malevich: The Climax of Disclosure

By Rainer Crone, David Moos

More Interesting Books about Kazimir Malevich
Kazimir Malevich: The Man Who Liberated Painting

By Frances Spalding
The Guardian
July 4, 2014

Becoming Revolutionary: On Kazimir Malevich

By Boris Groys
September 2013

The Prophet: Malevich's Revolution Recomended resource

By Peter Schjeldahl
The New Yorker
June 2, 2003

Malevich's Search for a New Reality

By Michael Brenson
The New York Times
September 17, 1990

More Interesting Articles about Kazimir Malevich
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Content compiled and written by Ivan Savvine

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

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