Kazimir Malevich

Kazimir Malevich

Kazimir Severinovich Malevich (1879–1935) spent the first 25 years of his life outside Moscow. He was born to a large Polish family in Kiev, began his artistic career with studying at the Kiev Drawing School, and then moved to Kurska city located 530 km south of Moscow, where he got married and started working as a technical drawer. However, it was Moscow that saw the rise of young Malevich’s creative talent. This is where he unlocked his potential and rose to international fame. He was buried near Moscow.

In 1904, Kazimir stepped inside the Yushkov HouseRussian: дом Юшкова (21 MyasnitskayaRussian: Мясницкая St), so familiar to all Russian painters. The house was home to the Moscow School of Arts, Sculpture and Architecture (presently the Russian Academy of Arts, Sculpture and ArchitectureRussian: Rossiyskaya akademiya zhivopisi, vayaniya i zodchestva or Российская академия живописи, ваяния и зодчества). Malevich failed the entrance exam, and his second attempt the next year was unsuccessful too. However, he did not want to return to his wife in Kursk empty-handed. Instead, he chose to join the art commune founded by painter V. Kurdyumov in a plain wooden house in Poslannikov LaneRussian: Poslannikov pereulok or Посланников переулок in LefortovoRussian: Лефортово.


It was hard for the amateur artist to get things going in an unfamiliar city. Malevich ultimately had to return to Kursk, but he never stopped dreaming about Moscow. To support her son, his mother Lyudviga Aleksandrovna Malevich got a job administrating a canteen in Moscow in 1907. She was soon followed by Kazimir, his wife Kazimira Ivanovna and their children. The big family moved to a lodging house in Bryusov LaneRussian: Bryusov pereulok or Брюсов переулок, where they occupied three of the five rooms, and later Lyudviga Aleksandrovna opened a canteen of her own in Naprudny LaneRussian: Naprudnyi pereulok or Напрудный переулок. However, Kazimir’s marriage did not survive despite his mother’s best efforts. Kazimira left her husband, taking their children, whom she soon abandoned as well for a new love affair. The children were taken in by M. Rafailovich, the housekeeping manager of the hospital in Kursk where Kazimira had been a registered nurse. When Malevich came to collect his children, he met Rafailovich’s daughter Sofya, and the two soon decided to be together.

Kazimir attended classes in Rerberg Private SchoolRussian: chastnoe uchilische F. Rerberga or частное училище Ф. Рерберга (24 Myasnitskaya St) since he moved to Moscow, from 1907 to 1910. Despite his turbulent family life, he continued to pursue his ambition. In 1907, Malevich tried his luck at the 14th Exhibition of Moscow Fellowship of Artists despite having no experience at all. He divorced his first wife and married Sofya Mikhaylovna in 1909. A stroke of luck had finally come his way.


Malevich understood intuitively that classicism was not his calling. At the dawn of a new era, the artist became enthusiastic about post-impressionism and fauvism. He mingled with the Jack of DiamondsRussian: Bubnovyi valet or Бубновый валет group of avant-garde artists and joined their first exhibition that took place in December 1910–January 1911 at 10 VozdvizhenkaRussian: Воздвиженка St, in the now non-existent building of the Economic Association of Officers. Malevich presented three series of his artworks: The Yellow, The Red, and The White. The art of Jack of Diamonds and Kazimir Malevich came as a shock for the Moscow public. Not only were the paintings mind-boggling but the jack of diamonds also evoked associations with convicts and card players. However, the innovators were happy to have shocked the public.

Argetin PolkaInspired by this attention (even though it was delivered on the brink of scandal), Malevich continued to work productively and created a number of paintings in the 1910s: Peasant Women in a Church, Taking in the Rye, The Reaper on Red, Argentine Polka and many other works with unorthodox colour solutions. Discovering the new, he invested a lot of energy in his works, which the public was often in two minds about, but never ignored. Malevich was attracted by the philosophy of fresh and young art, so he drifted towards futurists. He worked on illustrations for handwritten futuristic books of like-minded authors and the decorations for Luna ParkRussian: Луна-парк in Saint Petersburg. He had no limits and did not conform—he was ready to be anywhere and try every minor and major form of art. He was eager to create and enjoy his creations not only in Moscow but in the capital on the River NevaRussian: Нева as well.

shutterstock_279520706On 8 February 1914, Kazimir Malevich and painter Aleksei Morgunov engaged in a demonstration – they crossed the Kuznetsky BridgeRussian: Kuznetskiy most or Кузнецкий мост wearing wooden spoons on their coat lapels. As Malevich continued pushing the limits what was known, he found a way to make a name for himself in Paris by sending his Samovar, Portrait of I.V. Klyun (Klyunkov) and Morning in the Village after a Snowstorm to the Society of Independent Artists.

Even World War I was unable to stop the spirit-driven workaholism of the restless Malevich, it merely triggered a new perspective in his creative career. Malevich produced a series of luboksa Russian popular print, characterized by simple graphics and narratives derived from literature, religious stories and popular tales for the Segodnyashny LubokRussian: Segodnyashniy lubok or Сегодняшний лубок (Resent-Day Lubok) Publishing House and presented Suprematist ornamental sketches to his friends and foes in November 1915, following the exhibitions in PetrogradSaint Petersburg. The sketches can be seen in Lemercier GalleryRussian: galereya Lemersie or галерея Лемерсье (8 Saltykovsky LnRussian: pereulok Saltyikovskiy or переулок Салтыковский). In the Moscow exhibitions of 1915–1917, his sketches made for the VerbovkaRussian: Вербовка Village Folk Centre attracted attention. Malevich even tried to found the SupremusRussian: Супремус Community and the Supremus Journal, but his attempts were fruitless.

In the revolutionary year of 1917, having completed his service in the 56th infantry regiment, Malevich became a left-wing representative in the Artists Trade Union of MoscowRussian: Professionalnyi soyuz khudozhnikov Moskvy or Профессиональный союз художников Москвы. He was made the commissioner for the protection of ancient monuments and artistic treasures of the Kremlin, receiving the honorable ‘blessing’ from the Military Revolutionary Committeemilitary organs created by Bolsheviks Party organizations.

Along with the heritage of world-famous people and great museums, there are many attractions in Moscow, which are not so popular, but still very remarkable. Beautiful temples in the Orthodox style, the unusual architecture of the Russian Middle Ages or the recent Soviet era, ballet and drama theaters – on our website you can learn more about what to see in Moscow.


Malevich was even more ‘in demand’ in Soviet Moscow, which had once again become Russia’s capital. He created and exhibited Suprematist paintings, had a series of his articles published in the AnarkhiyaRussian: Анархия journal, founded a workshop in Petrograd to teach students, then suddenly came back to Moscow, then moved to Vitebska city in Belarus, where he led a workshop in People’s School of Arts. The next time he returned to Moscow, it was with his students; in 1920, he attended the first All-Russia Conference of Teachers and StudentsRussian: Vserossiyskaya konferentsiya uchaschikh i uchaschikhsya or Всероссийская конференция учащих и учащихся and had a solo exhibition, where he displayed 153 of his works. A hectic life, exhibitions and trips (including travelling abroad) brought Malevich success and satisfaction. His unique work, Black SquareRussian: Chyornyi kvadrat or Чёрный квадрат became a legend overnight.

shutterstock_419858995Another solo exhibition opened on 1 November 1929 in the Tretyakov GalleryRussian: Tretyakovskaya galereya or Третьяковская галерея (10 Lavrushinsky LnRussian: Lavrushinskiy pereulok or Лаврушинский переулок), demonstrating his popularity. It seemed there would be no end to the symphony of forms and colours he produced, but Kazimir fell seriously ill in 1933 and was diagnosed with cancer. The artist asked the government to organise his funeral to be held in Moscow, no matter where he died. Malevich died in Leningrad on 15 May 1935, but final respects were paid in his beloved Moscow, just as he wished. His body was cremated in the Cemetery of Donskoy MonasteryRussian: kladbische Donskogo monastyrya or кладбище Донского монастыря (1 Donskaya SqRussian: Donskaya ploschad or Донская площадь). Malevich had devised his funeral in advance – he was laid to rest in a Suprematist-style cross-like coffin with his arms outstretched. The cinerary urn was buried in the village of NemchinovkaRussian: Немчиновка near Moscow, under the artist’s favourite oak tree. He did not want any memorial structures to be created to remember him – instead, he wished to be remembered through his paintings, which evoke stronger and more distinct memories of him than any gravestone.

shutterstock_389884762Malevich’s paintings are on display today in the Tretyakov Gallery Museum of Contemporary ArtRussian: Muzey sovremennogo iskusstva Tretyakovskoy galerei or Музей современного искусства Третьяковской галереи (10 Lavrushinsky Ln). The collection includes 11 works by Kazimir Malevich, including his self-portrait painted in 1920 and the legendary Black Square. Having acquainted himself with French fauvists, the artist provokingly painted his own face using shades unnatural to human skin. The museum also displays Sisters, a work created in 1930 in the cubist style.

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