*1879 in Kyiv, Ukraine
†1935 in Leningrad, USSR
Kazimir Malevich was the leading artist and theorist of the Russian avant-garde. He is credited with painting the first truly abstract work of art, the Black Square, and was thus a seminal figure in the history of the twentieth century, whose pioneering work has had a lasting impact on abstract, non-objective and later on minimalist art. Malevich studied at the School of Drawing in Kyiv from 1895-1896, and at Fyodor Rerberg’s private studio in Moscow from 1906 to 1910. In 1913 he worked with Mikhail Matiushin and Aleksei Kruchenykh for the staging of the futurist opera Victory Over the Sun, for which he designed costumes and stage sets. After a period of experimenting on the disciplines of Cubo-futurism and Transrational Realism, as well as creating a short series of works under the name Alogism, he showed Suprematist works for the first time at the ‘Last Exhibition of Futurist Paintings: 0,10,’ St. Petersburg in 1915, proposing a new trend in painting, which he supports with his essay “From Cubism and Futurism to Suprematism: The New Painterly Realism”. Together with artists such as Liubov Popova, Ivan Kliun, Nadezhda Udaltsova, Olga Rozanova and others, he founded the “Supremus” group (1916-1917) and prepared a journal, which was never published. In 1918 he was appointed a professor at SVOMAS and in 1919 he began teaching at the School of Fine Arts in Vitebsk, where he replaced Marc Chagall as head of the school after their argument on theoretical issues. In Vitebsk he organized the UNOVIS (Affirmation of the New Art) group, which aimed at promoting the theory and practice of Suprematism. In 1922 he settled with his group in Petrograd and became the director of the Formalist-Technical Department of INKhUK, where he committed himself to paper architecture designs, or arkhitektoniki. Malevich became an international celebrity, with exhibitions around Europe, before being censored by the Stalinist bureaucratic regime for being a bourgeois artist. Malevich was forced to return to a folk, Impressionist-like style in his later years. Major Malevich paintings are held today by the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Kunstmuseum Basel, and Tate Britain, London.