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Kazimir Severinovich Malevich
Biography



If you think that all art should be comforting, literal, narrative, perhaps somewhat erotic, and depict rationally classical subject matter, then your taste in art coincides quite easily with those of that noted German art connoisseur and would-be artist from the early twentieth century, Adolf Hitler. If, on the other hand, you feel art should have no relation whatsoever with nature, humanity, politics, or social message but exist purely for its own being, its form dictated only from the graphic, intellectual exercises of the artist's brain, then your tastes would fall perfectly in line with another art extremist of the time, Kazimir Malevich.

Kazimir (or sometimes Kasimir) Malevich was ten years older than Hitler was. Born in Russia, near Kiev, in 1878, Kasimir studied art first in his hometown, then in Leningrad, even managing to publish a book, The Nonobjective World in 1926. It was to literature what his groundbreaking White on White from 1918, was to painting. He labelled his work "Suprematist" and under the influence of Dutch artist, Piet Mondrian, took Picasso's Cubism to its ultimate conclusion. In the early 1920s, the Communist government of his homeland came to the conclusion they didn't like his work despite the fact he'd moved back from purely non-objective art into abstract figures, rich in colour and innovative design elements. A decade later, his aesthetic opposite in Germany decided he also didn't like Malevich's work and it was labelled along the other Eastern European Avant-garde as "degenerate."

Scores of Malevich's work from the 1920s were brought by the artist himself out of Russia to be exhibited in Germany, which, at the time, was more accepting of his work than was the Soviet Union. Malevich died in 1935 without having retrieved any of them. About the same time, the director of the Landesmuseum in Hanover, Germany, Dr. Alexander Domer, recognising the importance of Malevich's work in the development of abstract art, managed to smuggle out of Germany in his luggage, two small works by Malevich when he fled to the United States. Today, for the time being at least, Suprematist Painting (Rectangle and Circle) and an untitled drawing rest in Harvard's Busch-Reisinger Museum; though since the fall of Communism in Russia in 1993, Malevich's heirs have mounted a campaign to recover all his widely scattered work. Such repositories as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Harvard museum have agreed to purchases or return their Malevich collections. However, the biggest cache rests with the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam with owns 36 Malevich paintings, making it the largest collection outside Russia. Not surprisingly, with a single Malevich Suprematist period painting now worth upwards to a million dollars, the Stedelijk has announced it has no plans to repatriate any of Malevich's work.

contributed by Lane, Jim


12 January 2000
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