23 February 1879; Kiev, Ukraine
15 May 1935; Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation
The originator of the avant-garde suprematist movement, Kasimir Malevich was a Russian painter and art theorist. As a child, he grew up in sugar-beet plantations, and had little knowledge of professional artists. However, his artistic personality shone through in his childhood and he was skilled in peasant embroidery, and decorated walls and stoves. He also painted in the Russian peasant style.
In his late teens, he studied drawing in Kiev, and moved to Moscow in 1904 after the death of his father, studying at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. He first exhibited his art at the 1911 exhibition of the Soyuz Molodyozhi, a group of Russian avant-garde artists. The same year, he also exhibited with the Donkey’s Tail group, an even more radical group of artists. By 1914, he was exhibiting at the Salon des Independants in Paris, and a year later published his manifesto on geometric suprematism, From Cubism to Suprematism.
Malevich’s other artistic endeavors included an interest in aerial photography and aviation, which led to many canvases depicting aerial landscapes. He also designed set and costume designs for the theater. After the Russian Revolution in 1917, he was a prominent faculty member of a number of art schools, including Vitebsk Practical Art School, Leningrad Academy of Arts, Kiev State Art Institute, and House of the Arts in Leningrad. At the height of his career in 1926, he published a collection of his theories on artistic supremacy, The World as Non-Objectivity.
Malevich, assuming that after the deaths of Lenin and Trotsky, the Soviet atmosphere would change, left many of his works in Germany after a 1927 exhibition. His assumption was correct, and he was soon banned by the Soviet government from making or exhibiting any of his works. Soviets also arrested him for his association with German artists in 1930, and destroyed many of his manuscripts. In his later years, he returned to a more representational form of painting.
After his death from lung cancer in 1935, his ashes were placed in a tomb, on top of which sits a white cube decorated with black square, in the manner of his artistic works. Since his death, Malevich’s legacy has continued to grow, His geometric shapes and complex compositions are now regarded as masterpieces of Russian art. In 2008, Malevich’s Suprematist Composition of 1916 sold for the highest price ever paid for a Russian painting.