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Masterworks from Budapest. From the Renaissance to the Avant-Garde

From 18 February to 28 May 2017

Lucas Cranach, the Elder
Salome with the Head of Saint John the Baptist, ca. 1526-1530
Oil on panel. 88.4 x 58.3 cm
Budapest, Museum of Fine Arts

Biography and Works

Kazimir Malevich
Kiev, 1878-Saint Petersburg, 1935


Kazimir Malevich was the foremost practitioner of Suprematism, one of the main movements that championed geometric abstraction in Russia of the first third of the twentieth century and sought “the supremacy of pure feeling” in art.

Malevich attended painting classes in Kiev and from 1904 in Moscow, where Mikhail Larionov invited him to take part in the Jack of Diamonds exhibition in 1910, and in 1912 he was involved in establishing The Donkey’s Tail. During these years Malevich’s art evolved from an aesthetic close to Post-Impressionism to Cubism and subsequently Futurism.

For the showing of his Black Square (Moscow, Tretiakov State Gallery) at 0.10. The Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings in 1915, he published From Cubism and Futurism to Suprematism, which summed up his new artistic theory. Thenceforward his art became focused on depicting geometric shapes, chiefly squares, on a white background. Throughout the following year he worked with other artists on the magazine Supremus, but was conscripted before it was published. The process of reducing the pictorial elements in his compositions became increasingly accentuated, culminating in the White on White series of 1917–18.

Following the Revolution of 1917, Malevich became an active member of the revolutionary art committees and was involved in the events staged to celebrate the first anniversary of the Revolution. In 1919 he accepted a teaching post at Vitebsk Art School, which was run by Marc Chagall, and took over as its director during Chagall’s absence. During the following years Malevich concentrated on his lectures, his writings on art and the establishment of the Unovis group (The Affirmers of the New Art). After being dismissed from his Vitebsk post in 1922, he moved to Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg) with a few students and worked at the Museum of Artistic Culture, which came to be called Institute of Artistic Culture (Inkhuk) in 1923. The work of the institute was exhibited first in Russia and subsequently in other countries such as Germany, where Malevich visited the Bauhaus.

Malevich began to experience problems with the Soviet regime around 1930 owing to his contact with German artists and was arrested, though he was released soon afterwards. At the end of his life he returned to figuration; however, it is believed that he himself dated to earlier years some of his nonfigurative works from this period, in order to avoid trouble with the authorities.

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