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  • gerard van weyenbergh

Suprematism, a basic description

Created by Kasimir Malevitch in 1915, Suprematism brings together several Russian constructivist artists around it. It was born from an intuition: that of the primacy of the machine over Man, and the reign of abstraction over realism. With Suprematism, the canvas finds its two-dimensional nature, and the subject tends to universality. Shooting star of modern art, it will have little longevity apart from the personality of its founder.

History of movement

Thirty years after Alphonse Allais, as a joke, presented the first monochromes to the Incoherent Arts movement, the Russian Kasimir Malevitch very seriously invented supremacy in Saint Petersburg (then called Petrograd). The painter exhibited a black square on a white background, followed in 1920 by a white square on a white background.

Organized in the middle of World War I , the 1915 exhibition in Petrograd, which revealed Black square on a white background, is a manifestation of anthology: it made Suprematism known. The exhibition title "L'Exposition 0.10" marked the desire to renew, to wipe the past clean. Organized by Malevitch, it brought together 14 futuristic and abstract artists, including Vladimir Tatline, who fiercely opposed Malevitch, each defending his vision of radicalism. Tatline was more Dadaist, where Malevitch revealed himself to be mystical. It was at the end of this exhibition that the artist invents the term Suprematism and planned the creation of a magazine devoted to the movement.

Malevitch arrived at Suprematism, a radical abstract expression, after having started with impressionism, then geometric and divisionist cubism . With his abstract works, the artist considers painting as a plastic problem, which he solves with precision. Malevitch inspired other Russian artists, including Alexandre Rodchenko, who, in turn, painted a composition Black on black(1918). With supremacism, Malevitch meant to show that he was finishing the pictorial tradition, the supreme word meaning both "what is the highest" but also "the last". The artist was looking for purity, essence, a form of total abstraction. This aspiration is not unrelated to the context of the Great War, which deeply marked the painter (mobilized on the front in 1917), and the Russian revolution.

Other artists such as El Lissitzky, Alexandra Exter, Lyubov Popova, Ivan Puni, Olga Rozanova, Ivan Vassilievitch Klioune, and Alexandre Rodchenko will follow Malevitch for a while without permanently adhering to supremacy. The pictorial adventure was, therefore, short-lived, its instigator declaring it closed in 1920!


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