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Portrait of the artist's wife

Painting, 1933, 66×56 cm

Description of the artwork «Portrait of the artist's wife»

The year of 1932 became determinative not only for Kazimir Malevich but also for the whole Soviet art. That year the 15th anniversary of the Soviet Power was celebrated on a large scale and on this occasion the large exhibition “Artists of RSFSR for 15 years” was held. The same year the Union of Soviet Artists was established and socialist realism was approved as the only acceptable art movement. After the exhibition had been opened (first in Leningrad and then in Moscow) it was clear that Malevich became a social outcast. With the same exasperation as the Soviet critics had held to shame the Black Square they threw mud at the avant-garde artists exhibited their artworks at the exhibition “Degenerative Art”, which was held five years later.

In 1933 Kazimir Malevich became fatally ill; he began a cycle of portraits in an atypical for him neoclassical manner. The painter used a term “supernaturalism” for that period. Malevich painted his portraits not to please the Soviet authoritpies; till that time he understood that their paths diverged. The artist was not going to dissemble or be obsequious at the death's door. These portraits intrinsically became a new trend of suprematism bearing some secret message. The “Portrait of Artist’s Wife (Natalia Andreevna Manchenko)” together with the other artworks of the same period (“Self Portrait”, “Woman Worker”, "Portrait of Man (Nickolai Punin)”  clearly resembled the canvases of the Italian Renaissance artists. At the same time Malevich dressed his characters in carefully constructed, geometrically designed suprematic costumes of his favorite colors.

Focused attention of the painter to the hands of his characters is the common feature of his artworks. In the “Portrait of Artist’s Wife” the position of Natalia Andreevna’s arm is associated with the antique statutes and at the same time with the Russian icons. Though, looking at his other artworks of that period we have the feeling that the characters bear some invisible objects in their hands. For instance, in his “Self Portrait” of 1933 it was a black square. According to some art experts the girl in his canvas the “Woman Worker” could bear a baby in her hands and the “Blacksmith” could bear his tools. All that made the late portraits by Malevich multidimensional and making the viewer seek some new implications.

Written by Eugeniya Sydelnykova
from 1450 rub
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Portrait

Style of art: Neoclassicism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1933

Size: 66×56 cm

Artwork in selections: 12 selections

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