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Black Suprematist square

Kazimir Malevich • Painting, 1915, 79.5×79.5 cm
About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Style of art: Suprematism
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1915
Size: 79.5×79.5 cm
Artwork in collection: State Tretyakov gallery Irina Olikh
Artwork in selections: 115 selections

Description of the artwork «Black Suprematist square»

Malevich's "Black square" is the most famous work of Russian avant-garde. However, all around the world it is one of the most famous, controversial, scandalous and talked-about works in the history of art. Probably, no other painting has stirred so many interpretations, arguments and emotions, spawning so many theories and misconceptions.

The poet Andrei Bely recalled that a famous philosopher and publicist Mikhail Gershenzon once led him to see the paintings by Malevich:

"Mikhail Osipovich, putting me in front of two squares by the Suprematist Malevich (black and red), ran red-hot through, spat; and - seriously blurted out with a severe voice of a lecturer:
- Art history and all these Vrubels are nothing compared to such squares!
He stood in front of the squares, as if praying to them; and so stood I: well, yes - two squares; he explained to me then: looking at these squares (black and red), he is experiencing the fall of the old world:
- Have a look: everything is falling down".

It always happened like this with these Squares by Malevich (especially with the black one). While some people saw them as a meaningless pose, naked shocking and amateurish daub, the others were frozen as if on the edge of the gaping abyss.

The first and the most famous "Black square" was painted by Malevich in 1915 for the futurist exhibition "0, 10". However, the idea has festered in him long before. Working on the design of the futurist opera by Mikhail Matyushin and Aleksei Kruchenykh "Victory over the Sun", Malevich put a black square on the backstage - black hand-made Sun rose over the avant-garde scene already in 1913.

The Square, like all that is connected with it, is shrouded in mystical mist. There are many versions explaining how it was painted,  who influenced Malevich, and what was the idea behind his wondrous work.

Malevich asserted that he had an ecstatic experience while creating his Black Square. The lightnings sparkled outside the window. "Millions of lines were running. My vision could not perceive the rays, – the artist wrote. – I could not see. The eye died in new glimpses". However, Malevich was not only a great artist but also a born PR man: he was lavish in intriguing details to add mystery to "The Black square". 

Shortly before the exhibition one of its organizers, an artist Ivan Puni, dropped in to see Kazimir Malevich and saw Suprematist works that Kazimir Severinovich wanted to keep secret before the opening. To stake a claim for the authorship of the whole new movement, Malevich urgently published a brochure "From Cubism to Suprematism. New pictorial realism".

"The black square" - the Manifesto of Suprematism and the self-proclaimed standard of the notorious "new sincerity" - was not accidentally hanged in the red corner by Malevich. It was the main (or rather only) sensation of the exhibition "0, 10", split Kazimir Severinovich with many colleagues, made him both Messiah and a pariah, dividing reality into "before" and "after".

One can argue endlessly about the artistic value of "The black square", about the role it played in art history, as the irreconcilable debate on this subject do not cease to this day. However, some of the Square's merits are obvious. "The black square" introduced Malevich as a philosopher, a theoretician, a teacher to the world. "The black square" became a kind of icebreaker, that opened a path to Suprematism. There is another merit as well.

Disarmingly simple and breathtakingly complex, defiantly nonsensical and unexpectedly meaningful, it tells the audience not so much about Malevich or Suprematist doctrines, but about the self. Probably, no other artwork in the history of mankind has not been able to prove so convincingly that beauty (hate, fear, empathy, disgust) is in the eyes of the observer. The depth of the abyss is not related to its shape, color or current market price. First and foremost, it depends on who looks at it.

Author: Andrew Zimoglyadov