Unveiling the Mystery: Inside Malevich’s ‘Composition with the Mona Lisa’

“Composition with the Mona Lisa,” crafted in 1914 by Kazimir Malevich, stands as a bold testament to the daring audacity of modernist reinterpretations of iconic masterpieces. At first glance, the piece draws heavily from Leonardo da Vinci’s renowned portrait of the Mona Lisa. However, Malevich’s rendition diverges radically, with geometric forms and volumes meandering across the canvas, partially concealing the famed subject. This deliberate obscurity is heightened by a vibrant palette of cool colors—blues, grays, pinks, whites, and blacks—that inject a unique visual dynamism into the piece.

In an avant-garde twist, black and white rectangles accompany the visage of the Mona Lisa, not just as complementary elements, but as significant figures that command equal, if not greater, attention. Positioned on par with, or even slightly above the Mona Lisa’s portrait, these geometric forms challenge the viewer’s perception, nudging them to evaluate these shapes with the reverence typically reserved for da Vinci’s unparalleled creation. The audacity of Malevich’s artistic choice is further underscored by his initial decision to place a cigarette between Mona Lisa’s lips, a detail now lost but one that highlighted his whimsical yet ironic commentary on the legacy of the Italian master.

“Composition with the Mona Lisa” thus emerges as more than just a painting; it becomes a dialogue spanning centuries. Malevich’s piece engages viewers in a conversation about the fluid boundaries of art, the evolving paradigms of aesthetic appreciation, and the intricate dance between venerating the past and forging the future. The painting, rich in symbolism and layered in meaning, beckons the audience to embark on a journey of introspection and discovery, exploring the intricate interplay between historical reverence and modern reinterpretation.

A Historical Flashback: Mona Lisa Meets Suprematism

Hey there, history enthusiast! Ever wondered how the serenity of Mona Lisa’s smile could intertwine with the stark dynamism of Suprematism? Well, you’re in for a treat! ??

Setting the Stage: Leonardo’s Timeless Mona Lisa

Imagine walking through the corridors of the Louvre, and there she is, the iconic Mona Lisa. Painted by the genius Leonardo da Vinci, she’s been captivating visitors with her enigmatic smile for centuries. Known as “La Gioconda” in Italian, the portrait is believed to be of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Florentine merchant Francesco del Giocondo. But more than the identity of the subject, it’s Leonardo’s innovative techniques, the sfumato and chiaroscuro, that have made the painting stand out. Soft transitions between light and shade, and the illusion of depth and volume, have given Mona Lisa a realism that was groundbreaking in the Renaissance era. But hold onto your beret because the story takes a wild turn in the 20th century.

Enter Kazimir Malevich: Remixing the Classics

Fast forward a few centuries, and we bump into Kazimir Malevich, an avant-garde artist with a penchant for breaking norms. While Leonardo was all about capturing realism, Malevich’s Suprematism was the complete opposite – it celebrated the basic geometric forms and a limited color palette. Ever seen a simple black square on a white background and thought, “Wait, is that art?” That’s Malevich saying, “Welcome to Suprematism!”

When Malevich decided to create “Composition with the Mona Lisa,” he wasn’t merely painting; he was making a statement. He took the world’s most recognized portrait and added a modernist twist, overlaying it with abstract geometric forms. It was audacious, brilliant, and a tad cheeky!

But why remix the Mona Lisa? Malevich’s Suprematism was all about feeling over representation. His radical idea was to strip art down to its bare essentials, pushing boundaries and challenging viewers to find meaning beyond the familiar. By juxtaposing Mona Lisa with Suprematist elements, he was perhaps telling us that even amidst change, art remains a constant dialogue between the past and the future.

The Painting Itself: Dive into a Kaleidoscope of Color and Mystery

Ever gazed upon a painting and felt it drawing you in, whispering tales of yesteryears and bold, new worlds? Well, pull up a chair because Malevich’s “Composition with the Mona Lisa” does just that—and a whole lot more!

Cool Blues, Mysterious Grays, and… Pinks?

First off, let’s chat about that color palette. If the original Mona Lisa is the soothing acoustic version of a song, Malevich’s take is the jazzed-up remix. The cool blues sweep across like an enigmatic night sky, while grays add layers of mystery, making you wonder, “What’s Mona thinking now?” Pops of pinks flirt with the traditional, and the stark whites and blacks? They’re like the dramatic pauses in a gripping novel, making everything around them come alive with vibrancy. The entire palette feels like diving into a dream, where everything’s familiar yet oddly new.

Those Playful Geometric Shapes

And then, there’s the game of hide and seek. Why are these triangles and rectangles frolicking around the canvas and, more curiously, around Mona Lisa’s face? It’s like watching an age-old drama unfold where geometric forms dance around the protagonist, each shape telling its own side of the story. These aren’t just random intrusions. They’re deliberate, almost challenging you to see beyond the familiar. Malevich nudges us to ask: “Isn’t beauty found in the simplest of shapes?” It’s a bold move, taking the world’s most famous portrait and saying, “Look again!”

The Case of the Missing Cigarette

Now, let’s address the elephant (or should I say the cigarette?) in the room. Word on the street is that Malevich originally placed a cigarette between Mona Lisa’s lips! While this detail might have faded with time, the symbolism hasn’t. This cheeky addition is like a wink across centuries to Leonardo da Vinci. It’s Malevich’s playful way of paying homage, yet highlighting that times have changed. It’s a nod to the classics while redefining what art can be. It tells us, “Why not have a little fun while we’re at it?”

Deconstructing the Artwork: A Dive into Malevich’s Mind

Have you ever faced off with a piece of art that felt like it was challenging everything you thought you knew about the world? Enter Malevich’s “Composition with the Mona Lisa.” It’s not just a painting; it’s a manifesto, a bold statement that demands attention. So, let’s peel back the layers and see what makes this artwork tick!

Standing Tall: When Rectangles Meet the Mona Lisa

Picture this: You’re at an art gallery, and in one corner, you see the enigmatic Mona Lisa, and just next to her, some… rectangles? At first glance, you might think, “Hold on a minute! How can mere geometric shapes stand shoulder to shoulder with art’s grand dame?” But that’s precisely what Malevich wanted you to question. He’s not just placing shapes next to a masterpiece; he’s leveling the playing field. It’s like watching an indie artist sharing a stage with a legend and realizing they both have their own unique magic. By giving rectangles the same prominence as the Mona Lisa, Malevich makes us question what we value in art and why.

Beyond the Canvas: A Modernist’s Rebellion

Remember when Bob Dylan went electric and the world lost its collective mind? Malevich’s foray into the world of modernism felt somewhat similar. With every brush stroke, he was pushing boundaries, urging the world to see art beyond the confines of traditional norms. In the age where most were trying to capture reality, Malevich dared to dream, daring to venture where few had. By overlaying Mona Lisa with geometric forms, he was breaking free, heralding a new era where emotions and abstract thought had as much value as detailed representation.

Between the Lines: The Ironic Play

But wait, there’s more! Dive a little deeper, and you’ll find layers of irony woven into the canvas. Taking one of the world’s most celebrated paintings and adding his own flair wasn’t just a design choice; it was a bold statement. By reimagining a classic, Malevich was both paying homage and playfully challenging the art world. It’s like taking a Shakespeare play and setting it in a modern high school (Hey, “10 Things I Hate About You”!) – familiar, yet refreshingly new. Through this reimagining, he nudges us to think about the evolving nature of art and the conversations between the past, present, and future.

Practical Insights: Your Personal Guide to Unraveling Malevich’s Masterpiece

Art can often feel like a puzzle, a riddle waiting to be solved. And when it comes to Malevich’s “Composition with the Mona Lisa,” the enigma intensifies. Don’t fret though! Grab your metaphorical magnifying glass, and let’s embark on a journey together, unraveling the genius layer by layer.

Guided Walkthrough: Let’s Dive In, Shall We?

Imagine you’re standing in a bustling art gallery. The chatter surrounds you, but your focus narrows to this one artwork. At first glance, it might feel a tad overwhelming—Mona, rectangles, a riot of colors. Where to begin?

Start with the base. The familiar face of Mona Lisa. But wait, she’s playing hide and seek behind those geometric shapes. The blues and pinks pull you in, and those stark blacks and whites? They’re like the bold punctuation marks in a thrilling sentence. With each element, Malevich wants you to pause, think, and react. He’s not just painting; he’s conversing with you.

The Mona Lisa Face-off: Spotting the Nuances

Now, let’s play a game of spot the difference. Remember the original Mona Lisa? That calm demeanor, the serene background, and the mysterious smile. Here, the serenity remains, but the context has shifted. Those geometric shapes aren’t just there for the aesthetic appeal; they’re contrasted deliberately against the original. It’s like watching a classic black and white movie and suddenly, a splash of color bursts onto the scene. Why did Malevich make these choices? Possibly to challenge our perception, to make us question the sanctity of classics, and to underline that art evolves.

The Tale Behind the Canvas: Art’s Evolutionary Journey

Storytelling isn’t just reserved for books and movies. Each brushstroke on this canvas tells a tale. Malevich isn’t just reproducing a classic; he’s adding chapters to its story. By juxtaposing the traditional Mona Lisa with modernist elements, he might be commenting on the ever-evolving narrative of art. It’s as if he’s saying, “Art doesn’t stand still; it moves, grows, and changes with time.” Through this masterpiece, Malevich reminds us of the dialogues between the old and the new, urging us to embrace evolution and change.

The Ripple Effect: How One Painting Shook the Modern Art World

Ever tossed a pebble into a pond and watched the ripples spread out, transforming the calm waters into a dynamic dance? In the world of modern art, Malevich’s “Composition with the Mona Lisa” was that pebble, and its ripples? They forever changed the landscape of artistic expression.

When Other Artists Say, “I See You, Malevich”

Now, if you’re anything like me, after watching a jaw-dropping movie or reading a game-changing book, the first thing you want to do is share it with, well, just about anyone who’ll listen. In the art world, this act of sharing is less about spoken words and more about integrating inspiration into new creations.

Artists worldwide sat up and took note when Malevich unveiled his masterpiece. And why wouldn’t they? It was audacious, it was fresh, and it was unapologetically different. Think about artists like Jackson Pollock with his splashy, chaotic, yet beautifully orchestrated drips, or even Roy Lichtenstein with his pop-art renditions of comic strips. While their works aren’t direct replicas, the essence of challenging norms and questioning traditional artistic values screams Malevich’s influence.

Modern Day Echoes: Spotting Malevich’s Legacy in Today’s Art

Flash forward to today. Ever walked through a modern art museum and come across a piece that made you tilt your head, squint a bit, and think, “Now, where have I felt this vibe before?” That’s Malevich’s daring approach echoing through time.

Take, for instance, street art. The elusive Banksy, with his provocative pieces, often takes iconic images and throws a modern twist on them, pushing viewers to question societal norms and values. Or Yayoi Kusama with her infinite mirror rooms and polka-dot extravaganzas, creating an immersive experience that breaks away from conventional art displays. While they might not be directly copying Malevich’s rectangles and cool color palette, the spirit of audacity, of breaking free from the chains of convention? That’s pure Malevich energy right there.

Technical analysis

  • Artist: Kazimir Malevich
  • Title: Composition with the Mona Lisa
  • Year of Creation: 1914
  • Style: Suprematism with elements of Cubism
  • Medium: Presumably oil on canvas (typical for Malevich, but this would need confirmation from a direct examination or authoritative source).
  • Primary Colors: Cool blues, grays, pinks, whites, and blacks.
  • Artistic Techniques/Elements:
    • Use of geometric shapes, primarily rectangles.
    • Partial obscuration of a familiar portrait (the Mona Lisa) using these geometric forms.
    • A balance of abstraction and representation.
  • Lost Elements: Originally featured a cigarette between Mona Lisa’s lips, which has since faded or been removed.
  • Inspirational Background: A fusion of the iconic Mona Lisa portrait by Leonardo da Vinci with Malevich’s avant-garde Suprematism.
  • Significance: The piece challenges traditional representation, especially given the audacity of adapting one of the world’s most recognized portraits.
  • Contemporary Context: Created during a period when Malevich was evolving into his Suprematist style and challenging objective representation in art.

Comparison of some of Kazimir Malevich’s most notable paintings

Painting Description Similarities Differences
Composition with the Mona Lisa A reimagination of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa obscured by geometric forms. – Use of geometric shapes
– Play between abstraction and representation
– Cool color palette
Unique in its direct engagement with a prior iconic artwork.
Black Square A simple black square on a white field, epitomizing Suprematism. – Abstraction
– The avant-garde nature
– Philosophical depth
Absence of representational elements, even more minimalist.
White on White Almost monochromatic painting of a white square on a white field. – Continuation of the theme of abstraction and simplicity from “Black Square”
– Avant-garde nature
Even more reduced in color and form than “Black Square”.
Suprematist Composition Dynamic arrangement of geometric shapes in various colors. – Use of geometric shapes
– Exploration of movement and dynamism
– Cool color tones in parts of the composition
More colorful and less stark than “Black Square” and “White on White”.
Red Square A simple red square on a white background, but slightly tilted. – Abstraction
– Minimalist approach similar to “Black Square” and “White on White”
– Philosophical undertones
Focus on a singular color (red) and the slight tilt introduces a new dynamic.
Eight Red Rectangles Eight scattered red rectangles on a white background. – Geometric abstraction
– Play with spatial relationships and imbalance
Use of repetition and varying sizes to convey movement and rhythm.


Who is the artist behind “Composition with the Mona Lisa”?

The artwork is by Kazimir Malevich, a prominent figure in the avant-garde movement, best known for pioneering the Suprematist style.

In which year was “Composition with the Mona Lisa” created?

The painting was crafted in 1914.

What makes “Black Square” significant in Malevich’s repertoire?

“Black Square” epitomizes the theoretical principles of Suprematism. It’s a representation of pure abstraction and was a revolutionary statement about the essence and purpose of art.

Why are geometric shapes prominent in Malevich’s works?

Malevich believed in conveying pure artistic feeling without resorting to objective representation. Geometric shapes allowed him to express this abstraction and challenge conventional artistic norms.

Are there any known instances where Malevich used humor or irony in his works?

Yes! In “Composition with the Mona Lisa”, Malevich originally added a cigarette between Mona Lisa’s lips, a cheeky nod to the great Italian master. Although this detail has been lost over time, it serves as an ironic reappraisal of da Vinci’s work.

How did Malevich’s Suprematism differ from Cubism, another popular avant-garde movement of the time?

While both Suprematism and Cubism are abstract, Suprematism emphasizes the purity of geometric forms and the exploration of the visual language of shapes, void of objective reality. Cubism, on the other hand, deconstructs objects and reassembles them in abstracted forms, but still often retains a semblance of the original subject.

What’s the primary color palette of “Composition with the Mona Lisa”?

The artwork predominantly features cool blues, grays, pinks, whites, and blacks.

How have Malevich’s works impacted modern art?

Malevich’s bold approach to abstraction and his philosophical underpinnings have left an indelible mark on the art world. His works have inspired countless artists, leading to the birth of new art movements and challenging artists to think beyond the confines of traditional representation.


The “Composition with the Mona Lisa” stands as a testament to Kazimir Malevich’s audacious artistry and visionary approach to abstraction. By reimagining da Vinci’s iconic masterpiece through a Suprematist lens, Malevich not only challenges our understanding of classical art but also underscores the dynamic interplay between tradition and modernism. As both a tribute and a critique, the “Composition with the Mona Lisa” encapsulates a pivotal moment in art history, where reverence for the past meets the unrestrained creativity of the future.

Contents hide

Leave a Comment