Landscape with a White House by Kazimir Malevich

Пейзаж с белым домом was the original Russian title given to this painting by its creator, Kazimir Malevich. It translates directly as Landscape with a White House and is a lesser known but entirely charming piece from this artist’s considerable and varied oeuvre.

This small artwork from 1929 is only around half a metre tall and wide. The house sits prominently within the centre of the composition, with a white front wall and angled black roof. A white chimney sits on the top in a little way to how a child might construct a similar drawing. This simplicity and immaturity is an opinion which often gets thrown at modern art styles, but in reality it is the intention of the artist to simplify reality into simple blocks of colour, rather than being unable to work in a more traditional way. The overall look is fresh and contemporary, particularly when considering that the piece was still created so many years ago. We find a sand tone which dominates the foreground, suggesting sand with some water encroaching from the right hand side. A wooden fence then makes its way right across the horizontal, with red and sand coloured stakes either side of the house itself. In the distance are smaller buildings which offer a variation again in colour plus some fields which stripe their way towards a mountain in the far background.

Malevich liked to place small houses within his background scenes but normally there would be something in the foreground which would dominate our eyes. That tended to be peasants going about their daily lives in the form of portraits, with the background landscapes serving purely as a supporting element. In the case of this painting, though, the house in the distance is the focal point and there are no figures included at all. This gives a more relaxed atmosphere to this painting with nature taking over, with just a suggestion of human life through the buildings which are bright in tone. Half of the painting is devoted to the sky which is pretty much a single tone of bright blue, which again helps to convey a feeling of calmness and gives an overall style of contemporary art where detail sometimes can be kept to a minimum.

Malevich became one of the most loved artists in the world in the first half of the 20th century and over time his own nation of Russia has grown to accept his very modern approach which at the time proved controversial. He has become known as one of the most influential artists to have lived, helping things move forward from the Impressionist styles in which he was initially trained towards a greater use of abstraction which is now very much a part of mainstream art across Europe and the US. There are today many exhibitions which aim to remind us of his contribution and normally draw together examples of his work from different galleries and museums to provide a comprehensive survey of his oeuvre.

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