On the Boulevard by Kazimir Malevich

On the Boulevard is a gouache and charcoal on paper artwork by Kazimir Malevich which dates from around 1911. It features a style and tone that might remind some of the work of German Expressionist, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.

We find in front of us here an ageing gentleman dressed in a thick yellow suit who leans over, deep in thought. He is sat upon a wide park bench and in the background we see others enjoying this natural environment. Malevich carefully creates a composition which allows the figure in the foreground to truly dominate the scene, with his figure actually stretching to beyond the vertical space of the painting. This allows us to really connect with this individual, and feel a need to understand more about him, and perhaps what has left him so deep in thought. This expressive artwork is classed as Fauvist because of the tones of colour used and this approach would prove very popular in western Europe for a number of worked within it for an extended period. Malevich was based far to the East, but would take in many influences from this region and they helped him to experiment in the early part of his career. On the Boulevard is certainly one of the best examples of what he achieved within the Fauvist movement, but he would also go on to cover other styles such as Impressionism and Cubism shortly afterwards.

It is the Fauvist colour scheme which makes this piece so striking, with bright tones used alongside each other for a look which some might consider too much. Bright yellow dominates the centre of the painting, with black lines used to create form in between the other colours such as green and red. See also how the man’s hands are oversized which was another signature of this artist’s portraits. Behind the bench we find a pathway which leads across the artwork through the horizontal and a man to the left with a hat on who appears to be busy at work or perhaps using a walking stick. All of the details in this painting are suggested at rather than depicted in precise detail because the artist wanted for of an expressive finish to the painting. He also demonstrates how much can be achieved with relatively little work, which is often the sign of a highly skilled artist. One can see precisely the same with many Picasso line drawings, for example, where recognisable forms can be produced with just a single line of pencil or charcoal.

There is another painting by Malevich named Man with a Sack which is very similar in terms of colour palette. Some have suggested a symbolic meaning to how the paths behind this man meet just behind his head, just as he is deep in thought. Perhaps he is concerned about going somewhere or doing something new, which is added to by how the other figure at the back is travelling along this very same path. The painting was exhibited in December 1911 within an exciting exhibition in which several groundbreaking artists sought to encourage Russians to embrace new artistic ideas. Malevich also took the piece to Berlin in around 1927 and displayed it there, and we know that he actually left some paintings in Germany deliberately in order to avoid them being taken in his native country as more and more resistance started to appear against the type of work that he was now producing.

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