Portrait of the Artist’s Father by Kazimir Malevich

The smartly dressed individual in front of us here is the father of Russian painter, Kazimir Malevich. This is one of the few portraits that he produced of his family members.

Seweryn and his wife, Ludwika, was polish immigrants who worked hard to give son Kazimir as good a start in life as possible. For their son to produce portraits of them suggests a good healthy relationship. Fathers at that time were often stern and imposing on their children, providing discipline as a means to showing children the right way to behave within society. His father in this portrait has a large greying beard with small spectacles and a black bow tie over a white shirt. Malevich keep the portrait fairly neutral in the background to avoid distracting the viewer.

The painting is dated at 1902-1903 and therefore comes right at the start of this artist’s career. He would not have had the resources or confidence at that time to regularly source professional models and so made do with friends and family that were willing to sit for him at that time. This is entirely typical of most artists in their younger years. The painting is around 35cm in width, and 45cm in height making it fairly small but not unusually so for this artist. He would often group paintings together in the same wall when exhibiting and was not so interested rested no taking on larger canvases.

Portraits of family members offer a lot to those trying to understand more about an artist’s life. A little like self portraits, we can examine the connections between these individuals and get a good feeling about one’s childhood. In understanding Malevich’s parents, we can begin to work out why he behaved in the manner that he did and why he made certain decisions in the early parts of his career. Later on as he entered middle age he would have been less influenced by his parents and so the connection was less significant. For many artists there may not actually be as many visual clues as this and so we might have to work of anecdotes to learn more about his childhood.

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