Sensation of an Imprisoned Man by Kazimir Malevich

Sensation of an Imprisoned Man, Running Man and Complex Presentiment Half-Figure in a Yellow Shirt were three fairly similar paintings by Kazimir Malevich which feature full length portraits within a wider landscape scene. All have bright colours to continue the artist’s work within a forward-thinking approach.

Here we find a tall figure who stretches across the entire foreground of the painting. Devoid of facial features, they wear traditional clothing which is filled with harsh gradients of colour which help to form a semblance of depth to the work. The head, for example, features a curved fill which gives the idea of shape. Otherwise the entire scene would appear entirely flat. The trousers are divided into two rectangles for each leg, similar to how some ironed pleats might work. The shoes are simple, in a plain white. The upper torso and arms feature tones of white and red, with a matching collar. Behind this figure there are then horizontal stripes of bright colour again, using blues and yellows. In the background we discover a tall tower-like structure as well as hills with a series of shrubs and trees. There is also perhaps a path leading up to that part of the scene from the left hand side. Half of the background is actually devoted to a bright blue sky which slowly transitions to white as we move vertically down towards the horizon.

Despite his own issues with the ruling powers at times during his life, Malevich was very fond of his nation, and particularly so of the other members of his community. That explains why so many figurative works appear within his oeuvre and the vast majority of them are of rural workers and peasants who were always portrayed within a positive light. Portraits of his family, as well as himself in self portraits, did appear from time to time but in most cases we find local people delivered in an anonymous format, with their faces turned into flat plains of colour where it is impossible for us to identify them. He felt that these people had their own story to tell and Malevich himself had come from humble beginnings and would never lose that connection even as his reputation started to build.

Besides Malevich, there were many other important European artists from the first half of the 20th century who helped to push us towards a more open and varied art world. Abstract art was never more memorable than in the work of Dutchman, Piet Mondrian, who transitioned from more traditional styles over a period of several decades, just as Malevich had done. The former’s best work in abstraction involved simple arrangements of shapes such as with Broadway Boogie Woogie, Gray Tree and Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow. He would also receive a backlash at times because of the controversy surrounding these new ideas but he found Western Europe to be more forgiving, most of the time. He also left behind a wealth of work in other styles which sometimes are forgotten by those who do not take the time to delve deeper into his lesser known paintings, just as can often be the case with Malevich. Today both artists are celebrated for the quality of their work but perhaps more so for the influence that they left behind which was then carried on by future generations.

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