Suprematism, 18th Construction by Kazimir Malevich

This painting leans a number of geometric shapes in the same direction, whilst keeping the overall composition fairly simple. Malevich here is providing another example of his Suprematist work, where reality was completely disconnected and a new environment consistenting of squares and circles would appear in its place.

This painting was sold at Sotheby’s, London in 2014 for an extraordinary price of £21,429,000. This sale made it one of the most valuable artworks from his entire career and underlines how the biggest names from this period now command huge valuations. It is fair to say that some of his even more famous works would probably achieve prices of several times this, such as Black Square, White on White and Black Circle, but it is still a huge value in its own right and places Malevich near the top of the most highly prized of artists. The piece itself was Lot 18 in the highly anticipated Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale which featured a number of other prominent artists including the likes of Fernand Léger (Le Pont du remorqueur), Wassily Kandinsky and Joan Miro.

Today’s art world is truly international but during the early 20th century many artists would have to consider the political climate within their own nations before they set about their paintings, drawings and sculptures. Things came to a head for Malevich when some of his paintings were taken and presumbly destroyed, and this became more of a problem in later life. Elsewhere in Western Europe similar issues rose several decades later with the political messaging that appeared around the outbreak of WWII. Thankfully, today’s world is generally more forgiving of different styles and so we can celebrate both the work of Malevich as well as the other more traditional approaches that came from Russia over the past few centuries. This allows us a more open and honest discussion of art history in general, and the paths that have been taken in different nations over the years.

There were many others who contributed to the modern art movement in the first half of the 20th century, many of whom were inspired by the previous work of Paul Cezanne who started this fragmentation of reality for the first time. One who followed on afterwards was Juan Gris, who gave us the likes of Breakfast, Bullfighter and Clown from within a productive and exhaustive career in which he really took still life Cubist art as far as it could realistically go. It was necessary for artists such as these to take on the academics who would tend to prefer more traditional approaches and slowly persuade them as to the merits of these new ideas, though it could take several decades before true acceptance was achieved, and maybe even longer in the eyes of some sections of the public.

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