Boy by Kazimir Malevich

Boy was created by Russian abstract artist Kazimir Malevich in the latter part of his life. It helped to summarise the stylistic journey that he had been through over the preceding decades, having initially begun as an Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artist.

Malevich was trained in the movements which dominated the 19th century and although they were considered entirely contemporary at the time, he wanted to push things on again once more. Slowly over time he moved into a more and more abstract world, though he then spent his later years reversing back somewhat. Here within Boy we see elements of Cubism, though very much within a niche of that umbrella in which Malevich worked for a number of years. Notice, for example, about how he uses very abrupt gradients of colour which leave a harsh finish and this was something similar to how we remember the work of Fernand Leger, who himself was linked to Tubular Cubism. Other forms of this movement came from the likes of Picasso, Braque and Gris who would section up elements of a scene and re-arrange them into a new reality. Boy helps remind us that Malevich started again to resemble reality within his paintings towards the end, though still through a strong prism of modern interpretation, with this piece being completed in 1932.

The painting in front of us was fairly small, at around 72cm in height, but entirely in common with how this artist worked for much of his career. A boy makes his way through the rural fields, perhaps looking out for his mother who may well have been working at the time. We see elements of a landscape in the background and all elements of the work are created using bright colours which continue Malevich’s devotion to the modern way of working. Detail is limited, delivering enough that we can identify elements of the composition, but no more than that. The boy himself is sectioned into torso, mid-rift and legs, all of which are filled with this abrupt transition from black to white, or vice versa. His hands and feet then contrast, with flat tones of red and his head is gradiented with white to yellow to red in a slightly more subtle manner. His back is turned to us as he makes his way through a field that is delivered in a single tone of green which works well against the reds. The painting was produced on wood panel rather than stretched canvas and is broadly classed as having been in a combination of Cubism and Neo-Suprematism.

It is certainly worth making the visual comparison between this painting and some of the work of the other artists mentioned in this passage. For example, Leger would gift us the likes of Soldier with a Pipe, Contrast of Forms and Soldiers Playing Cards and he would also become interested in the lives of the those struggling in poverty. Over the centuries of European art, most have been more interested in the rich and famous, partly because some of their own wealth might be passed on to the struggling artists but there have been still a good number of cases of others who have gleaned great inspiration from studying the lives of those who were at the bottom end of society, struggling to make ends meet. Indeed, many an artist has been in the same situation themselves, though not always whilst living out in rural areas which is what the likes of Malevich would focus on.

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