The Corn Operator by Kazimir Malevich

Kazimir Malevich was highly interested in the lives of ordinary folk and would choose to capture them within his art many times. You will see such figures appearing in a variety of artistic styles as his career developed over time.

The Corn Operator features an expressive style of art that is not entirely in keeping with the main body of work which came from Malevich’s career. This is something more akin to the work of artists like August Macke or Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. In any case, Malevich did develop and experiment across his career and it would be entirely wrong to assume that he only worked within the Suprematist approach which became very much his signature. The drawing here features three main figures within a poor, perhaps rural setting. They are crowded into a small room and dressed in thick, hard-wearing clothes. Their expressions are serious, as they go about their daily struggles at a time when life in Russia was easy for only a very small proportion of society. Aside from the figures are a number of details within the room, such as a table on which one of the figures completes his work.

Artists traditionally have concentrated on the rich and famous figures within society, who tended to offer the biggest financial rewards. Alternatively they might have focused on religious themes which was also linked to major institutions who held great power at the time, but Malevich himself would instead focus mainly on the lives of ordinary folk. Typically, they would be depicted out at work in the fields, helping to feed the nation in a way which commanded great respect within Russia during the early 20th century. He would generally feature them within positive scenes, with bright colours and a pride in their work but within this drawing the content and tone is somewhat more depressive and honest, pointing to the realities of their difficult lives.

The Russian Avant-Garde would create an important legacy that would eventually spread right across the rest of Europe and bring about new ideas that pushed European art onwards once more. Alongside the likes of Malevich was another highly talented individual by the name of Marc Chagall, who gifted us the likes of On the Roof of Paris, The Wedding and The Three Candles. He himself worked in an expressive manner, far removed from the abstract style of Suprematism, but he respected and loved these alternative approaches and entirely agreed with the need for more modern art within Eastern Europe. Ultimately, he would eventually move to France but much of his legacy was produced whilst living in his native Belarus and he remains much loved there, though his legacy has travelled much further than just this nation.

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