Kazimir Malevich aimed to reduce art to its smallest component parts, atoms of art if you like. His drawings played an important role in preparing for each of his career highlights, experimenting directly with line, form and colour.
The geometrical forms found in many of Malevich’s paintings were ideally suited to ad-hoc sketches, such was their simplicity. Drawing itself is a highly regarded artistic skill which many consider a necessity for any artist. The Spanish Renaissance, for example, refused to back any painter who could not construct the same perfection with charcoal or other drawing tools (Velazquez was not taught the same by his father, however). Other movements have been more flexible. Once Malevich had mastered accurate geometrical shapes and lines, he was instantly able to prepare for a large proportion of his work. Other styles found in his career required greater detail, variety and practice. The 20th century marked the point at which study drawings were beginning to be treated as independant artworks in their own right, just than just supporting elements to larger projects.
The main photograph displayed here is of a recently-discovered Kazimir Malevich drawing which we believe to have been a study piece for a later painting, namely An Englishman in Moscow (1914). A quick comparison underlines how this obvious conclusion was drawn, with a near identical composition in both artworks, just with the latter having the addition of colour from Malevich’s choice of oils. He also likely would have spent more time and added more precision to the final painting. Study sketches tend not to be treated with the same care as paintings and this perhaps suggests that there may have been other preparatory drawings for this work, and others, that have since been lost or damaged. This particular drawing was discovered in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam amongst historical documentation and is now on show at this same institution.
Malevich released a collecton of 34 drawings which represented his Suprematist ideals, most of which were derived from a spiritual core. He wanted to strip down art to its smallest components, its atoms, and represent only these within his work. This abstract approach, something never really seen in the world before, would display emotion through circles, squares, crosses and lines. The addition of colour for his paintings would really lift this art movement to a new level and many would find the likes of Black Cross, Black Circle, Black Square and Suprematist Composition to be memorable, striking and emotional impactful. To consider that he was creating this style in the early 20th century, amidst a country in political turmoil and revolution, makes it all the more extraordinary.
The artist was most famous for creating the Suprematist movement but in actual fact was involved in many other art mediums during his career. A quick browse of his paintings will reveal influences on his work, as well as early examples of art that would inspire other later in the 20th century. Art history itself is a timeine of artists passing on ideas and techniques to the next generation, whilst adding their own new ideas themselves. Spread across many centuries, this is how we started in the Early Renaissance and eventually arrived at the truly abstract art movements that exist today. Malevich’s own career took in elements of Cubism, Abstraction, Cubo-Futurism, Constructivism and Fauvism, to name just a few.