Девушка с гребнем в волосах, as titled by its creator, Kazimir Malevich, is a portrait of a girl from around 1933. This would therefore come right at the end of the artist’s life, making it one of his very last paintings.
Malevich would use a style known as Neo-Suprematism for this painting and it was a movement which he essentially created as he moved on from his earlier work. There was now a return to reality, with identifiable objects within his paintings. He was still entirely modern, however, and chooses here to construct the female from a number of plains of colour, with only her face being more traditional in detail. Her coat is a combination of green, black, yellow and red, with a swirled collar. Her comb is then placed behind her head in an almost Surrealist manner. Her long blonde hair hangs behind as well. The background of the composition is left entirely blank, just filled in white as the artist avoids distracting us from an already busy portrait. He carefully lays the piece out, with the figure spaced centrally and looking directly into the eyes of the viewer. The painting can now be found in the collection of the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia and is relatively small at 35.5cm x 31cm.
The artist would produce a large amount of figurative work during his career, normally focusing on the lives of the working poor within the more rural communities of his native Russia. He came from humble beginnings himself and would never lose touch with those less fortunate than himself, even after his career started to take off. The common man was also highly regarded within Russia, and their role in feeding the nation was given greater weight as socialist values started to creep more into society in the early 20th century. It is therefore strange that he would become under pressure about his work, though that was mainly due to the style that he used rather than the content.
It is pleasing to see Malevich well represented within some of the world’s most impressive art galleries and museums today, having struggled at times for acceptance within his own lifetime. Much of the trouble was in his native Russia which started to reject modern art as his career progressed, and he tended to find more welcoming voices elsewhere, such as in Germany. His struggles would help to open the door for others, though, and so his legacy goes far beyond just his own paintings and drawings. He would even leave some of his artworks within Germany before returning home after an exhibition as he could anticipate the later issues which threatened him with imprisonment as well as leading to the destruction of some of his other paintings. Thankfully, today, his reputation is restored and established both within Russia and also abroad with a growing interest in the legacy that he left which continues to be felt today.