Kazimir Malevich’s “Girls in the Fields” is a prime example of the artist’s unique Neo-Suprematist style. Painted in 1932, this work depicts two young peasant girls standing together in a field, with one holding a bouquet of flowers. The figures are rendered in simple, geometric shapes filled with flat areas of color against an abstracted landscape, exemplifying Malevich’s move away from pure abstraction while maintaining the core principles of Suprematism.
This painting is part of Malevich’s series focusing on the lives of Russian peasants in the countryside. Despite coming from humble beginnings himself, Malevich went on to become a pioneer of avant-garde art in the early 20th century. However, he never lost touch with the poorer parts of society, as seen in works like “Girls in the Fields.” There is a sense of innocence and beauty in the painting’s depiction of rural life.
Originally titled “Девушки в поле” in Russian, “Girls in the Fields” embodies Malevich’s unique ability to capture the essence of peasant life through the lens of modern art. The simplified geometric forms and limited color palette allow the human subjects to stand out, emphasizing their central role in the composition. This masterful blending of abstraction and realism underscores Malevich’s standing as one of Russia’s most influential artists.
The Life and Artistic Foundations of Kazimir Malevich
To fully understand the significance of “Girls in the Fields,” it is important to first look at Malevich’s background and earlier stylistic phases that led up to this point.
Malevich was born to a family of ethnic Polish parents in Kiev, at the time part of the Russian Empire. He studied painting and drawing at the Kiev School of Art from 1895 to 1896, then later at the Moscow Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture up until 1910.
The early 20th century was a groundbreaking period of explosive creativity and avant-garde artistic movements. As a young painter, Malevich was heavily influenced by Cubism, Futurism, and other emerging modernist styles. He also found inspiration in traditional Ukrainian folk art.
Malevich began developing his own unique style that rejected any references to reality in favor of pure emotion through the arrangement of shapes and colors. He dubbed this radically innovative new art philosophy Suprematism.
His 1915 work “Black Square” became one of the most famous and enigmatic paintings of the modern era. This singular black square against a white background epitomized Malevich’s complete rejection of representation in service of pure feeling.
In the years immediately after the 1917 Russian Revolution, Malevich was appointed by the government to a teaching position at the reorganized state art school in Vitebsk. There, he had the opportunity to really develop and spread his Suprematist theories. He designed entire architectural exhibitions around the movement, which he saw as a universal visual language.
By the mid-1920s, Suprematism and Russian avant-garde art had come under fire from Stalinist critics who demanded understandable art with Soviet political messaging. Malevich had to evolve again.
The Evolution of His Neo-Suprematist Style
Malevich began reintroducing elements of representation into his works while maintaining the core geometrical, non-objective forms of Suprematism.
This phase came to be known as Neo-Suprematism. It represented a shift towards more synthetic, three-dimensional paintings that incorporated real-world subjects rather than pure abstraction. But the fundamental elements of Suprematism remained, such as geometric shapes, limited color palettes, and an emphasis on compositional arrangement.
The change can be seen when comparing earlier Suprematist works like his 1918 “White on White,” which is simply a white square against a white background, versus a later Neo-Suprematist painting like 1927’s “Peasant Head.” The latter depicts an oval head shape dissected into abstract angular sections.
So by the early 1930s when Malevich produced “Girls in the Fields,” he had already been transitioning into this post-Suprematist phase for some years. But this painting represents one of the finest examples of his melding of representation and abstraction from this period before his death in 1935.
Detailed Analysis of “Girls in the Fields”
Let us now examine the compelling imagery Malevich put forth in this painting that embodies the essence of Neo-Suprematism.
The painting shows two young peasant girls standing together in a field, holding hands. One of the girls clasps a bouquet of flowers in her other hand. Both figures are rendered in a geometric, Cubist style. Their bodies are essentially simplified as flat rectangles, their heads circles.
The girl on the right wears a brown dress with a yellow shirt underneath. Her counterpart on the left wears a teal blue dress with red accents. Malevich uses his signature limited color palette to create a dreamy, almost otherworldly atmosphere.
The girls stand with the green and blue of the landscape visible between them. The field background is painted in an abstract, fuzzy style with odd shapes that resemble hills or clouds hovering mysteriously. The fuzzy texturing provides contrast from the sharp outlines of the peasant girls’ bodies.
Their bold black outlines and crisply rendered forms pop out from the indistinct background, clearly highlighting them as the focal point. The girls appear in the foreground, drawn larger to appear closer to the viewer. Their bodies angled slightly away create depth.
Malevich includes a few other representational details, like puffs of flowers in the girls’ hands and hair. But otherwise, the work is devoid of extraneous details that might distract from the essence of the peasant girls.
The girls’ stances have a whimsical, carefree quality. Their minimal facial features portray youth and innocence. Overall, Malevich’s composition choices draw attention squarely onto the two figures as central subjects while keeping the surrounding landscape dreamlike and symbolic.
The Meaning and Significance Behind This Masterpiece
Malevich was known for frequently featuring peasant themes in his paintings, which reflected his own humble upbringing in rural Ukraine. He never lost touch with the lives and struggles of the working class, even as he rose to fame as an avant-garde master.
“Girls in the Fields” offers a vision of the simple beauty and innocence of rural living. The vibrant young girls represent life and fertility, with flowers symbolizing the bounty of nature. Their world feels almost suspended in time and space against the shapeless, color-blocked landscape.
Some art historians believe the two girls could represent two phases in the life cycle – childhood and adulthood. The girl on the right holding flowers may be the younger of the pair, while the second girl stands ready to transition into womanhood.
Malevich captures traditional peasant culture of the early 20th century through a thoroughly modern lens. He portrays the human spirit via simplified geometric forms in keeping with Suprematist philosophy. This reflects his unique ability to distill the essence of humanity down into abstract shapes and colors.
The figures offer no distinguishing facial features or details that point to individual identities. They represent universal symbols of youth, joy, and the resilient peasant class rather than distinct individuals.
As one of Malevich’s later works before his death from cancer in 1935, “Girls in the Fields” represents the artist’s continued evolution away from pure non-objectivity towards a Suprematist-influenced representation of real subjects.
This transition was likely influenced by the pressures of Soviet authorities who demanded art serve Communist ideology. Malevich chose to blend abstraction and representation to preserve the core visual elements of Suprematism that he had pioneered, while creating universally understandable imagery.
Relationship to Prior Suprematist Works
To fully appreciate the significance of “Girls in the Fields,” it is illuminating to compare it to Malevich’s earlier, more radical Suprematist paintings. For instance, his 1915 work “Black Cross” features a lone black cruciform shape against a white background.
This translation of a cross into a purely abstract geometric form exemplifies pure Suprematism. By contrast, “Girls in the Fields” reintroduces identifiable subjects, albeit in an abstracted, Cubist style.
We can also look to Malevich’s “Three Female Figures” from 1933. Like “Girls in the Fields,” it depicts women through stripped down, angular forms against a flat non-representational background. But the slightly earlier “Three Female Figures” relies on more dynamic geometries and less reference to real-world visuals.
Comparing such works shows how Malevich gradually evolved from pure abstraction by reintroducing some hints of reality into his visual vocabulary, while never abandoning his core Suprematist foundations.
Comparison of Kazimir Malevich’s “Girls in the Fields” with Some of His Other Notable Works
|Girls in the Fields
|Two peasant girls standing in a field rendered in geometric shapes with limited colors against an abstract landscape. Shows Malevich’s blend of abstraction and representation.
|Single black square against a white background. Example of pure abstraction and break from objectivity.
|White on White
|All-white square against all-white background. Further progression into pure non-objectivity.
|Red square tilted against white background. Variation on his black square with introduction of color.
|Multi-colored abstract geometric shapes floating on canvas. Emphasized movement and energy.
|Geometric abstract representation of a head divided into rectangular sections. Early example of return to representation.
|Three Female Figures
|Angular abstract female forms against a minimal background. Also shows shift back to depiction of figures.
Significance Within Art History and Avant-Garde Context
Malevich’s death from cancer in 1935 cut short his continued evolution. But “Girls in the Fields” remains one of his most significant later works that demonstrates his Post-Suprematist phase, which paved paths for additional avant-garde explorations by artists after him.
The Russian avant-garde movement exerted tremendous influence far beyond its place and era. It represented perhaps the most extreme abstraction attempted in the visual arts. “Girls in the Fields” stands out for pushing the boundaries of Suprematism while introducing representation.
While arguably less provocative than Malevich’s completely non-objective earlier paintings, “Girls in the Fields” still reflects his relentless experimental spirit. The work challenged concepts of what subject matter art could depict by filtering naturalistic themes through the prism of pure abstraction.
This painting’s legacy can be seen in various avant-garde artists who succeeded Malevich and continued exploring the balance between abstraction and representation in their own ways, such as Wassily Kandinsky and Marc Chagall.
Beyond Russia, Suprematism influenced movements like De Stijl and Bauhaus. Traces of Malevich’s visual philosophy live on in minimalism, Cubism, abstract expressionism, and countless other 20th century styles. The provocative mystique of “Girls in the Fields” makes it one of his most representative works that speaks to his cross-disciplinary impact.
Ongoing Relevance of This Masterpiece
While created nearly a century ago, “Girls in the Fields” remains a masterpiece that feels elegantly timeless. Its meditative blend of simplicity and symbolism gives it an enduring, universal appeal. The figures feel anonymous yet distinct, frozen in their own little universe.
The limited dreamlike palette, abstracted organic forms, and imaginative use of space echo various avant-garde trends that still feel fresh and innovative. Malevich’s composition choices result in a painting as intriguingly enigmatic today as when it was first painted.
While deeply rooted in its historical and cultural context, the work transcends any one point in time. The grace and humanity of the two girls resonates across generations as a snapshot of perseverance and joy. Malevich captures patterns of life that repeat themselves continuously through the ages.
This ongoing relevance ensures the painting will continue speaking to viewers for many years to come. It remains ripe for personal interpretation and reflection, much like Malevich’s “Black Square” continues enthralling audiences today.
FAQs about Kazimir Malevich’s “Girls in the Fields”
Who painted “Girls in the Fields”?
The painting was created by acclaimed Russian avant-garde artist Kazimir Malevich in 1932.
What style is “Girls in the Fields” painted in?
It is an exemplary work of Malevich’s Neo-Suprematist style, which blended elements of his earlier pure Suprematism with sparing references to realism.
What does “Girls in the Fields” depict?
It shows two young peasant girls standing together in a field holding hands, with flowers in the hand of one girl.
What art movement was Malevich associated with?
Malevich founded the groundbreaking Suprematist art movement in Russia, known for its geometric abstraction. He later evolved into Neo-Suprematism.
Why did Malevich transition from Suprematism to Neo-Suprematism?
He faced pressure from Soviet authorities to make his art more realistic and ideologically aligned. Neo-Suprematism allowed him to retain his signature style while reintroducing some representation.
How does “Girls in the Fields” exemplify Neo-Suprematism?
It blends Cubist-inspired geometric figurative subjects against an abstracted, non-representational landscape based in Suprematist principles.
What meaning and significance does the painting hold?
It reflects themes of peasant life that Malevich identified with. The girls represent innocence, joy, and resilience.
Why is this painting considered avant-garde?
Malevich was an avant-garde pioneer. This painting pushed boundaries by merging abstraction and representation in a new way.
In his relatively brief but intensely brilliant career, Kazimir Malevich produced a radical body of work that had far-reaching impact on the evolution of modern art. While completely abstract styles like Suprematism now seem less shocking, they represent near-scientific artistic experiments.
The 1932 masterpiece “Girls in the Fields” showcases Malevich’s constant quest for innovation within his own oeuvre as he moved Russian avant-garde aesthetics forward into uncharted territory. By blending abstraction and representation, he created an evocative portrait that maintains a spirit of restless artistic imagination.
Nearly a century after Malevich’s death, “Girls in the Fields” stands as one of his most illuminating late works that demonstrates the continued development of his vision up until his early demise. As art and culture progress into new eras, this stunning avant-garde painting will no doubt maintain its stature as the transcendent masterpiece of an artist who fundamentally changed how we see and interpret art.