Painterly Realism of a Football Player—Color Masses in the 4th Dimension is believed to have been completed by Malevich in around late 1915, just as he was throwing himself entirely into this new world that he himself termed Suprematism.
The label itself for this movement came from how he believed that flat shapes and lines should now take supremacy over the reality of the natural world. He wanted to create a whole new environment in which traditional thoughts and emotions could be entirely replaced by something new. He was working at a time of political upheaval in his native Russia and so change was very much in vogue at the time. He was essentially on a journey towards true abstraction, a path similar to the ones taken by Mondrian and Miro in Western Europe. It would be harder for Malevich to make the same impact because of the situation within his own country but he was still able to achieve so much, partly because of his intelligence in being able to predict some of these problems ahead of time. One example would be his decision to leave many of his best paintings in Germany after a successful exhibition which allowed his work to speak for him whilst he was trapped back in his home nation.
The artist had previously been working in the style of Cubism and Futurism but chose to push onwards into greater abstraction in around 1914. To work in such a modern style more than a century ago is what marks Malevich out as something quite so special – he was very much at the forefront of bringing in new ideas which today still feel entirely contemporary and ‘fresh’. The title of this particular work suggests that actually the artist would have real forms in mind when producing these series of shapes and lines, even though he had worked hard to distract the viewer away from thinking in this way. He would later mention that he did not want the titles of the paintings to place images of reality in one’s mind, but just to indicate that reality had influenced some of these combinations and that they werent’t simply random arrangements produced on a whim as some may have thought.
This painting can be found in the Chicago Art Institute, USA. Whilst it has been within their collection for a number of years, they have also allowed it to be loaned out for exhibitions fairly frequently, particularly in the second half of the 20th century. Many exhibitions have focused entirely on the career of Malevich as a means to reminding us all of the incredible work that he produced as well as how it impacted a number of other artists. Whilst he does not have quite the same fame as Kandinsky, there are many similarities between the two artists and both tend to receive a warm reception with international audiences whenever their work is put out on display. This is the only painting from Malevich to be found in the Chicago venue, but they do also have other items from his career such as sketches and illustrations, including an early preparation drawing for his iconic Black Square which remains perhaps his most famous painting of all.