Peasant Woman by Kazimir Malevich

This highly complex scene will remind some of the tubular cubism produced by Fernand Leger. Here we find Malevich working in yet another new way, as he consistently changed his approach whilst still remaining within this futuristic style of art.

The original Russian title of this painting was, Женщина с ведрами, which roughly translates as Peasant Woman. Malevich would feature the lives of peasants within many of his paintings and this showed an influence from Russian culture, where the normal person was viewed with far greater love and passion than it is sometimes within more Capitalist systems. Socialism would work hard to promote the needs of the ordinary man and no occupation would be considered more important to the wealth of the nation than those who worked in the fields, providing food for the whole population. This particular painting is dated at 1912 and one has to constantly compare the timeline of Malevich’s paintings with that of his nation’s political situation as the two were closely linked. He would eventually be forced into altering his work due to pressures from the ruling powers, and this sad state of affairs left a regretful aspect to his artistic development.

This style was called Cubo-Futurism and this painting was a part of what became known as the artist’s 1st Peasant Cycle. The painting is around 80cm in height and width and is believed today to be in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York City, NY, US. They themselves have the item listed under the alternative name of Woman with Pails: Dynamic Arrangement and it was purchased back in 1935, before later being confirmed as genuine by the artist’s estate in the late 1990s. Many of the artist’s work would be confiscated and destroyed by ruling powers who rejected his modern approach but thankfully this intelligent man would leave items around after exhibitions abroad in order to reduce the impact of their interference and cultural vandalism – this is how so many survived to the present day even though he himself was trapped within the country in his latter years.

The Cubo-Futurist style would break up an image from reality into small shapes, just as with other styles of Cubism. Malevich’s approach would be highly busy, where no background as such really existed, but just involved smaller and smaller shapes. The artist would make use of heavy gradients on each of his forms which helped to create a feeling of depth within an otherwise flat composition, though his heavy use of dark tones would leave a fairly abrupt finish that led some to prefer other parts of his oeuvre. In truth, there is plenty to enjoy and learn from right across his career, and periods such as this simply add more to the mix of what was an extraordinary artist, even though most attention will always remain on his most famous paintings, such as Black Square, Suprematist Composition and White on White.

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