Portrait of a Young Woman by Kazimir Malevich

Portrait of a Young Woman was created by Russian painter Kazimir Malevich in 1908-1909. It therefore shows his progression as a young artist prior to his spell in abstract art.

The model looks directly at us in this painting but with a somber, relatively disinterested expression on her face. The artist paints her hair in a golden yellow colour and fills the background with a similar tone. She has a red necklace and blue green clothing but the artist is likely to have changed the palette considerably from what he saw in person at the time. The artwork is also cropped in a slightly unusual manner which means the face dominates most of the composition and very little room is left for anything else. Traditional portraits may capture a model from the shoulder up, straight on or perhaps instead from around the waist up.

Artist Malevich did not specialise in portraiture by any means, but he did revisit this genre several times. For some of his lesser known portraits, we have not been able to confidently identify the sitting model but this should not have a great bearing on how we judge the piece from both a technical and artistic standpoint. Malevich was inspired by a number of western artists across different contemporary styles and would produce his own versions of these in the early part of his career. You will find examples of Impressionism, Fauvism and Cubism as he continued to search for direction.

The artist would later produce portraits in the more standard angles and crops but this piece remains important because of how he embraces a more contemporary and experimental approach. The unfriendly look on the model’s face in this painting perhaps suggests that she might not have been used to this scenario. Perhaps she was known to the artist already and persuaded to sit for him and then found it to be a somewhat uncomfortable experience. This artwork now resides within a public collection in the Dutch city of Amsterdam where you can find many more examples from Malevich’s career.

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