The Tram Driver by Kazimir Malevich

Malevich was a highly skilled draughtsman who worked in a number of different genres in order to develop and perfect his talents within this medium. Here we find an unusual work which focuses on a tram driver.

The Tram Driver captures a figurative portrait in which the artist appears to be working whilst out travelling. The driver has their back to us whilst navigating the local streets. The drawing has been completed entirely in a dark tone, presumably from something like charcoal. This makes it hard to deciper too much information about the clothing warn by the driver but we can guess fairly accurately on the type of material and style. His clothing looks thick and fairly rigid, reaching full length, other than two small shoes which poke out from the bottom. Several windows appear across the front of the tram and a wood panelled floor completes the rest of the scene. One can immediately imagine ourselves on this tram, even though the artwork has been delivered in such a limited palette. This drawing is noticeably rare within the artist’s oeuvre, having been completed outdoors, presumably, as well as being in a fairly accurate and traditional manner, which reminds us of the artist’s early training as an art student.

The career of Malevich helped to put Russia in the middle of modern art in the early 20th century, even though elements within the country were positively opposed to it. Today we can place his work within the overall sphere of Russian art and appreciate the developments that occurred as a result of his own legacy, as well as that of several other collaborators of around that time. He remains a prominent name within major Russian art galleries and museums and has also built a strong following abroad, elsewhere in Europe and all across the US. Few abstract artists have become quite as famous as Malevich and sales of his work at auction will always attract some serious buyers from across the globe.

Marc Chagall was another important artist from this part of the world who left behind a similarly significant influence on the future direction of European art. Some of his iconic works included the likes of Birthday, Dream and Adam and Eve from a career which lasted many decades and also took in a great breadth of styles, even covering designs for stained glass windows and also lithographic prints. He is today held in high regard by the public and academics alike although, unlike Malevich, he decided to move across to Western Europe where perhaps his forward-thinking approach might be treated with greater acceptance. He was well known to Malevich and they helped each other whilst being under attack from more traditionally minded authorities, but ultimately both would prevail, much to our own benefit today.

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