TRETYAKOV GALLERY, Malevich's Black Square

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The famous Black Square by Kazimir Severinovich Malevich is considered as one of the most important works not only of abstract painting, but of 20th-century Western art. The work is frequently invoked by critics, historians, curators and artists as the "zero point of painting", referring to the painting’s historical significance.

Malevich was born in Kiev, Ukraine in 1879 and died in Leningrad, present-day St. Petersburg, in 1935. He painted the first version of this unusual artwork in 1915. The painting was first exhibited in the same year in Dobychina, a private gallery in St. Petersburg as part of the Last Futurist Exhibition 0.10.

You should know that Malevich also painted four other variants on this piece, the last of which was probably painted in the late 1920s or early 1930s, and not in 1913 as the painter wrote on the back of the canvas.

To understand the meaning of the Black Square one must think of the context in which it was painted. At the beginning of the 20th century, even though the art world was in the midst of great evolution, painting was still tied to the representation of reality and nature, even though some artists such as the Impressionists and the Expressionists did not limit themselves to depicting nature in a realistic and photographic way.

Malevich's work is considered revolutionary precisely because it portrays nothing but color. In fact, Malevich was convinced that pictorial forms should not derive from pre-existing models, or even from our perception, but that artistic creation should be based on reflection on the very elements of painting, and on color in particular, but deprived of any aesthetic or symbolic content. Art has a value in itself and not as an imitation of the world around it. That's why many critics believe that Malevich spearheaded the movement of abstract art.


An interesting fact: Malevich was not the first or only artist to paint black squares. For example, long before his time, in 1617, Robert Fludd painted "The Great Darkness" and in 1843 the French painter, Bertall, painted "View of La Hougue" (night effect), in which the entire scene is obscured by black darkness.


Our visit of the Tretyakov Gallery ends here. MyWoWo would like to thank you - see you again at another Wonder of the World!

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