Russian painter and designer; a leading pioneer of abstract art. Born in Kiev. Moved to Moscow in 1902 and in 1903 entered the School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. At first painted mainly Post-Impressionist landscapes. Began c.1909 to paint peasant subjects, developing by 1912 a tubular stylisation related to Cubism; then made paintings of still lifes and figures 1913-14 in a Cubo-Futurist style. In 1915 embarked on a completely abstract style to which he gave the name Suprematism based on pure geometrical elements in relationships suggesting floating, falling, ascending etc. In 1919 wrote a book On New Systems in Art. Moved to Vitebsk in 1919 at the invitation of Chagall to teach at the art school; organised his supporters into a group under the name Unovis ('affirmation of new art'). Began in 1919 to make architectural models as well as paintings, and had his first one-man exhibition in Moscow in late 1919 or early 1920. In 1922 moved to Leningrad and joined the staff of the Institute for Aesthetic Culture. Travelled to Warsaw and Berlin in 1927 with an exhibition of his works, and visited the Bauhaus at Dessau. In his last years, reverted to painting pictures of very stylised figures. Died in Leningrad.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.470-1