Kazimir Malevich

Dynamic Suprematism

1915 or 1916

Original title
Supremus
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 803 x 800 mm
frame: 1015 x 1015 x 80 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1978
Reference
T02319

Summary

Dynamic Suprematism is an abstract oil painting, square in its proportions, by the Russian artist Kazimir Malevich. Pictured against an off-white background, the canvas features at its centre a large pale blue triangle that is tilted at a slight angle towards the left of the composition. Painted on top of the central triangle and congregated around its three points is a sequence of geometric forms in a range of colours that are positioned at varying angles. Particularly prominent are a small triangle in deep blue towards the top of the work, a bright yellow rectangle to the right of centre and a larger cream rectangle just below it.

This work, which is also known as Supremus 57, consists of a uniform layer of paint, and seems to have been painted directly onto the canvas without the artist using any preparatory layers or drawings (see Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery’s Collection of Modern Art Other than Works by British Artists, London 1981, p.471). Inscribed on the back of the canvas in Latin script are the title and date of the work, while written in Cyrillic is the artist’s name and ‘Moskva’ (a transliteration of the name of the city of Moscow).

There has been some uncertainty over the exact dating of Dynamic Suprematism. Previous accounts have suggested that it was shown in the seminal group show entitled The Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings 0.10, which opened in Petrograd (now known as St Petersburg) in December 1915 and suggest that it was made in that year. However, more recent scholarship has cast doubt on the work’s presence in the 0.10 show, and it is now dated ‘1915 or 1916’ (see ‘Catalogue Entry: Kazimir Malevich, Dynamic Suprematism’, Tate, http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/malevich-dynamic-suprematism-t02319/text-catalogue-entry, accessed 17 June 2016.

Dynamic Suprematism can be closely related to the development of suprematism, a movement established by Malevich in 1913 that explored colour and form in painting through basic geometric shapes. ‘Supremus’ was the term that Malevich used to title his suprematist works, which were completed between 1915 and 1922. The precise logic and meaning of the artist’s numbering system remains unclear.

In a 1919 text, Malevich explained how his conception of suprematism developed:

It became clear to me that new frameworks of pure colour must be created, based on what colour demanded and also that colour, in its turn, must pass out of the pictorial mix into an independent unity, a structure in which it would be at once individual in a collective environment and individually independent.
(Kazimir Malevich, ‘Non Objective Art and Suprematism’, in Zhadova 1982, p.282.)

In 2014 the curator and critic Nicholas Cullinan claimed that works such as Dynamic Suprematism ‘were able to introduce a chromatically richer and more subtle range of colours which signaled a shift from the so-called “static suprematism” that preceded them to the more lively and intricate compositions and palettes of “dynamic suprematism”’ (Nicholas Cullinan, ‘Colour Masses’, in Borchardt-Hume (ed.) 2014, p.120).

Born in 1879 to Polish parents, Malevich studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (1904–10). His early work consisted of portraits and landscapes particularly influenced by expressionism and cubism. Black Square 1915 (State Tretyakov Museum, Moscow) was among Malevich’s abstract works displayed at the 0.10 exhibition. In 1916 he began a series of ‘white on white’ works, which later included the painting Suprematist Composition: White on White 1918 (Museum of Modern Art, New York). From 1919 onwards Malevich created architectural models that he called ‘architectons’, and the artist returned to figurative painting in the late 1920s with a particular focus on depicting agriculture and rural life.

This work was purchased from the artist by the Soviet state in May 1919. It entered the collection of the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow in 1929 where it remained until 1975, when it was purchased by the company Comvalor Finanz AG. Tate acquired the painting in 1978.

Further reading
Larissa A. Zhadova, Malevich: Suprematism and Revolution in Russian Art 1910–1930, trans. by Alexander Lieven, London 1982, reproduced no.56, unpaginated.
Andréi Nakov, Kazimir Malewicz: Catalogue Raisonné, Paris 2002, reproduced p.272.
Achim Borchardt-Hume (ed.), Kazimir Malevich, exhibition catalogue, Tate Modern, London 2014, p.120, reproduced p.137.

Richard Martin
June 2016

Supported by Christie’s.

Display caption

Malevich’s abstract paintings belong to the intense period of artistic experimentation that coincided with the 1917 Revolution in Russia. He abandoned representative images in favour of what he called Suprematism in 1915. In these works he used severely reduced geometrical forms – most famously a black square on a white canvas – whose meditative quality served as secular equivalents to Russian icons. He soon moved towards greater energy in paintings such as Dynamic Suprematism in which forms pull and push without relying on any reference to the physical world.

Gallery label, November 2015

Catalogue entry

Kasimir Malevich 1878-1935

T02319 Dynamic Suprematism c.1916

Inscribed 'Supremus | N 57 | Kazimir Malevich | Moskva | 1916' on back of canvas (Kazimir Malevich and Moskva in cyrillic old spelling)
Oil on canvas, 31 5/8 x 31 5/8 (80.2 x 80.3)
Purchased from Comvalor Finanz AG through Thomas Gibson Fine Art Ltd. (Grant-in-Aid) with aid from the Friends of the Tate Gallery, the Gytha Trust, the Trustees of the Tate Gallery and Discretionary Funds 1978
Prov: Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow (purchased from the artist 1929); Comvalor Finanz AG, Zug
Exh: [?0.10 Poslednaya futuristicheskaya vystavka, Salon N.E. Dobychina, St Petersburg, December 1915-January 1916 (57)]; Bubnozy Valet (Jack of Diamonds), Moscow, November 1916 (among 140-99, all listed as 'Suprematism of Painting'); Vystavka proizvedenii K.S. Malevicha, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, 1929 (works not listed); Khudozhniki RSFSR za 15 let, Russian Museum, Leningrad, November 1932-May 1933 (1239) as 'Dynamic Colour Composition'; Historical Museum, Moscow, June 1933 (1239)
Lit: Troels Andersen, Malevich: Catalogue Raisonné of the Berlin Exhibition 1927, including the Collection of the Stedelilk Museum Amsterdam (Amsterdam 1970), p.106 (note on no.91), repr. p.29 as 'Dynamic Suprematism' 1916
Repr: Camilla Gray, The Great Experiment: Russian Art 1863-1922 (London 1962), pl.XVI in colour as 'Dynamic Suprematism' 1916; Kasimir Malewitsch, Suprematismus - The gegenstandlose Welt (Cologne 1962), pl.15

This picture belonged for over forty years to the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. According to information from I.P. Gorin of the Ministry of Culture of the USSR, it was shown in the three exhibitions of 1916, 1929 and 1932-3 listed above and was acquired in 1929 from an exhibition (presumably the Malevich retrospective at the Tretyakov Gallery itself). A certificate from A.G. Khalturin, head of the Department of Visual Arts and the Preservation of Monuments of the Ministry of Culture of the USSR confirms that permission was given in December 1975 for it to be exported from the Soviet Union.

The canvas is inscribed on the back 'Supremus No.57 Kazimir Malevich Moscow 1916'. A painting inscribed 'Supremus No.50' belongs to the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and two entitled 'Supremus 56' and '58' are in the National Russian Museum in Leningrad. It seems possible that these numbers refer to the exhibition 0.10 held in St Petersburg from 20 December 1915 to 19 January 1916 in which nos. 48-59 were works by Malevich grouped together under the title 'Painterly Masses in Movement'. (Nos. 60-77, also by Malevich, were entitled in contrast 'Painterly Masses in Two Dimensions in a state of Rest'). However both the picture now in the Tate and the one in the Stedelijk Museum are dated on the back 1916, which conflicts with the fact that the exhibition opened in mid-December 1915, and neither of them appears in the installation photographs of parts of the exhibition.

T02319 also bears the stamp of the exhibition Khudozhniki RSFSR za 15 let (Artists in the RSFSR through 15 years) on the stretcher and seems to have been listed in the catalogue as 'Dynamic Colour Composition', though it has usually been known in recent years as 'Dynamic Suprematism'. A closely related pencil drawing measuring 34.2 x 33.8 cm was placed on extended loan to the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1935 but disappeared by 1938 and is still untraced. Troels Andersen reproduces it on p.106 of his monograph with a note that it is a copy of the present work, which was then still in the Tretyakov Gallery. However various minor differences, such as fewer shapes and slight differences in the colours and the placing of the forms, suggest that it was either a preliminary study or a later variant. X-ray photographs of the picture itself confirm the uniformity of the paint layer and the absence of any lower layers or drawing, so the composition seems to have been completely worked out in advance and the forms drawn straight onto the canvas.

Published in:
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.471-2, reproduced p.471


Press Release

Malevich

2014
Press release introducing the upcoming Malevich exhibition at Tate Modern

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