Kazimir Malevich
Dynamic Suprematism 1915 or 1916

Artwork details

Artist
Kazimir Malevich 1879–1935
Title
Dynamic Suprematism
Supremus
Date 1915 or 1916
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.