Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morozov, two textile merchants from Moscow, were among the first collectors of modern art in the early 20th century. Shchukin filled his Moscow residence with works by Gauguin, Monet, Renoir, Picasso and Matisse. Shchukin was probably Matisse’s greatest patron at the time and it was for Shchukin’s house that Matisse painted his iconic The Dance.
Among the few visitors allowed to visit Shchukin’s otherwise private collection were young Russian artists, among them Kazimir Malevich who had only recently moved from his native Kiev to Moscow. Malevich was spellbound by the raw energy of his French peers and immediately embarked on digesting the lessons their new art had to offer.
However, rather than simply imitate what he found he soon began to merge their innovations with his own Russian heritage, especially icon painting and folk art. As a result, Malevich soon started to stake an entirely new terrain himself: a form of painting made up purely from colour and form. He called this art ‘suprematism’, as it conveyed ‘the supremacy of pure artistic feeling’, by which he meant that it had been freed from the shackles of representation.
Malevich is at Tate Modern until 26 October