Main content

Black Quadrilateral, 1915

Kazimir Malévich (1879-1935)

Oil on canvas, 17 × 24 cm
MOMus-Museum of Modern Art-Costakis Collection, Thessalonica
© MOMus-Museum of Modern Art


Read Transcription

What is the essential plastic form? In Russia at the time of the First World War, this question seemed key to the process of artistic exploration. The Revolution of 1917 was about to break out, and at a time when new political and economic solutions to social problems were being sought, it also seemed important to discover a new kind of art: one that was opposed to the traditional figuration of the past. The creators of Cubism had already opened up a line of enquiry through the use of geometric figures. However, Kazimir Malévich took things a step further: into abstraction itself.


A black square against a white background was the form capable of generating all forms. A simple figure which, by rotating around its center, drew a circle; and by moving, it could draw a line, or a cross, and more. They were forms without the will to represent any objects, ideas or concepts: they had their own value, although they were also anchored to a spiritual sensitivity. In short, the plastic element had been simplified to the extreme: the first word in the new vocabulary proposed by Malévich. With this work, which was shown for the first time at the exhibition Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings 0.10, the artist launched the Suprematist movement. And in his manifesto, he described it in the following terms:


The objective in itself does not have any meaning for Suprematism, and the representations of consciousness are not of any value to it. Sensitivity, however, is decisive: through sensitivity, art arrives at representation without objects, it arrives at Suprematism. It arrives at a desert where nothing can be recognized, except sensitivity. The artist has rid himself of everything that determined the objective-ideal structure of life and art: he has freed himself from ideas, concepts and representations, in order to listen solely to pure sensitivity.