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The life and times of Kazimir Malevich at Bonhams Fine Book Sale
An important archive of correspondence and writings from Kazimir Malevich. Estimate: £150,000-250,000. Photo: Bonhams.


LONDON.- An important archive of correspondence and writings from the father of Suprematism, Kazimir Malevich, leads Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts sale in London on Wednesday, 20 June. The 340-page collection, illuminating his artistic activities and personal life against the social and political background of the Soviet era, is estimated at £150,000-250,000.

Kazimir Malevich was the pioneer of modern abstract painting, and his work and thinking had a profound influence on the development of non-objective art in the twentieth-century. The archive, which reveals both his personal and artistic preoccupations, dates from 1913, shortly after his return from his momentous visit to Paris, and ends just before his death from cancer in 1935. It was in Paris that Malevich explored Cubism, developing the style and theory which led to his key work Black Square (1915), the keystone of Suprematist art.

The correspondence and writings trace his development as an artist, theorist and defender of Suprematism. In one undated letter to the poet Grigorii Petnikov, written when he was already ill from cancer, Malevich claims: “The Black Square is the reality of life” and says of non-objectivity: “It is not the death of Art, but the death of the object in art.” He rails against Soviet state-backed Socialist Realist art, writing in 1921 to The People’s Commissar of Enlightenment, “It’s too bad that Pravda {the official newspaper of the Communist Party, and the Russian word for Truth} has taken control of all the truth.”

Malevich often went hungry and wrote of the frustrations of the Soviet system when attempting to obtain a bread ration. In one letter he complains that as the ration was given only to those who worked, he had to pretend his wife was his secretary, and had resorted to posting bread to himself in the country from Leningrad.

During Malevich final illness he wrote several poignant and nostalgic letters, recalling halcyon summers, mushroom-picking, gathering wood and the countryside he loved, and reproaching himself for not describing the beauty of nature in his painting. In 1934, for example, he wrote to Petnikov "The soft, objectless sound of the wind in the forest is pleasant to us for it is not the noise of the city, not the music of mankind, but the music of objectless nature... Wild nature is wonderful, and we too, being wild, can create wondrous phenomena...".

The collection was formed by the writer and art collector Nikolai Ivanovich Khardzhiev (1903-1996), editor of the works of Vladimir Mayakovsky and a friend of Anna Akhmatova.

Bonhams Head of Books and Manuscripts Matthew Haley said: “This is probably the most important archive of Malevich’s letters and writings still in private hands. Malevich’s place in art history is assured but his correspondence also reveals a witty and shrewd observer, a good friend, and a likeable and courageous man of great warmth and humour.”

Kazimir Malevich (1879-1935) was a Russian avant garde artist and teacher, and a major figure in the history of art. His theories on the supremacy of pure feeling over objective representation – Suprematism - and the works he produced based on this concept, had a profound effect on 20th century art and culture. Malevich had an uneasy relationship with the Soviet establishment, and fell out of favour in the late 1920s. His works and papers were confiscated, he was imprisoned briefly, and was forced to paint in a representational style for the rest of his life although he never abandoned his artistic beliefs.





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