Kazimir Malevich

Made by Lucy Tan

The goal of this project is to look into Kazimir Malevich's life and work and attempt to reproduce one of his pieces with digital tools.

Created: September 24th, 2015



Kazimir Malevich (1879-1935) was born in Tsarist Russia and lived during a turbulent time in history. He was present for WWI and the October Revolution. He originally used a more representational style before beginning to paint in an avant-garde style. He was exposed to cubist principles in the 1910's and began to use them in his work, transitioning into a style known as Cubo-Futurism. However, this did not last long and he soon created a new kind of art style called Suprematism, which promoted the "supremacy of 'pure artistic feeling.'" His  most famous works include Black Square (1915), Suprematist Composition (1916),  and White on White  (1917). Eventually, the government banned him from using nonrepresentational styles, but the impact of his thought-provoking abstract art would linger in the world.

Under Suprematism I understand the primacy of pure feeling in creative art. To the Suprematist, the visual phenomena of the objective world are, in themselves, meaningless; the significant thing is feeling, as such, quite apart from the environment in which it is called forth. 

- Kazimir Malevich, the Supremist Manifesto

Black Square (1915), now cracked, as displayed in the Treytakov Gallery, Moscow
Kazimir malevich  1915  black suprematic square  oil on linen canvas  79.5 x 79.5 cm  tretyakov gallery  moscow.thumb Kazimir Malevich
Suprematist Composition (1916)
Suprematist composition   kazimir malevich.thumb Kazimir Malevich
White on White (1917) as displayed in the Museum of Modern Art, New York City
Kazimir malevich   'suprematist composition  white on white'  oil on canvas  1918  museum of modern art.thumb Kazimir Malevich
Woman with Pails: Dynamic Arrangement (1912)
Womanwithpails original.thumb Kazimir Malevich


The work I chose to replicate is Woman with Pails: Dynamic Arrangement (1912). This is one of Malevich's first explorations into abstract art, and is an example of the Russian cubo-futurism style. It is composed various geometric shapes and primarily of cooler colors with splashes of warmth throughout. The gradients and blending are very deliberate and careful. Still recognizable are the pails and the woman's hand, but the woman is almost lost in the abstraction. This piece is a clear step toward Malevich's eventual abandonment of representational art and toward the beginning of Suprematism.



At first, Woman with Pails appears to be a jumble of shapes. But once you find the hand, it is easy to see one pail, the vague shape of a woman, and then the other pail. It's pretty difficult to differentiate which parts are part of the foreground and which are the background, and besides the figure and the pails, it's near impossible to discern what anything else is. It's very confusing overall, and it made me think about our every day lives. We might be focusing on doing one thing (the pails), and lose track of everything else. 

Woman with Pails: Dynamic Arrangement (1912) - Digital Reproduction
Comparison of Original (left) and Reproduction (right)


Woman with Pails was painted with oil paint on canvas, which is typical of Malevich's work.  Malevich worked in a variety of styles on a variety of canvases, but generally used white chalk grounds and oil paints. He usually did a preparatory sketch on paper for his abstract works, then did a pencil or brush underdrawing on the canvas during which he might add or remove elements. He used succinct brushstrokes when painting, so his painting was probably quick and sure.

I considered various techniques, primarily vector art and digital painting. Since the original piece was a painting, and I have some familiarity with digital painting and am incredibly unskilled with vector tools, I decided to paint. I first did a rough sketch of where everything would go (I suppose you could call it the underdrawing, though the layer stayed on top), then laid down basic colors underneath. Finally, I merged the layers and finished painting, adjusting some shapes as I went.

Woman with Pails - Time Lapse
Xankuroi (2015) - https://youtu.be/fmsOtLdpX14

~1 Hour in Paint Tool SAI using a Wacom Intuos Pen & Touch Small (CTH-480)

Recorded using OBS, edited with Adobe After Effects CC 2015.

Music: Exit the Premises - Kevin MacLeod



I I created a passable visual representation of the work, but I believe I'm missing the clean lines and angles and the vibrant colors of cubo-futurism. The piece is definitely messier than I would've liked it to be. In retrospect, my workflow doesn't mesh well with cubo-futurism. Additionally, my personal struggles with color selection, properly using contrast, and creating clean lines and edges bled into my reproduction.

Ideally I would've had another half hour or so to clean up the lines and adjust some of the colors. Next time, I should work piece by piece rather than coloring the whole image at once, and possibly separate each part to its own layer so as not to mix the colors of adjacent shapes as much. I also think it might have helped to do the initial lines on paper, then scanned it in to paint over.  Some color issues were partially due to having the reference on a differently calibrated monitor, so using same monitor next time would be an improvement. It probably would have been best to do everything as vectors and gradients to keep in line with the cleanliness of cubo-futurism. 



  "Malevich." Tate. Web. 28 Sept. 2015. <http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/malevich>.  

"Kazimir Severinovich Malevich Biography." Kazimir Malevich Biography. Web. 28 Sept. 2015. <http://www.kazimir-malevich.org/biography.html>.    

"Suprematism." Kazimir Malevich Art. Web. 28 Sept. 2015. <http://www.moodbook.com/history/modernism/malevich-suprematism.html>.  

Mandt, Petra. "The Paintings of Kazimir Malevich in the Ludwig Collection from the Art-Technological Point of View." InCoRM Journal 3.Spring-Autumn (2012): 49-58. InCoRM HOME PAGE. InCoRM Association Loi De 1901. Web. 28 Sept. 2015. <http://www.incorm.eu/>.  


Bonus Reproduction: Black Square (1915)

Picture Perfect
Black square.thumb
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The goal of this project is to look into Kazimir Malevich's life and work and attempt to reproduce one of his pieces with digital tools.