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Kazimir Severinovich Malevich was born on February 23, 1879, to a Polish family under the name Kazimierz Malewicz, in the Kyiv Governorate, which belonged to the Russian Empire. His family settled there fleeing from the region of today’s Belarus after Poland’s January Uprising of 1863 had failed.
He didn’t have any knowledge of any professional artists until age 12, far from centers of culture, his childhood was mostly on villages and beet plantations for sugar since his father was a sugar factory manager. He had an interest in peasant craftsmanship like decorated stoves and walls and embroidery. He started his drawing lessons at age 16 but only for one year, for soon his family moved to Kursk.
Malevich left Kursk after his father’s death in 1904. He moved to Moscow, where he studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture for six years, also in Fedor Rerberg’s studio. In 1911 the group Union of Youth (Soyuz Molodyozhi) made their second exhibition, which Malevich participated, along with Vladimir Tatlin and others, the next year, at their third exhibition Aleksandra Ekster participated. By 1912 Malevich described his work as Cubo-Futuristic. A good example is the painting The Knifegrinder.
In March 1913, has opened in Moscow a major exhibition of paintings by Aristarkh Lentulov, who was one of the foremost avant-garde Russian painters of his time. The said exhibition caused a profound impact on Russian art as a whole, for the key Russian artists of the time, including Malevich, promptly absorbed all the news concepts manifested there.
The Russian Cubo-Futurism extended beyond the visual arts. Also in 1913, premiered Victory Over the Sun, a Cubo-Futuristic Opera written by Aleksei Kruchonykh with the set designs made by Malevich. The piece was received with immediate success.
In 1914, the artist exhibited some of his artworks at the notorious Salon des Independants in Paris. In the next year, Malevich participated in an exhibition called “0,10” or The Last Futurist Exhibition. The showing introduced a non-objective form of painting called Suprematism, developed by Malevich himself, who thought of it as a development of Cubism, as seen in his manifesto From Cubism to Suprematism.
Following the October Revolution of 1819, the Soviet government increasingly promoted an idealized and propagandistic form of art called Socialist Realism, which Malevich firmly repudiated. However, the artist was quietly condoned by the Communists.
By 1925, the tides turned following the deposition of Leon Trotsky from power. As Malevich predicted, upon the rise of Joseph Stalin, the government opposed to any form of abstraction, regarding it as bourgeois art and was not able the represent social realities. As a consequence, his artworks were confiscated, and the artist was prohibited from exhibiting and even creating similar paintings.
Malevich died of cancer on May 15, 1935.