January 29, 2020

Malevich Painting on View at Zimmerli

“TWO PEASANT WOMEN”: This c. 1928-1930 oil painting by Kazimir Malevich is on view at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers in New Brunswick through May 17.  On loan from the Moscow-based cultural project Encyclopedia of the Russian Avant-Garde, it supplements the broad collection of Russian art at the museum.

The Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers is now exhibiting the oil painting Two Peasant Women (1928-30) by Kazimir Malevich, a loan from the Moscow-based cultural project Encyclopedia of the Russian Avant-Garde, through May 17. The painting welcomes visitors at the entrance of the museum’s George Riabov Gallery, which features Russian art created from the 14th century to the early 1950s.

“We are really honored by this opportunity to supplement the broad Russian art collection of the Zimmerli Art Museum with works of some of the most significant artists of the Russian Avant-Garde,” said Irina Pravkina, founder of the Encyclopedia of the Russian Avant-Garde. “The unflagging international interest to this period in Russian art could be explained by the uniqueness of avant-garde artists and by their huge influence on the development of world art.”

“We are extremely grateful to the Encyclopedia of Russian Avant-Garde for the opportunity to display this late Malevich painting in our galleries,” said Zimmerli Director Thomas Sokolowski. “Even given the richness of our Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union, combined with and the Riabov Collection and Claude and Nina Gruen Collection of Contemporary Russian Art, this addition enables our visitors the chance to see a major master of early 20th-century Modernism in Russia.”

Kazimir Malevich (1879-1935) is one of the most significant artists of the 20th century. As a painter, graphic artist, and designer — not to mention, initiator of uncommon architectural ideas — he worked in almost all of the modernist trends and styles that arose at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries: from Impressionism and Fauvism, to Cubism and Futurism. In 1915, he introduced his own painterly style, which he called Suprematism. This new abstract approach emphasized the supremacy of color and shape in painting. The emblem of Suprematism, Malevich’s painting Black Square, became one of the most recognizable works in the art world.

Two Peasant Women, which belongs to Malevich’s second peasant cycle during the late 1920s, synthesizes several features of his pioneering avant-garde activities, as well as an appreciation of the principles of icon painting. Thematically, the painting draws heavily from his first peasant cycle of the early 1910s, when the young artist explored themes of rural life with scenes of peasants working or resting. Although the two figures — one wears an orange top and black skirt, the other a white shirt and brown skirt — do not have discernable facial features, their body language suggests that they are conversing while casually walking in a field.

It is believed that the subtext of Two Peasant Women, and of other works from Malevich’s second peasant cycle, addresses the fate of the rural inhabitants of Soviet Russia following the 1917 Russian Revolution. In particular, after Joseph Stalin assumed control of the Communist Party in 1924, rural workers were excluded from his programs that favored the industrialization of the USSR. Malevich’s writings from this period glorified non-urban workers as the most important representatives of humanity, asserting that their role in the natural world deserved to be revered.

The Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers is located at 71 Hamilton Street (at George Street). Admission is free.

For more information, visit www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu or call (848) 932-7237.