Magazine article Russian Life

Blacked Out: Malevich Continues to Stoke Debate

Magazine article Russian Life

Blacked Out: Malevich Continues to Stoke Debate

Article excerpt

Just as 2015--the centennial of Kazimir Malevich's iconic painting Black Square--was coming to an end, art historians dropped a bombshell: the black square is not actually all black, and the painting has probably been hanging upside down for decades.

Malevich painted several "black squares," but the first one was done in 1915, and the work almost never leaves the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow because of its fragile state. It is a seminal work at the heart of the artist's vision of "suprematist" art--a new, pure form of expression not limited to the depiction of objects.

Now, in a sensational announcement, the Tretyakov has said that the black square is actually painted over other art, and even has writing underneath. Researchers concluded after x-ray analysis that there could be two paintings beneath the black square, one a finished painting with pink, green and orange colors.

The second painting was of an abstract set of figures and is discernible to eagle-eyed museum-goers through cracks in the black square. But that work apparently did not please the painter, and he finally made the black square--whether because he saw it as the artistic evolution of the previous work, or, equally possible, because there was no other canvas available.

Experts also found Malevich's handwriting beneath the black paint: "Battle of negroes at night." The phrase is the name of an 1897 work by the French painter Alphonse Allais, and it is this inscription that led the museum to realize that the painting has been hanging upside down. …

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