For the Russian avant-garde artist Kasimir Malevich, Vincent Van Gogh was the precursor of what he called 'Futurist Dynamism', while Paul Cézanne anticipated Cubism. According to Malevich, Van Gogh 'began to express dynamics with great force by means of the splitting and scattering of things thrown by energie power onto the path of universal unity of movement towards conquest of the infinite'. Malevich defines the Futurism which Van Gogh anticipates as rejecting 'all the signs of the vegetable world, and of flesh and bone', and of discovering 'forms of expression in a new iron world', and 'a new sign: the symbol of speed, the machine which is preparing to run in a million forms onto the new beaches of the future' (Malevich, 1969: 110). Whether Van Gogh would have recognized himself as a precursor of Futurism is open to conjecture, though his influence on the consequent development of the avant-garde is beyond question.
For Malevich, Van Gogh's work was part of a process by which art engaged with the possibilities of liberation from the earthbound world of material static objects. In the first half of the nineteenth century, developments such as the steam engine and the railways, the electric telegraph, photography and the Universal Postal System had made possible unprecedented degrees of mobility for people, goods and signs. The period between the 1870s and 1890s had witnessed the extraordinary achievements of the Impressionists and the Postimpressionists, which took place in a world transformed by the industrial, technical and social developments of earlier in the century. Yet it remained bound to the earth and to the body. Even with the most radically innovative of such work, for example by Cézanne or Van Gogh, there remains the strong sense of the artist's presence in an environment in