KAZIMIR MALEVICH AND RUSSIAN FOLK ART
by Yevgenia Petrova

"Sarafan" and : Rukava" (folk female attire)
Second half of 19th century
Roadside cross
1762
Candlestick
1790
St Nilus of Stolbny
First half of the XX century

The Russian art of the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was marked by a wave of interest in folklore, Old Russian and folk art. This interest was accompanied by new discoveries, new collections, publications, and exhibitions acquainting the public with various forms of folk creativity in the form of fully-fledged works of art.
The artists of the Russian avant-garde also contributed to the surge of interest in folk art. Both their individual oeuvres and the movement as a whole were much influenced by the Exhibition of Icon-Painting Originals and Lubok held by Mikhail Larionov and Natalia Goncharova in 1913. Besides the folk prints of various countries and nationalities, the show also included examples of different Russian folk handicrafts, many of which still exist to this day.
Artists of all movements and creative aspirations sought and found their own guidelines in folk art. For some, the links were thematic. For others, folk art was a stylistic basis. For yet others, it offered more general creative principles or formal devices capable of enriching their own quests for new paths in art. The latter was typical of all members of the Russian avant-garde. Their works contain many examples of both the direct and the indirect influence of folk art; the conscious and rational use of folk forms and images, and its purely emotional perception.
Kazimir Malevich's contacts with folk art were predetermined by the environment in which he grew up. Impressions from his childhood and youth left a deep trace in his life and work. The artist himself wrote about his own comprehension of Russian icon-painting and, through it, folk art, as well as the influence of folk art on his oeuvre.
Malevich employed the experience of folk art in an extremely rationalistic manner. He addressed both its general principles and the concrete works and devices of the Russian folk masters. Malevich particularly admired folk attire, and its influence is reflected in his own oeuvre in his elegant and pure tones, the predomination of the traditional folk combinations of red, white, green and yellow (particularly in the works of his peasant cycles), the inner harmony and rhythm of their alternations, and the geometric forms inspired by the ornamental designs encountered in traditional fabrics and embroideries. Carved roadside crosses, graveyard crosses and folk toys, particularly Ukrainian rag dolls with cross-faces, were also reinterpreted by the artist.
Kazimir Malevich probably never saw the actual works of Russian folk art on display at this exhibition. They are, however, typical of the period, and were encountered in the folk circles of various regions of the Russian Empire. These objects represent such characteristic forms of Russian folk art as fretwork, wood painting, wooden sculpture, toys, hand weaving, embroidery and wickerwork. Executed in various parts of the country, they reflect the activities of both major centres of Russian national folk handicraft, like Sergiev Posad near Moscow, the historical centre of wooden toys, as well as the many local centres of peasant art, all of which are important in their own right.



Licenza SIAE no 01 (CGCAOO/01) del 22/10/99
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