Mystic Suprematism (Black Cross on Red Oval) Kazimir Malevich Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Artist Malevich continues to reduce his compositions down to just a few lines and shapes here, in an approach which became termed Suprematism. The arrangement here gives a clear cross shape, perhaps suggesting a religious connotation, though further study is required to determine any precise meaning that may have been included here.

One cannot get away from the cross shape discovered here, particularly with the strong role of religion found in Russia at the time of this painting. That said, the image is not as clean as elsewhere, with other shapes also muddying the composition and meaning that perhaps the connection is just a coincidence. Again, the artist uses a white background to allow his components to take centre stage without any fringe distractions. A red ellipsis then stretches across the vertical space, reaching up to towards the top of the canvas. There is then two thick black lines that cross the circle, meeting and intercepting each other in the middle. Additionally, the vertical black line continues further down towards the bottom of the canvas and there is also a diagonal black line underneath the red shape, though it is much thinner and therefore, presumably, of less significance. The overall image is striking and immediate, seeming to symbolise something, but in need of further research for those motivated to find out more.

The artist would also produce Mystic Suprematism (red cross on black circle) which is a very similar composition, just with more thin lines at the bottom of the painting as well as with the two colours essentially swapped around, giving a red cross on top of a black circle rather than vice versa as found here. That version is dated at around 1920-1922, making it likely the both pieces were produced at around the same time, maybe even at the same time. Kandinsky was famous for studying colour theory and Malevich himself was interested in the impact of different combinations of tone, regularly experimenting with it right throughout his career. We see abrupt gradients at other times in his life, where as he was working with very clear plains of colour, where variation would come more in the shapes used and how they might interact with each other.

In terms of Kandinsky, he succeeded in Germany after moving abroad but many of his similar pieces would arrive a good decade or so after Malevich had made his own mark. Some of the former's best work included the likes of Squares with Concentric Circles, Composition VII and Composition VIII. He would vary his style superbly and would also help other artists and students by teaching for a good number of years. He was unusual in arriving into the art world relatively late, having served other roles prior to arriving here. The two have clear similarities with some parts of their career, but in other periods they would diverge considerably but today the two are often mentioned in the same breath because of their respective contributions to abstract art.

Mystic Suprematism (Black Cross on Red Oval) in Detail Kazimir Malevich