Portrait of the Artist's Wife 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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Portrait of the Artist's Wife came about in 1933 and was one of a number of portraits by the artist Malevich of his wife at around this time. The original Russian title of this piece was Портрет жены художника.

Malevich's wife looks out to our left, with a relatively relaxed pose. Her right hand is open, with her left arm tight by her side. Her complexion is particularly pale, typical of this part of Europe and she wears just a small suggestion of lipstick, with no other makeup in a fairly modest look. Her outfit is beautiful, but relatively simple and typical of life of that period, with blocks of colour across her top, with a knitted hat covering her hair. One can immediately draw from this that the family does not live an extravagent lifestyle, but is happy, relaxed and well turned out all the same. Her figure is fairly strong, and she may well have been in her middle age by the point that this portrait was produced. Kazimir was clearly proud of his wife and likely would have produced this painting as something to hang within the family home, with no intention of profiting from it financially or spreading the image of his wife elsewhere. He made a further portrait painting of her in the following year.

The artist was one of over a dozen children though many of his siblings failed to survive infancy. Life was hard in Russia at this time, indeed as it was in most of the rest of Europe. Large families were necessary to cope with the shortened life expectancy and everyone who survived into their adulthood would be entirely grateful for their good fortune. Woman such as the wife captured here would therefore have many concerns to deal with, sometimes having to work on top of running the home as well, and so it is pleasing to see this woman still looking fairly content with life despite the difficulties that existed at the time. She is entirely suited to having a portrait being made, with an angelic face and very consistent skin tone. She seems entirely comfortable in posing for her husband, suggesting a confident personality as well as a likelihood that she has posed for him previously.

It is worth noting that this portrait is created in a fairly realistic manner, as the artist chooses something a little more traditional as he produced a sentimental piece. The abstract work of which he is most famous has been avoided as perhaps he chooses to work in a style which he feels his wife would more appreciate, which is more akin to Social Realism, that featured strongly in the careers of some other famous Russian artists. He was therefore treating this as a unique undertaking, something for the family to enjoy and perhaps never even intended for anyone else to find it. As his career and reputation rose in prominence, anything from his career is now documented and better understood, perhaps to a level he would never have expected.