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Shroud of Christ is a 1908 artwork from Kazimir Malevich which offers something a little bit different from his main body of work. The item was produced using gouache on cardboard.
Malevich would have been in his late twenties at the time that he created this piece, and we have included a larger image of it at the bottom of the page in order for you to appreciate some of the detail that he included within it. There is none of the abstract simplicity that he would become more famous for, such as with Black Square and Black Circle but instead we find a series of objects within the composition that contain repeated symbols. It is almost akin to something by Klimt, even though they were from very different artistic backgrounds, compare Shroud of Christ to The Kiss or The Tree of Life, for example. Malevich himself went on an artistic journey across his career and it took time for him to really understand how he wanted to paint. Although this painting may not be in a style with which we are familiar in terms of his oeuvre, it is nonetheless a stunning piece and certainly deserves recognition within his wider career.
Within this painting we find Christ laid down upon a beautifully decorated cloth which stretches beyond the length of his body. Christ sports a black halo similar to how the artists of the Italian Renaissance would signify divinity (see Masaccio and Giotto). Christ is delivered in a single tone of pinky brown, with little detail other than some subtle touches for facial features and the outlines of limbs. Below the blue cloth is a further patterned finish in yellow which brings a brightness to the scene. Further behind are tall plants leading into the sky, some tall narrow mountains and two suns in either corner of the top of the painting. It is an expressive and uplifting artwork, something contemporary which made use of traditional content for a memorable finish.
This painting is believed to now be a part of the permanent collection of The State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, Russia. During his own lifetime Malevich would face hostility from government bodies who derided his modern style of art, but today he is much loved across the country and his contemporary approach is much more conventional than it would have been at the time. Indeed, in the years that have passed since others have taken elements of his work and progressed them on once more, although it has proved impossible to reach a higher level of abstraction than that achieved by Malevich who himself took things completely to the extreme. The State Tretyakov Gallery serves Russian artists particularly well and offers an excellent introduction into the history of Russian art for those relatively new to this important and highly influential topic.