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El Lissitzky

/Works and biography

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Untitled, ca. 191920
Oil on canvas, 79.6 x 49.6 cm
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice 76.2553 PG 43


This painting reveals the principles of Suprematism that El Lissitzky absorbed under the influence of Kazimir Malevich in 191920. Trained as an engineer and possessing a pragmatic temperament, Lissitzky soon became one of the leading exponents of Constructivism . In the 1920s, while living in Germany, he became an important influence on both the De Stijl group and the artists of the Bauhaus. Like Malevich, he believed in a new art that rejected traditional pictorial structure, centralized compositional organization, mimesis, and perspectival consistency. In this work the ladder of vividly colored forms seems to be floating through indeterminate space. Spatial relationships are complicated by the veil of white color that divides these forms from the major gray diagonal. The linkage of elements is not attributable to a mysterious magnetic pull, but is indicated in a literal way by the device of a connecting threadlike line. The winding line changes color as it passes through the various rectangles that may serve as metaphors for different cosmic planes.

credits: Hangar Design Group