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The White Suprematist Cross

Painting, 1927, 88×68 cm

Description of the artwork «The White Suprematist Cross»

In 1918 Kazimir Malevich wrote in his letter to Antoine Pevsner: “We all will be crucified. I have prepared my cross. I beheld it in my paintings for certain”. The cross is considered to be one of three suprematist figures and the painter pictured it in his artworks as frequent as a square and a circle. Could Malevich know that his canvas “The White Suprematist Cross” became an object of a so-called weird art execution?

To begin with that The White Suprematist Cross was one of the artworks, which Kazimir Malevich brought to his exhibition in Berlin in 1927. Till 1958 it was kept at the family of Hugo Haering and then it was sold to the Stedeljik Museum Amsterdam. The scandal struck the painting on January 4, 1997, when Alexander Brener, a Russian-Jewish painter from Moscow, defaced the artwork with a dollar symbol with two vertical lines against the entire width and height of the famous canvas with a canister of green aerosol paint. In this way, as Brener loudly proclaimed, he, first, performed a new art work and, second, demonstrated his protest against commercialization of art. It was not the only similar act of the notorious painter. Not long ago before the incident at the Stedeljik Museum Amsterdam he brutally vandalized the artwork by the Chinese painter Wenda Gu, his installation made of human hair, at the Interpol exhibition in Stockholm. That time art journalists and critics had described the Brener’s outrageous act as extremism and anarchism and we could figure the fuss made over the destroyed Malevich’s artwork. At the moment of the trial of Brener the artwork was considered to be nonrecoverably destroyed; the green paint penetrated into the craquelures and art restorers practically declined the attempts of restoration of the original painting of The White Suprematist Cross.

At last the artwork had been restored and the Museum paid for the restoration work 10,000 US dollars. To be more accurate, court ordered Brener to pay for the restoration work. Besides, Dutch authorities sentenced him to five months in prison and prohibited him visiting the Stedeljik Museum Amsterdam. From then onwards the notorious painter practically stopped his outrageous acts and performances and focused on literature. His last book Lives of Slain Artists was published in 2016.

The period from 1917 to 1918 was called a white period in the Malevich’s oeuvre, he created some artworks composed into a White on White series. Three of four canvases are stored at the Stedeljik Museum Amsterdam and the fourth one The White Square against the White Background is exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. They represent the apotheosis of objectlessness (according to Malevich nonobjectivity) and are included into the list of the most distinguished, recognizable and significant artworks by Malevich. Josef Brodsky mentioned Malevich’s White on White as something not requiring any explanation:

...In February the later the less quicksilver.
i.e.,the more time you have, the cooler Stars
as a broken thermometer: each square meter
of the night is starred with them, like at fireworks.
During the day when the sky is like whitewash,
Kazimir himself could not notice them,
White on white. That is why Angels
Are invisible… (Fourth Eclogue, 1980)

"Suprematism reached its last stage in 1918. Malevich was a courageous artist going to the mat along his selected path: at the third suprematist stage (the first two stages are simple suprematist forms like red and black squares, and multi-figure suprematist compositions the colors left it. In the middle of 1018 the paintings White on White appeared in which white figures are seemed to be melting in the bottomless whiteness”, - wrote Alexandra Shatskikh.

We cannot interpret such white color nature within the terms grounded on the past experience, which include the range of the concepts from innocence to sorrows for Malevich has wiped out all senses from the surfaces of his canvases to reveal the real hidden essence. In his essay God is not Cast Down written in 1920 and published in 1922 Malevich wrote that “the Nature is hidden in the infinity and manysidedness and it does not reveal itself in items, in its manifestations, it has neither language nor shape, it is infinite and immense. The wonder of the Nature is in a small seed containing it all and at the same time we are not able to embrace everything of it. A man holding a seed holds the Universe in his hands and is not able to see it regardless the demonstrativeness of the origin of the latter and all the scientific grounds. To discover the Universe we have to make our approach to the seed unthinkable”. Malevich’s Supermatism is his covert action mission on making the art unthinkable. In his White on White series the artist is reaching his goal: the question how to understand this is unreasonable as to his White Paintings; those who look at them see the Universe.
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Religious scene

Style of art: Suprematism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1927

Size: 88×68 cm

Artwork in selections: 7 selections

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