Friday, January 9, 2009

The New Tretyakov Gallery and early 20th Century Russian Art

Yesterday I saw Black Square, an icon of modern art.

Malevich, Black Square, 1915 (New Tretyakov Gallery)

It is touted as the first, truly non-representational painting, and therefore holds a significant place in history. My feelings about seeing it in person remind me of the stories I have heard about seeing the Mona Lisa in person -- only I didn't have to fight with a line of people. (I could stand and stare. I could easily come back three or four times.) Unfortunately, because the painting has begun to crack, it is being preserved behind glass, which means light reflects off the glass and the true presence of the painting is encapsulated. While I did much research on this piece and really looked forward to seeing it, my perusal of the 4th floor at the New Tretyakov Gallery led me to rediscover artists that I had previously pushed aside.

I found that I actually like Kandinsky - seeing his work in person makes a huge difference! The colors, lines, and shapes are dynamic, they seem to pulse and move. Kandinsky's paintings are usually of music -- he painted music -- and the painting seemed to communicate that music with the help of my imagination. Now I'm curious to know more about his methods, the music he used, etc.

Kandinsky, Composition VII, 1913 (New Tretyakov Gallery)

Also, I am much more interested in Tatlin than I previously thought. Tatlin and Malevich are usually pitted against each other in the early 20th Century Russian avant-garde race. Previously, I thought that Malevich won, hands down, but after seeing some of the select works of Tatlin that still exist as well as seeing some incredible reproductions of his work which bridge the divide between painting and sculpture - between 2D and 3D - the race seems closer.

Tatlin, Counter Relief (Material Selection), 1916 (New Tretyakov Gallery)

Unfortunately, the New Tretyakov Gallery has a small selection from each artist of the early 20th Century, some were not in the exhibit and others are presumably spread out all over the world. I spent all my time on one floor and will have to go back to look at the art from other time periods another day -- good thing I'll be in Moscow for a while!


  1. hi Kimberly
    this artist is amazing.I wonder what inspired him to make this?

  2. Kimberly,

    I love your blog about Moscow. They are fascinating.

    Candi Durusu in Virginia