Analysis of The Black Square by Kazimir Malevich through Modernism

Analysis of The Black Square by Kazimir Malevich through Modernism


The Black Square by Kazimir Malevich is a famous creation of Russian art painted in 1915. The painting was a turning point for the development of Russian avant-garde which ushered the era of supremacism and modernity. In his painting, Malevich incorporated elements of supremacism like an embodiment of a clear sensation of space and thick local colors battle to attain harmony (Malevich, n.d, p1). The black square against the white background was a symbol of art supremacism. Through sticking to simple geometric shapes and a limited range of colors, Malevich managed to represent the new movement (Muller, 2003,p5). According to Malevich. The Black Square acted as a spirit of sensation and feelings which pervades everything. The paper will focus on understanding the Black Square through modernism while analyzing the literature review od modernism, The Black Square by Kazimir Malevich and analyzing the picture.

The literature review of Modernism

Modernism was a radical approach that revitalized the way life, politics, arts, and science were viewed by modern civilization. Modernism flourished between 1900 and 1930 representing rebellious mood where the people showed rebellion against the corrupt, racist, lethargic and complacent culture of European (Modernity, 2019). During this period, there was high movement from the villages to the urban cities where industrialization was at the peak. It was a leap season from the pre-industrial to industrial due to advancement in technology and science.  Modernity was influenced by those people who felt some practices like religion, nature of arts and architecture, social organization and faith were outdated in the changing social, economic and political status. According to Hardiman and Kozicharow (2017, p18), modernism was a revolt against conservative values of realism. The move into modernism meant to reject traditions and its reprise, incorporation rewriting, recapitulation and revision into a new form. The era of modernity rejected the certainty of enlightenment and dismissed the existence of compassionate and all-powerful God.

The history of modernity began in the first half of the 19th century when Europe was facing wars and revolution. The frequent wars had made people turn away from the reality of political and social realities and instead focused on romanticism which was a revolt against values of Industrial Revolution (Groys, 2013, p. 25). By the late 19th century, there were stable governments although people were beginning to detach from social values like religion. Thus, in the late 19th century, there was a significant focus on the idea of civilization. The wave of modernity began in early 1900 where people saw the need to push aside past thinking and revise knowledge in the wake of industrialization, change in science and technology and policies. It was during this time that artists began focusing their works to reflect on modernity. Early artists like Pablo Picasso reinvented the art of painting.

Most musicians, artists, exhibitors, writers, poet, and many others joined the move into modernity from 1910. The artists wanted to cement in the public view the perception that the world was changing. There was a lot of changes across Europe like the introduction of democracy and new laws and codes which contributed to immoral behaviors like corruption. There were liberty and freedom which gave the public the freedom to speak, form religious and revolt bad laws. The advancement in science and technology brought changes on the way the society operated especially on the artistic field. Artists began focusing on using the new technology to review impression and feelings. The modernists like Malevich opposed every system that they felt would harness their creativity.

The literature review of The Black Square by Kazimir Malevich

Many authors have analyzed the Black Square by Kazimir Malevich in the view of modernity. The three stages of futurists in Italy, suprematism, and constructiveness in Russia represented the changing social and political sectors. Artists like Malevich were the pioneers of modernism in their artwork when he engaged in geometric abstraction. Through his perception of painting, Malevich marked the beginning of supremacism and the Russian avant-garde movement. Malevich ideas on painting were crucial in the formation of abstract art. In his research, Cruz (2017, p 6), shows that Malevich picture of the Black Square represented a revolution in Russia which the society was enjoying. The concept of supremacism revealed in the artwork was a representation of what had gone on before in the world of arts. The arts showed the importance of adapting to change in the artwork especially on opening up windows of creative opportunity for the avant-garde and revolutionary. According to Shatskikh (2012, P8), the first phase of The Black Square was just an ideology of supremacist which paved the way for other artists.

According to Dorment (2014, n.p), the artwork is one of the vital picture of the 20th century based on its simplicity, geometric abstraction, the embodiment of suprematism and the movement. The use of black square represented a landmark of modernism. Through reducing into geometric shape and a single color, Malevich managed to remove the representation of nature and emotional content. The image portrayed a political significance of supremacism in the 20th century. Malevich used primary colors of black and white to signify the feelings and attitude of people on modernism (Tupitsyn, 2017, p23). Suprematism in art eliminates individuality, expression, memory, and self.

The Black Square on a white field represented the changing society where everything that was loved and cherished is lost in the modernism. The image shows how in the wake of industrialization, the unity in the community get lost as people migrated to cities, the social values and ethical politics disappear as immoral behavior takes over. The image reflected the first world war which came immediately after the painting showing that love, peace, and feelings were lost (Vidrih, 2016, p345). What people cared about during that time was becoming wealthy as the Russian, and other European states concentrated on becoming a capitalist.


The Black Square by Kazimir Malevich was the artwork that ushered the era of modernity in 1915. The painting relied on the use of abstraction consisting of basic geometric form that focused on spiritual purity. When painting the picture, Malevich ignores the idea of the culture of ethnicity since it was a universal representation. According to Little (2012, p.23), “Suprematist paintings had no narrative or social comment, nor did they respect any traditional genres of painting. Malevich thought of Suprematism as the ‘New Realism”. The picture represented the changes that were being witnessed across Europe as a result of the change in technology, religious tension and introduction to democracy (Jakovljevic, 2004, p.21). In his manifesto, Malevich considered the supremacy in his Black Square image as “the supremacy of pure feeling in creative art’. ‘To the Suprematist the visual phenomena of the objective world are, in themselves, meaningless; the significant thing is feeling, as such, quite apart from the environment in which it is called forth” (Douglas, 2018, p32). The picture portrays a feeling of nonobjectivity. In the modern era, the supremacism of art continues to be misunderstood by the public. Even in the changing society, feelings and emotions are what describes a human being.

The drawing of Black Square on the white field carrying abstraction to its ultimate geography signify “void.” The image shows the void beyond the supremacy of pure feeling. Also, the image represents an icon of the final path. It signifies the supremacy of God as all-knowing, powerful and all-seeing (Malevich, n.d.). By placing the image on the Orthodox corner, Malevich tries to prove the holiness of God and the only lead to perfection.


In conclusion. The Black Square by Malevich represents supremacy and the era of modernism. The con was placed on the same spot to Russian Orthodox icon representing spiritual signifies. The image represented the move into modernism where the people were abandoning the old social and political life which they used to cherish and embrace. The move into modernism driven by a change in democracy, law, growth in science and technology and industrialization had made Europe focus on being capitalist. Malevich through his painting the Black Square represented the view of modernity in Europe.




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Cruz-Uribe, T., 2017. Following The Black Square: The Cosmic, The Nostalgic & The Transformative In Russian Avant-Garde Museology (Doctoral dissertation).

Tupitsyn, M., 2017. From Black Square to Room Square. Journal of Visual Culture, 16(1), pp.20-27.

Douglas, C. and Lodder, C., 2007. Rethinking Malevich: proceedings of a conference in the anniversary of Kazimir Malevich’s birth. A celebration of the 125th Pindar Pr, 255-261.

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Shatskikh, A., 2012. Black Square: Malevich and the origin of Suprematism. Yale University Press.

Jakovljevic, B., 2004. Unframe Malevich!: Ineffability and Sublimity in Suprematism. Art Journal, 63(3), pp.18-31.


Vidrih, R., 2016. Iconisation at Work. Malevich’s Black Square, the Modern Icon at Tate Modern. IKON, 9, pp.343-354.

Muller,K.B.(2003) Kasimir Malevich – and introduction. Deutsche Bank ArtMag ( (Accessed April 10 2019)

Hardiman, L. and Kozicharow, N. eds., 2017. Modernism and the Spiritual in Russian Art: New Perspectives. Open Book Publishers.

Little,S.(2012)  Isms: Understanding Modern Art. London: A & C Black Publishers Ltd.

Douglas, C., 2018. Defining Suprematism: The Year of Discovery. In Celebrating Suprematism (pp. 29-43). BRILL. Malevich, K. (n.d.). Kazimir Malevich. Black Square.. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Apr. 2019].

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