News — 7 Jun 2017

The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, custodian of the largest Kazimir Malevich collection outside the Russian Federation, has made an exciting discovery. A Malevich drawing came to light during an inventory of the Khardzhiev Collection at the Stedelijk. The find is a previously unknown preliminary drawing for Malevich’s iconic painting An Englishman in Moscow (1914), one of the highlights of the Stedelijk collection.

The Khardzhiev Collection is composed of a collection of Russian avant-garde art and the art historical library of the Russian literary scholar Nikolai Khardzhiev (1903-1996), and has been housed at the Stedelijk since 1998. In 2013-14 the bulk of the collection was the subject of a major Malevich retrospective at the Stedelijk, Tate Modern and Kunsthalle Bonn.

Over the last twenty years, the Stedelijk has conducted extensive research into the Khardzhiev Collection. While carrying out an inventory of Khardzhiev’s library, Geurt Imanse, former Head of Collections at the Stedelijk and an expert on the Russian avant-garde, discovered the 14x10 cm drawing tucked away among the pages of a monograph Khardzhiev had written on artist Pavel Fedotov. The newly-found drawing and the painting An Englishman in Moscow date from what is known as Malevich’ ‘alogical’ period, when the artist created work in a process that defied pictorial convention or logic. Objects and shapes are divorced from reality, and superimposed in an unorthodox composition. This painting is the first step towards Malevich’ new, non-representational style, Suprematism. Included in the drawing and painting are the words ‘partial eclipse’. Malevich, eager to blot out the traditional aesthetic, believed in the necessity of a total eclipse. In which sense, the Englishman peering out of the darkness is a distant cousin of the famous black square of 1915.

Director of the Stedelijk Beatrix Ruf is thrilled by the discovery: “Dating from 1914, this drawing on squared paper is the missing link in the series of drawings we included in the 2013 catalogue Russian Avant-Garde The Khardzhiev Collection. The drawing is clearly a sketch for the painting An Englishman in Moscow, which is in our collection. This discovery not only affirms the importance of research, it also demonstrates the powerful synergy between our Malevich collection and the Khardzhiev Collection.”

Marcel de Zwaan, chairman of the Khardzhiev Foundation: “There’s something touching about this find. Not simply because it’s a beautiful drawing, but because it could almost be seen as a ‘hidden’ portend of the fruitful relationship that would arise between the foundation and the Stedelijk.”

The drawing will be unveiled on 2 June, when it goes on public display, marking the first edition of the Khardzhiev Symposium, held at the Stedelijk Museum on 2 and 3 June.

Russian avant-garde The Khardzhiev Collection

First edition of the Khardzhiev Symposium

The Stedelijk Museum and the Khardzhiev Foundation jointly present The Many Lives of the Russian Avant-Garde, the first edition of the bi-annual Khardzhiev symposium. Taking place on 2 and 3 June 2017, the symposium features some of the most distinguished academic scholars on the Russian avant-garde who will present their latest insights. Speakers include: Alexandra Shatskikh, John Bowlt, Mary Nicholas, Nataliya Zlydneva and Tatiana Goriatcheva. You can find more information about the programme here.

About the Khardzhiev Collection

The unique collection of Nikolai Khardzhiev was entrusted to the care of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in 1998. It encompasses 732 works, including 173 by Malevich (six paintings, the remainder are works on paper). The Russian literary scholar Nikolai Khardzhiev (1903-1996) was a close friend and admirer of the modern painters of his day. Khardzhiev collected work by masters such as Kazimir Malevich, Mikhail Larionov, Olga Rozanova, El Lissitzky, Vasiliy Chekrygin, Mikhail Matyushin and Vladimir Tatlin. Khardzhiev began collecting in the late 1920s, and amassed an important body of work by the Russian avant-garde. In addition to 20 paintings, the collection includes numerous works on paper, including gouaches, water colours, cover designs for Futurist books, drawings and studies. Through its ongoing research into this collection, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam has established itself as an important hub of knowledge on the art of this artistic period. The collection facilitates a fuller understanding of the work of these Russian avant-garde artists.

The catalogue Russian avant-garde The Khardzhiev Collection was published in 2013. Authors: Elena Basner, Geurt Imanse, Frank van Lamoen, Michael Meylac, Sergey Sigey | Stedelijk Museum/nai010 publishers | ISBN: 978-94-6208-104-8 | Hardcover | 544 pages | ENG/NL | € 49.50