Suprematism: An early twentieth twentieth-century, non-religious art movement originating in Russia during the early days of the Russian Revolution. Includes simplistic shapes and colors instead of representative images of people and things.

Secular: Non-religious

Avant-Garde: Not traditional. In the context of this exhibit, Avant-Garde refers to the group of Russian artists who were creating abstract art in the early twentieth century.

Non-representational: Abstract, using shapes, lines, and colors rather than recognizable figures like realistically drawn people and animals.

Bolshevik: The revolutionary communist government which took control of Russia and formed the Soviet Union in 1922.


Suggestions for further reading:
The Writings of the Russian Avant-Garde

Natalia Goncharova, Rayonists and Futurists: A Manifesto, 1913.
Translated into English.

Kasimir Malevich, The Non-Objective World: The Manifesto of Suprematism. (Mineola, NY: Dover, 2003).

Kazimir Malevich, On New Systems in Art, 1919.

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, In Defense of Abstract Art, 1945.


Clementa Antonova, Visuality Among Cubism, Iconography, and Theosophy: Pavel Florensky’s Theory of Iconic Space, The Journal of Icon Studies (vol. 1, 2015), p. 23.

Nina Gurianova, The Aesthetics of Anarchy: Art and Ideology in the Early Russian Avant-Garde (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012).

Nina Gurianova, Exploring Color: Olga Rozanova and the Early Russian Avant-Garde 1910-1918 (Hoboken, Taylor and Francis, 2002).

Louise Hardiman and Nicola Kozicharow, eds., Modernism and the Spiritual in Russian Art: New Perspectives (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2017).

Natalia Murray, The Unsung Hero of the Russian Avant-Garde: The Life and Times of Nikolay Punin (Leiden: Brill, 2012).

Nancy Perloff and Brian M. Reed, eds. Situating El Lissitzky: Vitebsk, Berlin, Moscow (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2003).

Yevgenia Petrova, Origins of the Russian Avant-Garde (St. Petersburg: Palace Editions, 2003).

Andrew Spira, The Avant-Garde Icon: Russian Avant-Garde Art and the Icon Painting Tradition (Aldershot: Lund Humphries, 2008).

Oleg Tarasov, Framing Russian Art: From Early Icons to Malevich (London: Reaktion Books, 2011).

“Five Ways to Look at Malevich’s Black Square,” The Tate Modern,


Thank you to the Harvard Art Museums and Yale University Art Gallery for providing images from their collections. Thank you to consulting curator Sharon Kong Perring and graphic designer Sarah Richards Taylor.