El Lissitzky
Iconic figure
of the Russian avant-garde
Эль
Intro
An architect, artist, designer, the first Russian graphic designer, master of photomontage and engineer.
Фотомонтаж
A supporter of Suprematism, he actively worked on the transition of this trend into the realm of architecture, and his projects were decades ahead of their time.
El Lissitzky
1910s
For the Voice, a collection of poems by Vladimir Maiakovski
This book presented combinations of layouts and a narrative structure that at the time was totally
original
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Master of photomontage
Graphic designer
original
1920
Neboskreb
Words that are seen and not
heard"
Intro
He met and worked with the works of Gideon Brinkmann, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Raoul Hausmann, Hannah Höch, Hans Arp, Theo van Doesburg, László Moholy-Nagy, and on his trips to Europe he organised exhibitions, gave lectures, designed the covers of magazines such as Broom and Wendingen, illustrated books.
El Lissitzky
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Early years
Первые шаги
Lissitzky was born on November 23, 1890 in Pochinok, a small Jewish community 50 kilometres southeast of Smolensk, former Russian Empire. During his childhood, he lived and studied in the city of Vitebsk, now part of Belarus, and later spent 10 years in Smolensk living with his grandparents and attending the Smolensk Grammar School, spending summer vacations in Vitebsk.
1916
Cold synagogue in Mogilev zodiacal lion
El Lissizky helped to develop suprematism with his mentor, Kazimir
graphic designer
master of photomontage
1919
Chad Gadya
Always expressing an interest and talent in drawing, he started to receive instruction at 13 from Yehuda Pen, a local Jewish artist, and by the time he was 15 was teaching students himself. In 1909, he applied to an art academy in Saint Petersburg, but was rejected.
Ранние годы
Considered one of the most controversial creators of the interwar period and a lover of experimentation, El Lissitzky approached artistic creation as a response to the demands of his convulsive era, a time of crisis and profound change and also of faith in industry and revolution.
While he passed the entrance exam and was qualified, the law under the Tsarist regime only allowed a limited number of Jewish students to attend Russian schools and universities.
1913
Man
Young Lissitzky
graphic designer
master of photomontage
Wandered through Europe
Like many other Jews then living in the Russian Empire, Lissitzky went to study in Germany. He left in 1909 to study architectural engineering at the Technische Hochschule in Darmstadt, Germany.
During the summer of 1912, Lissitzky, in his own words, "wandered through Europe", spending time in Paris and covering 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) on foot in Italy, teaching himself about fine art and sketching architecture and landscapes that interested him.
1912
El Lissitzky
1913
Man
1916
Sea Horse and Bird from Druya synagogue
Early
years
His way to
Супрематизм
In May 1919, upon receiving an invitation from fellow Jewish artist Marc Chagall, Lissitzky returned to Vitebsk to teach graphic arts, printing, and architecture at the newly formed People’s Art School — a school that Chagall created after being appointed Commissioner of Artistic Affairs for Vitebsk in 1918.
Teachers at the Art School in Vitebsk. Seated (from left to right): El Lissitzky, Vera Yermolayeva, Marc Chagall, David Yakerson, Yehuda Pen, Nina Kogan and Aleksandr Romm
1910s
For the Voice, a collection of poems by Vladimir Maiakovski
The book presented combinations of layouts and a narrative structure that at the time was totally
original
1920
Neboskreb
master of photomontage
suprematism
Lissitzky was engaged in designing and printing propaganda posters; later, he preferred to keep quiet about this period, probably because one of main subjects of these posters was the exile Leon Trotsky.
1919
Chagall also invited other Russian artists, most notably the painter and art theoretician Kazimir Malevich. However, it was not until October 1919 when Lissitzky persuaded Malevich to relocate to Vitebsk.
The move coincided with the opening of the first art exhibition in Vitebsk directed by Chagall. Malevich would bring with him a wealth of new ideas, most of which inspired Lissitzky but clashed with local public and professionals who favored figurative art and with Chagall himself.
Suprematist composition
1919
The artist constructs
a new symbol with his
He stated: "The artist constructs a new symbol with his brush. This symbol is not a recognizable form of anything that is already finished, already made, or already existent in the world – it is a symbol of a new world, which is being built upon and which exists by the way of the people."
brush
Дорога к супрематизму
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His way
1910s
For the Voice, a collection of poems by Vladimir Maiakovski
The book presented combinations of layouts and a narrative structure that at the time was totally
original
1920
Neboskreb
Between
opposing artistic paths
Klin red beat white
master of photomontage
Lissitzky subscribed fully to suprematism and helped further develop the movement
After going through impressionism, primitivism, and cubism, Malevich began developing and advocating his ideas on suprematism aggressively.
In development since 1915, suprematism rejected the imitation of natural shapes and focused more on the creation of distinct, geometric forms. He replaced the classic teaching program with his own and disseminated his suprematist theories and techniques school-wide.
Chagall advocated more classical ideals and Lissitzky, still loyal to Chagall, became torn between two opposing artistic paths. Lissitzky ultimately favoured Malevich’s suprematism and broke away from traditional Jewish art. Chagall left the school shortly thereafter.
In 1919−1920 Lissitzky was a head of Architectural department at the People’s Art School where with his students, primarily Lazar Khidekel, he was working on transition from plane to volumetric suprematism.
Suprematist composition
1919
The artist constructs
a new symbol with his
Book cover Arba'ah Teyashim
1922
Perhaps the most famous work by Lissitzky from the same period was the 1919 propaganda poster "Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge".
“Klin red beat white”
1920
Russia was going through a civil war at the time, which was mainly fought between the "Reds" (communists, socialists and revolutionaries) and the "Whites" (monarchists, conservatives, liberals and other socialists who opposed the Bolshevik Revolution).
The image of the red wedge shattering the white form, simple as it was, communicated a powerful message that left no doubt in the viewer’s mind of its intention.
The piece is often seen as alluding to the similar shapes used on military maps and, along with its political symbolism, was one of Lissitzky’s first major steps away from Malevich’s non-objective suprematism into a style his own.
It was one of Lissitzky’s first major steps away from Malevich’s non-objective suprematism into a style his own.
He stated: "The artist constructs a new symbol with his brush. This symbol is not a recognizable form of anything that is already finished, already made, or already existent in the world – it is a symbol of a new world, which is being built upon and which exists by the way of the people."
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brush
Proun
Проун
During this period Lissitzky proceeded to develop a suprematist style of his own, a series of abstract, geometric paintings which he called Proun (pronounced "pro-oon").
original
graphic designer
master of photomontage
1919
Proun 1 C
Proun 1 C was one of the first compositions in the series. The numbering that accompanies the various Prouns corresponds to the serial numbers given by the artist himself in his inventories, and the letters to the possible owners.
He responded to these challenges with all his weapons:
Проун
Proun was Lissitzky's exploration of the visual language of suprematism with spatial elements, utilizing shifting axes and multiple perspectives
1924
Proun 93
The exact meaning of "Proun" was never fully revealed, with some suggesting that it is a contraction of proekt unovisa (designed by UNOVIS) or proekt utverzhdenya novogo (Russian: проект утверждения нового; 'Design for the confirmation of the new'). Later, Lissitzky defined them ambiguously as "the station where one changes from painting to architecture."
In these works, the basic elements of architecture – volume, mass, color, space and rhythm – were subjected to a fresh formulation in relation to the new suprematist ideals.
both
uncommon ideas
in suprematism.
1919
Proun 1 E (Stadt)
Political concern manifested itself in El Lissitzky’s art in the adoption of a formalist tendency that led him to abstraction. In his Proun, which he created as a metaphor for the transformations of society, El Lissitzky harmoniously combined the flat Suprematist surface with the laws of Constructivist architecture.
In these compositions, which are distinguished by the precision of their forms, their balance and clarity, the painter uses the means of architecture but strips them of their architectural function and gives them a new aesthetic value. Furthermore, with his Proun Lissitzky found the formula for reconciling Tatlin’s utilitarian postulates with Malevich’s utopian aesthetic and succeeded in developing Suprematism in space.
1923
Kestnermappe Proun
We brought the canvas into circles and while we turn, we raise ourselves into the space."
In these works, the basic elements of architecture —
— were subjected to a fresh formulation in relation to the new suprematist ideals.
volume
mass
space
rhytm
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Visionaire
His work greatly influenced the Bauhaus and constructivist movements, and he experimented with production techniques and stylistic devices that would go on to dominate 20th-century graphic design.
1928
El Lissizky helped
to develop suprematism
with his mentor,
Kazimir Malevich
1940
URSS under construction
breaking down the barriers between the plastic arts, architecture
and design.
designer
Considered one of the most controversial creators of the interwar period and a lover of experimentation, El Lissitzky approached artistic creation as a response to the demands of his convulsive era, a time of crisis and profound change and also of faith in industry and revolution.
He responded to these challenges with all his weapons:
Book cover "Poet's notes"
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