Suprematism and De Stijl
El Lissitzky was a Russian-born designer and artist linked with various MODERNIST organisations, including Suprematism and DE STIJL.
He studied architecture at the Technische Hochschule in Darmstadt (The Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences) from 1909 to 1914 and Riga Polytechnic from 1915 to 1916.
Before returning to Russia in 1915 and becoming an enthusiastic supporter of the Revolution, Lissitzky studied at Darmstadt (under Josef OLBRICH) and met Henri VAN DE VELDE. In the early Soviet regime’s modernism, he became connected with Kasimir Malevich and Vladimir Tatlin. He moved to Switzerland in 1924 but returned to Moscow in 1925 to work on various exhibition projects in a constructivist style. He had a significant impact on modern typography and graphic design.
“Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.”
After 1930, he focused solely on teaching. His transparent PLASTIC chair from 1930 is a stunning early example of the material. He taught at the Vitebsk Popular Art School, where he worked alongside artists such as Marc Chagall and Malevich. Lissitzky also participated in exhibitions and international events, promoting the ideas of the Russian avant-garde.
In the 1930s, Lissitzky’s career was severely impacted by the rise of Stalinism and the increasing control of the Soviet government over the arts. Many of his colleagues and fellow artists fell out of favour, and Lissitzky’s work was deemed unacceptable by the authorities. He faced censorship and struggled to find opportunities to create and exhibit his art.
At the 1917 ‘V mire iskusstv’ (‘World of Art’) exhibition in Petrograd, he displayed his ornamental paintings titled The Leader and Jericho. He participated in various exhibitions in Russia and abroad, including the ‘Erste Russische Kunstausstellung,’ Berlin, in 1922.
The “Erste Russische Kunstausstellung” (First Russian Art Exhibition) took place in Berlin, Germany, in 1922. It was a significant event that showcased the works of Russian avant-garde artists who were at the forefront of artistic innovation during that time.
His work was exhibited in 1976 in Cologne, at Galerie Gmurzynska in Cologne, and in 1977 at the Oxford Museum of Modern Art.
Pile, J. F. (1990). Dictionary of 20th-century design. Facts on File.