The Running Man or Peasant Between Cross and Sword
(click the image to enlarge it)

         Oil on canvas,
George Pomidou Art Center, Paris

A peasant, his hands and feet black, as though badly scorched, is running through deserted land. At the horizon loom a cross and sword covered with blood. The painting echoed the horrors of the famine that struck Ukraine in 1932-33 when millions of peasants died in this man-made disaster.

"THE RUNNING MAN", 1933-1934
"The Ukrainians - Unexpected Nation"

The book "The Ukrainians - Unexpected Nation" by Andrew Wilson, second edition, paperback, Yale Nota Bene, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, between pages 174 & 175, Plate 34, shows in color this famous painting by Kasimir Malevich (the way his name is spelled in this book).
The caption in the book under the painting says: "Kasimir Malevich's haunting "The Running Man", 1933-1934, here interpreted as an indictment of the Great Famine." On page 352 of the book are the notes to pages 143-149. Note No.71 states: "This is the interpretation of the painting given in Horbachov "Ukrainsky Avanhard", page 383.
The book says "The Running Man" painting is part of the collection of the Musee National d'Art Moderne in Paris.
Author Andrew Wilson in chapter 7 "The Twentieth Century: Peasants into Ukrainians?" states:
"Two great shadows threatened the mythology of ''Socialist achievement', however. One was the bloody Purges of the 1930s. The other was the Great Famine, which engulfed Soviet Ukraine in 1932-33 and which is now accepted to have left up to seven million dead, in addition to those who died in two other famines in 1921-23 and 1946 (hence a certain poignancy to Yablonska's "Bread" (painting) - the predominance of female labor in 1949 would not have been just a matter of custom). [70] Whole villages were wiped out, people ate domestic pets, grass, even next year's corn (notoriously defined as "the theft of Socialist property" and made punishable by death), and cannibalism was widespread. Internal passports were introduced to prevent the starving leaving their villages in search of food. Kasimir Malevich's haunting "The Running Man" (1933-34), showing a peasant fleeing across a deserted landscape, is eloquent testimony to the disaster (see plate 34) [71]"

"Ukrainian Avant-Garde Art 1910-1930"
This painting by Ukrainian artist Kazymyr Malevych (the way his name is spelled in this book) is also shown in the book "Ukrainian Avant-Garde Art 1910-1930" published in Kyiv in 1996, as illustration 261.Instead of the name "The Runing Man" the book lists the name of the painting as "Peasant Between Cross and Sword", and says it was painted in 1932, not in 1933-34 as stated in the other book mentioned above.
The painting is shown in the section of the book entitled "Constructivism & Electroorganism". The book published in Kyiv says the painting is held at the Pompidou Center in Paris, France. There are fourteen paintings by the Ukrainian artist Kazymyr Malevych in the book.
The book was compiled and introduced by Professor Dmytro Horbachov, a leading Ukrainian art critic, who has devoted many years of research to Ukrainian Avant-garde art. The avant-garde book contains 400 reproductions of the finest works of Ukrainian avant-garde artists which can be found now in museums and private collections of many countries.

UKRAINIAN ARTIST KASIMIR MALEVICH [Kazimir Malevich, Kazymyr Malevych, Kasimir Malevitch]
by Dmytro Horbachov, art critic
Welcome to Ukraine No.1, 1998

From the editor: Dmytro Horbachov, an Ukrainian art critic, who compiled the book listed above, wrote an article for the Welcome to Ukraine magazine in 1998 where he stated his own thinking and beliefs about the painting by Kasimir Malevich.

Horbachov said the following about the painting: "His series of paintings and drawings "Peasant Between Cross and Sword" created in 1932-33 echoed the horrors of the forced collectivisation of Ukrainian farmers and wide-spread famine of the early 1930s that caused a very heavy toll in human lives".
Here is the text that Horbachov wrote to go with the picture of the painting in the Welcome to Ukraine magazine: "A peasant, his hands and feet black, as though badly scorched, is running through deserted land; at the horizon loom a cross and sword  covered with blood. The painting echoed the horrors of the famine that struck Ukraine in 1932-33 when millions of peasants died in this made-man disaster".

Here is the complete text of the Welcome to Ukraine article by Dmytro Horbachov published in 1998:
 "The representation of an object in itself (objectivity as the aim of expression) is something that has nothing to do with art, although the use of representation in a work of art does not rule out the possibility of being of high artistic order. For Suprematism, therefore, the proper means is the one that provides the fullest expression of pure feeling and ignores habitually accepted object. The object in itself is meaningless; and the idea of conscious mind is worthless. Feeling is the decisive factor... and thus art arrives at non-objective representation, at Suprematism".               Kasimir Malevich

Kasimir Malevich (1878-1935), one of the daring pioneers of the 20th century art, founded a new movement which he called Suprematism. Malevich had clear insight and logical mind; he went straight to the point which other artists reached by cautious evolution. Basing himself on current aesthetic theories he asserted that reality in art was the sensational effect of color itself. As an illustration, in 1915 he exhibited a picture of black square on white background and claimed that the feeling this contrast evoked was the basis of all art.

Kasimir Malevich was born 120 years ago in Kyiv. His childhood and youth were spent in Ukraine. His parents and he moved from place to place, living in villages and small towns of Podillya, Chernihiv, and Kharkiv area. It was during his life in the countryside that he developed an interest in village ornamental art.
In 1896 Malevich went to study at the Mykola Murashko School of Painting where he was trained by Mykola Pymoneneko, a painter of the naturalistic line. Early in the 20th century Malevich found himself in Moscow and in his artistic development went successfully through the stages of Impressionism, Symbolism, Primitivism, and Cubism.
A new trend in art of Geometric Abstractionism which he founded and called Suprematism had a profound influence upon painting, architecture, and design of the 20th century.
In a certain way Suprematism and Ukrainain folk ornamental and decorative painting have something in common: non-representational composition, elementary shapes, bright primal colors, cosmic symbolism. Later Malevich worked at the art schools of Moscow, Petersburg, Vitebsk.
In the end of 1920s he returned to Ukraine and taught art at the Kyiv Art Institute, published articles on theory of art in magazines, created designs for a small embroidery co-operative in the village of Verbilka (vicinity of Kyiv).
His series of paintings and drawings "Peasant Between Cross and Sword" created in 1932-33 echoed the horrors of the forced collectivisation of Ukrainian farmers and wide-spread famine of the early 1930s that caused a very heavy toll in human lives.
Ethnically Malevich was of Polish descendant but spiritually he was Ukrainian. He insisted he was Ukrainian and derived his artistic inspiration from many sources, Ukrainian in particular.        [Dmytro Horbachov, art critic]

Editor's note: The whole article by Dmytro Horbachov with illustrations published in Welcome to Ukraine No.1, 1998 can be read in the CULTURE GALLERY:
Welcome to Ukraine magazine No.1, 1998 is for sale. Please contact
b. 1878 near Kyiv; d. 1935 Leningrad (Petersburg)

Kazimir Malevich was born on February 26, 1878 near Kyiv. He studied at the Kyiv Art School (1895-97), then Moscow Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture (1903-1905), then F. Rerberg Studio in Moscow (1905-1910).
During the early years of his career he experimented with various Modernist styles, from Impressionism to Fauvism, and participated in avant-garde exhibitions, organised by Moscow Artists' Association, which included Vasyly Kandinsky and Mikhail Larionov; also he participated in the Jack of Diamond exhibition of 1910 in Moscow.
Malevich displayed his Primitivist paintings of peasants at the exhibition Donkey's Tail in 1912. After the exhibition he broke with Larionov's group. In 1913, together with composer Mikhail Matyushyn and writer Aleksey Kruchenykh, Malevich drafted a manifesto for the First Futurist Congress.
At the last Futurist exhibition in Petrograd (Petersburg) in 1915 Malevich introduced his non-objective geometric Suprematist paintings. In 1919 he started exploring three-demensional applications of Suprematism in architectural models.
He was the first modern painter to work in a purely geometric, non-figurative manner (e.g. his paintings "Black Square" (1913) and "White on White" (1918). In 1916 he published the journal "Supremos'.
Following the Russian Revolution of 1917 Malevich and other advanced artists were encouraged by the Soviet government and attained prominent administrative and teaching positions. He was a member of the Visual Arts Department of the Russian Comissariat of Enlightenment; taught at the Vitebsk Art School in Belarus (1919-1922). Later he became its director.
In 1919-20 he was given a solo show at the 16th State Exhibition in Moscow which focused on Suprematism and other non-objective styles. Malevich and his students in Vitebsk formed a Suprematist group Unovis.
From 1922 to 1927 he was Director of the Artistic Culture in Petrograd (Petersburg). Between 1924 and 1926 he worked together with his students primarily on architectural models. From 1927 to 1929 he also taught at the Kyiv State Art Institute.
In 1920s he started working in a sonstructivist style in which he produced urban architectural models, furniture, textile, and china designs.
He was a prolific writer and produced various theoretical works, notably "The World as Non-Objectivity" (English transaltion 1976), developed new educational methods and established original theoretical frameworks for the analysis of paintings.
His works and theories influenced a number of Soviet avant-garde artists, including the Russians I.Chasnik, L.Lisitsky and the Ukrainians V.Yermilov, V.Meller, A. Petritsky.
In 1927 Malevich traveled with the exhibition of his paintings to Warsaw and to Berlin where his works were shown at the Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung. In Germany he met Jean Arp, Naum Gabo, Le Corbusier,  Kurt Schwitters and visited the Bauhaus where he met Walter Gropius. The Trtyakov Gallery in Moscow gave Malevidh a solo exhibition in 1929.
In the late 1920s because of growing opposition of the central government to the avant-garde Malevich was able to publish 13 articles of his theories only in the journal "Nova Generatsia" (1929) in Kharkiv (Soviet Ukraine). He was forced to return to a figurative style of painting in 1929.
Because of his connections with German artists Malevich was arrested in 1930 and many of his works were destroyed. In his final period he painted in a representational style. Malevich died on May 15, 1935 in Leningrad (Petersburg) in poverty and oblivion.
[Bio material developed from several sources including the article by N.Mykytyn found on page 290 in Encyclopedia of Ukraine edited by Danylo Husar Struk, University of Toronto press, 1993]

This material has been compiled by the Information Service (ARTUIS). It can be used only with the proper credits to the ARTUIS, Kyiv Ukraine.



June 28, 2015

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