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We get acquainted with six paintings by the artist Vladimir Bogdanov and his childhood memories of communication with Kazimir Malevich and meeting with Vladimir Mayakovsky.

An exhibition “Vladimir Bogdanov – in memory of Kazimir Malevich’s uncle” has opened at the Museum of Russian Lubok and Naive Art. Muscovite Vladimir Bogdanov (1912–2002) was an engineer by training, artist by vocation and nephew of one of the most famous Russian avant-garde artists Kazimir Malevich. His mother Maria Severinovna was the sister of the founder of Suprematism.

The exhibition presents six paintings by Bogdanov from the collection of the Museum of Russian Folk Painting (collection of Vladimir Moroz and Anna Godik), dedicated to the legendary relative. The curator of the exhibition, deputy director of the Museum of Russian popular print and naive art Alexander Klenchev tells about what they are interesting and what should be paid attention to.

From engineer to artist

Vladimir Bogdanov began to draw late. Before retirement I had no idea about my own talent. Born in 1912, after school he worked as a glassblower at a crystal factory, at the same time he studied at evening courses at Energostroy, and then received the position of a designer there. He worked as a radio operator, a power plant design engineer. He went to the war with the rank of senior sergeant, in the unit of military cartographers, he made complex panoramic maps. After the war he continued to work as a design engineer.

Vladimir Bogdanov retired in 1973. The beloved wife died, the children left. Then he began to draw – with pencils. On his 70th birthday he was presented with a gift that turned his life upside down – a sketchbook with paints. The question of what to give friends and family members for the holidays was resolved – the artist began to hand them his works. For 20 years, Vladimir Alexandrovich created about 500 paintings.

Unlike his uncle, he chose a naive art that does not require a special education from an artist. This direction of primitivism appeared at the beginning of the 20th century in France. It originated from talented self-taught artists who did not have a professional art education. The most famous representatives of naive painting of the twentieth century are the Frenchman Henri Rousseau and the Georgian Niko Pirosmani.

Naive artists most often take ideas for scenes from real life, folklore, mythology. The main motive is harmony between man and nature. Naive is a contrast to professional art, here the personality of the artist is important, first of all, how he conveys his vision to the public. Naive artists may not follow the laws of proportions, space, composition, they play with form and color, creating their own, unique and unlike anything else.

In memory of Malevich

In 1988, near the village of Nemchinovka near Moscow, in the place where the urn with Malevich’s ashes was buried, a memorial sign was erected – a wooden white cube with a red square inside. Bogdanov, who was present, recalled:

“The most famous researchers of my uncle’s work gathered on the day of the opening of the memorial sign. I decided to depict them all standing around a cube. They often came to visit me later and, looking at the picture, laughed, but asked to remove themselves. I was even offended. And he decided instead of living to draw the heroes of Malevich’s paintings, going to honor the memory of their creator. They will definitely not comment on me. “

“Opening of the memorial sign (07/30/1988)” was the first work of the cycle “In memory of the uncle”. It was created in 1994. According to its formal and pictorial characteristics, the picture belongs to naive art, the depicted and the real are closely intertwined in it. Highlighting a white cube with a red square around which a ritual act of worship and the offering of flowers unfolds, Bogdanov, following the postmodern tradition, quotes Malevich. This plot is repeated in other paintings.

“I dedicate to the memory of my uncle K.S. Malevich ”- the picture that gave the name to the entire cycle. Against the background of a blue sky and a forest green to the horizon, a figure in a red beret walks through the air, repeating the famous “Self-portrait”. Malevich seems to be growing out of the earth, covering the forest with his back, resting his head against the heavens. He appears before friends, family, and artists who came to him in the guise of small Suprematist figures without faces. He sees them, but they do not. In a painting corresponding to naive art, Bogdanov uses Malevich’s set of color and geometric forms.

In The Peasants, the author also quoted and preserved his uncle’s avant-garde heritage. Suprematist avant-garde characters become like the heroes of a naive artist when the author combines flat form and bright color. The sky above the white cube is cut by the arable land of the painting “The Head of a Peasant” with a stern face.

The work “In memory of K.S. Malevich ”, like the others, is built on a dialogue with a great relative: Bogdanov repels Malevich’s Suprematism as a springboard. The heroine of “Girls with a comb in her hair” hovers over the white cube. The area of ​​intersection of naive and avant-garde here also becomes plane, color. The work traces the combination of styles, simplicity inherent in naive. Bogdanov creates a new reality where his own colors are in harmony with the colors of the borrowed characters.

In the work “In memory of K.S. Malevich. The Flower Girl ”also retains the scene and plot, but now a flower girl hovers above the white cube, emerging from the flames that lift her to the sky. Some of the Suprematist figures acquire movement and a different character. The realistic plot gets fantastic coloring.

Painting “In memory of my uncle. The urn is buried here ”departs from the previous plot: it depicts what the title says. Malevich asked to bury himself under his beloved oak tree in the middle of a field near Nemchinovka near Moscow. A pencil drawing made by his father on the day of the funeral in 1935 helped Bogdanov preserve the authenticity of the image. The work traces the stylistic monolithic character of the best examples of naive art. The artist’s desire to display reality as it is, gives the picture the features of naive painting, characteristic of self-taught. He also introduces Malevich’s “Black Square” into the picture, thereby establishing a lively dialogue between the naive and the avant-garde. The result is not just a monument to the artist, but an object that is completely new in its inner concept.

Legendary Vanguard

Kazimir Malevich began to take an interest in drawing, unlike his nephew, while still a teenager. At one of the exhibitions in Kiev, he saw a portrait of a girl sitting on a bench and peeling potatoes. Young Casimir was so impressed by this uncomplicated picture that he himself wanted to try to portray something similar. The next birthday he received paints.

At 17, a talented young man entered the Kiev art school, and although he had to leave his studies a year later – he moved to Kursk with his family – he did not give up drawing. Malevich sold his first painting – “Moonlit Night” for five rubles. Realizing that it is impossible to earn big money like that, he got a job as a draftsman in the management of the Russian state railway. I didn’t like this work, drawing was an outlet. Gradually, enough paintings were accumulated for the exhibition – however, it did not bring him much fame. The artist moved to Moscow – the capital provided much more opportunities than the provincial Kursk.

He entered the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture from the fourth time. Malevich also began attending the studio of the Russian artist Fyodor Rerberg. In 1910 he was invited to participate in the exhibition of the group of avant-garde artists “The Jack of Diamonds”, which contrasted itself with realistic painting. The name of the artist was gradually recognized, more and more often he became a participant in various exhibitions, including international ones.

In 1913 he designed the opera Victory over the Sun at the Luna Park Theater in St. Petersburg. Malevich used geometric shapes that seemed to have descended from his canvases. He called those paintings “abstruse realism” and “cubo-futuristic realism.” And it was then that he got the idea of ​​creating the legendary “Black Square” – part of a future triptych, which will also include “Black Circle” and “Black Cross”.

Uncle and nephew

Vladimir Bogdanov remembered Kazik’s uncle very well, as he called him. When Malevich died, he was 23 years old. The earliest memories are associated with the dining room on Meshchanskaya Street, which was kept by Ludwig Alexandrovna – Kazimir’s mother and Vladimir’s grandmother. Malevich sometimes went there. Also on the walls in Bogdanov’s house were many of his uncle’s paintings, which were incomprehensible to the boy due to his age.

Other memories are associated with the village, near which a memorial sign was later installed.

“Sometimes in the summer my sister and mother and I would come to Nemchinovka, where Uncle Kazik and Aunt Sonya lived. They lived in a two-story house with a garden. In the evenings, guests often gathered, neighbors came, talked for a long time. My sister and I slept on the second floor. In the mornings, when we went downstairs, they didn’t find my uncle. In the morning he loved to go under his cherished oak tree, which stood in an open field, under the crown of which was his studio. We came there along a stream, picking strawberries. Uncle greeted us warmly, joked, answered all our “why?”. I often asked him a question about his drawings, since I did not understand many of them. To which he replied, they say, you are still small, when you grow up, then you will understand, because everything that he draws can only be understood by adults. “

Once Malevich took his nephew with him to the theater, where he designed a play by Vsevolod Meyerhold based on Mayakovsky’s play Mystery-Buff. There they were met by the author himself – and Bogdanov, who at that time was about nine years old, was frightened at first by this big man with a thunderous voice.

“In 1924 we moved to a new apartment on Novoslobodskaya Street. For some time our grandmother Ludwig Alexandrovna lived with us, sometimes Kazimir stopped by to see our sister and mother. They often spoke to each other in Polish, I almost did not understand anything. However, I noticed that my uncle had a domineering nature, argued and explained what others did not understand. He did not explode, spoke in an even voice, treated his sister and mother with respect, ”Vladimir Aleksandrovich recalled.

In the last years of Malevich’s life, Bogdanov did not meet with him, it did not even work out to come to his funeral – Vladimir was then doing professional military service in the Siberian military district. He learned about the death of his uncle from a letter from his father, who described in detail the process of burying an urn with ashes in Nemchinovka according to the artist’s will. Together with the letter, Vladimir Alexandrovich kept the same sketch-sketch from which he later painted an oil painting.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.

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