Lot 24
  • 24

Kazimir Malevich

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 GBP
5,749,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Kazimir Malevich
  • Self-­Portrait
  • varnished gouache, watercolour and pencil on paper


Estate of the artist

Mr & Mrs George Costakis, Moscow & London

Private Collection, Europe (acquired from the above in 1962. Sold: Christie’s, London, 5th February 2004, lot 348)

Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


(Possibly) Moscow, K. Mikhaïlova & B. Dmitrovka, Société des peintres de Moscou: expositions d'aquarelles et d'esquisses, 1911, no. 112

New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Stockolm, Moderna Museet; London, The Royal Academy of Arts & Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Art of the Avant Garde in Russia: Selections from the George Costakis Collection, 1981, no. 3, illustrated in the catalogue

Hanover, Kestner Gesellschaft, Russische Avantgarde aus der Sammlung Costakis, 1984, no. 165

Amsterdam, Stedelijk Musuem & Bonn, Bundeskunsthalle, Kazimir Malevich and the Russian Avant-garde, 2013-2014, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (with incorrect measurements)

London, Tate Modern, Malevich, 2014 


Andréi Nakov, Kazimir Malewicz. Catalogue Raisonné, Paris, 2002, no. F­183, illustrated p. 95

Andréi Nakov, Malevich. Painting the Absolute, Farnham, 2010, vol. I, illustrated in colour p. 122


Catalogue Note

Self­-Portrait is one of the three versions that Malevich executed in the years between 1908 and 1910 and is a powerful illustration of the artist’s newly-developed and deeply expressive use of colour. This new approach to colour was influenced by the work of the Fauves that Malevich would have seen hanging in the house of the great Russian collectors Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morosov and at the important 1908 Golden Fleece salon where works by the French Post-Impressionists were on public display in Russia for the first time. The innovations of paintings such as Matisse's seminal Portrait de Mme Matisse (fig. 2) became a central concern for Russian avant-garde artists, as Malevich’s contemporary Mikhail Larionov later recalled, commenting that Malevich’s ‘opinions accorded perfectly with my own convictions… he was not searching for any kind of realism, but wanted above all to solve the problems of colour as such’ (quoted in A. Nakov, op. cit., 2010, p. 116).

In the present work and in the similar Self-Portrait now in the The State Tretyakov Gallery (fig. 1) colour is an increasingly autonomous force with Malevich skilfully blending rounded planes of colour to create a sense of depth and volume. Whilst the influence of the French painters is evident, his approach remains distinctive, as Nakov observes: ‘Initially, Malevich seems to have expressed colourist energy through intuitive, somewhat disorderly movements. This led him to build approximate forms with fluid, imprecise contours […] This practice, as yet far removed from Matisse’s rigorousness, reminds us of certain of Van Dongen’s works, such as his self-portrait of 1906 […] But Malevich’s own approach seems already to have been structured differently: his forms do not consist of hesitant smudges of colour; on the contrary, his colours pour out in large dynamic puddles having a solidly homogenous consistency. To all intents and purposes, the concept of the colour plane, that building block of the future “constructed” painting – including Malevich’s own future work – was already implicit in this approach’ (A. Nakov, ibid., p. 16).  

The first owner of this work, George Costakis, was one of the foremost collectors of Russian avant-garde art. He began collecting in 1946 when he stumbled upon some abstract works by Olga Rozanova and was apparently struck by their ‘flaming colours’. This ignited a passion that consumed him over the following decades as he attempted to piece together the, by then, often obscured history of the Russian avant-garde, befriending Vladimir Tatlin and Varvara Stepanova and tracking down lost works. By the 1960s he had amassed one of the most extensive collections of modern Russian art, and his Moscow home had become an informal museum of modern art. The majority of his collection is now divided between The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow and the State Museum of Contemporary Art, in Thessaloniki, Greece.