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Malevich, Kazimir
LONG AND IMPORTANT AUTOGRAPH LETTER ABOUT FUTURIST LITERATURE, SIGNED ("KMALEVICH"), TO THE CRITIC KONSTANTIN SHIMKEVICH, ENCLOSING AN AUTOGRAPH POETICAL MANUSCRIPT, IN RUSSIAN:
1) autograph letter to Shimkevich, in which Malevich declares that there has been no Russian Futurist movement in literature, although the term has been bandied about by many, stressing that to write anything coherent about "Russian Futurism" one must first acquire a thorough knowledge of the Italian Futurist painters and musicians, before identifying it in other fields such as Russian literature; Malevich emphasizes the Italians' use of new artistic resources deriving from machines to produce a dynamic element, through which they have been able to give expression to new aspects of modern life, and deriding the efforts of Burlyuk (known as "The Father of Russian Futurism"), because all he has done is throw overboard Pushkin & Tolstoy, and declaring the zaum poems of Kruchenykh and Khlebnikov, such as "Dyr bul shchyl" [1913], to be mere nonsensical word games, which, although approaching non-figurative art, are hardly comparable with the coherently mechanized music of the Italians, 2 pages

2) autograph manuscript by Malevich containing his annotated transcripts of poems by Kruchenykh and others inscribed at the head ("This is a poem sent by Kruchenykh" [translation]), including

i) the 42-line poem 'My ustaly' ("I am weary") here ascribed to "Sergei Pushkin", dated 1817 and signed for him at the end, written on the left-hand side of the page, with four passages of commentary on the right, including a response to a letter by Ivan Klyun about Kruchenykh and non-figurative art, 1 page, with on the verso:  
ii) a 13-line poem ostensibly addressed to Malevich ("O Casimir..."), signed and dated with "apologies" to Pushkin at the end ("...S. Pushkin Tsarske Selo 1817");
iii) a poem 'Pivet ot Feta' ("Greetings from Fet") about Kruchenykh and Malevich, and
iv) a poetic statement by Kruchenykh, marked "Kopie" at the head

4 pages, folio (c.35 x 22cm), all written in blue ink, and apparently sent together, autograph envelope addressed "Konstantin Antonovich Shimikevich", unstamped and unfranked [Leningrad], 18 March 1929, some small waterstains to the letter, and creasing at folds


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Catalogue Note

Kazimir Malevich (1879-1935) distances himself in this letter from his early experiments in Futurism before the October Revolution; by 1929, his own place within Soviet culture was threatened. He had collaborated with Aleksei Kruchenykh in 1913 on the futurist opera Victory over the Sun in St Petersburg. Kruchenykh wrote the text in zaum, a "transrational" language, and Malevich designed the cubist sets, including his first "black square". Malevich went on to have his own Futurist exhibitions in 1915 and 1916, including the Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings 0.10

Shimkevich, the addressee, was a literary critic and head of the department of contemporary literature in the State University of the History of Art in Leningrad.  Malevich was himself expelled from this institute only a few months after this letter was written. Indeed his whole department closed down as a result of the rise of Stalinism from 1927 onwards and its authoritarian predilection for Socialist Realism.  Nevertheless Malevich had a retrospective of art at the Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow in November.

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