Narrator: Kazimir Malevich made this painting in 1914, the first disastrous year of World War I. The title, Reservist of the First Division, refers to the fact that most Russian men under the age of 43, including the artist himself, were reservists who might be called up to serve in the war. The cross at the top evokes a military medal, and the waxed mustache and ear conjure the figure of a reservist. Curator Leah Dickerman:
Curator, Leah Dickerman:In this work, Malevich is picking up on newly invented techniques of collage, which are the integration of non-art materials into the surface of painting. You can see that he has a clipping of words, chit-vyerk, which is the Russian word for Thursday, tabak, which is the word for a seller of tobacco. The word opera, and a real stamp, as well as a thermometer. But he's mixed it together with broad, flat painted planes of squares, geometric forms, textured passages, so that it's a real conflation between verbal fragments and words, visual fragments, and geometric forms and real things drawn from the everyday world. And this crazy mix is something that's only possible in the second decade of the 20th Century. Before that, it didn’t make sense to put stuff into a picture. And that kind of violation of the traditional picture surface means that it's no longer a depiction of an illusory world, but rather it's a kind of surface for collecting things.