El Lissitzky. Proun 19D. 1920 or 1921

El Lissitzky Proun 19D 1920 or 1921

The Museum of Modern Art, Floor 5, Collection Galleries

In 1920, Lissitzky announced a new type of artwork that he called a "Proun"—an acronym of the Russian phrase meaning "project for the affirmation of the new." Lissitzky and his contemporaries were working in Russia just three years after its revolution,when a civil war still raged for control of the country. For them, the new was a pressing concern. Lissitzky's term "project" came from the language not of fine art but of architecture, and betrays his training in that profession in Germany in the years before the revolution. Returning to Russia, he joined the faculty of the art school in Vitebsk, a provincial town, on the fringes of the war, where the Suprematist Kazimir Malevich was already teaching. Together they pursued a new art for a new, post-revolutionary world.

Gallery label from 2015.

In 1920, Lissitzky announced a new type of artwork that he called a "Proun"—an acronym of the Russian phrase meaning "project for the affirmation of the new." Lissitzky and his contemporaries were working in Russia just three years after its revolution, when a civil war still raged for control of the country. For them, the new was a pressing concern. Lissitzky’s term "project" came from the language not of fine art but of architecture, and betrays his training in that profession in Germany in the years before the revolution. Returning to Russia, he joined the faculty of the art school in Vitebsk, a provincial town, on the fringes of the war, where the Suprematist Kazimir Malevich was already teaching. Together they pursued a new art for a new, post-revolutionary world.

Gallery label from Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925, December 23, 2012–April 15, 2013.

Between 1919 and 1927 El Lissitzky produced a large body of paintings, prints, and drawings that he referred to by the word Proun (pronounced pro-oon), an acronym for "project for the affirmation of the new" in Russian. Lissitzky's style reflects his training as an architect in Germany before World War I as well as the inspiration of Kazimir Malevich, a fellow teacher at the Vitebsk art school. Lissitzky's radical reconception of space and material is a metaphor for and visualization of the fundamental transformations in society that he thought would result from the Russian Revolution.

Gallery label from 2010.
Medium
Gesso, oil, varnish, crayon, colored papers, sandpaper, graph paper, cardboard, metallic paint, and metal foil on plywood
Dimensions
38 3/8 x 38 1/4" (97.5 x 97.2 cm)
Credit
Katherine S. Dreier Bequest
Object number
172.1953
Copyright
© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Department
Painting and Sculpture

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This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.

Acquired by Katherine S. Dreier (1877-1952), New York and West Redding, CT, 1922 [1]; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1953 (Katherine S. Dreier Bequest).

[1] Dreier purchased the work from the Erste Russische Kunstausstellung, Galerie van Diemen, Berlin, October 15-end of December, 1922 (no. 122: Proun 19D).

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