Longread — 22 Jun 2017 — Linda S. Boersma

The following essay is an adapted and expanded version of an article previously published in 2007: "Malevich, Lissitzky, Van Doesburg: Suprematism and De Stijl" in Rethinking Malevich: Proceedings of a Conference in Celebration of the 125th Anniversary of Kazimir Malevich's Birth.1

Kazimir Severinovich Malevich (1879–1935) and Theo van Doesburg (1883–1931), the founder and principal figure of the Dutch avant-garde association De Stijl (“The Style”), never met and, certainly until 1919, had never seen reproductions of each other’s work. Van Doesburg was obviously still completely unaware of Malevich's Suprematism when, on September 9, 1919, he wrote in a letter to his fellow countryman, the painter Chris Beekman,

I'm pleased to hear our first Manifesto has finally arrived in Russia. I'm curious about how it will be received. Naturally, I'm eager for collaboration with our Russian colleagues. Will they still be working under the sign of vermicelli-expressionism, or will their work have developed further? Russia is the only contact that has eluded us so far.2

In that year, Malevich’s famous Black Square was four years old, and the De Stijl magazine had appeared already for two years. In view of the international blockade declared on Soviet Russia, it is highly unlikely that the De Stijl Manifesto had actually reached Russia at that time. Nor is there any evidence to support this. But when Malevich and Van Doesburg eventually saw reproductions of one another's work, they must have been surprised to discover that they had arrived at similar conclusions independently of each other. Both Malevich and Van Doesburg regarded the idea of individual artistic creation as outmoded. Modern times demanded a new and universal plastic language, and both artists felt that abstract art—an inadequate, misleading term that both men consciously avoided—would be the new “concrete” art of the future. They both considered the work with which their names were associated—Suprematism and Neoplasticism, respectively—as the culmination of a lengthy development in painting and the starting point of a totally new phase in which a work of art would be created out of pure plastic elements. Both Malevich and Van Doesburg believed that this new, “concrete” art would ultimately be integrated into everyday life, and both were convinced that architecture would play a central role in the process.

That Malevich saw a link between Suprematism and Van Doesburg's compositions is clearly demonstrated by an analytical chart produced under Malevich’s supervision at the State Institute of Artistic Culture in Leningrad. It is one of a series of twenty-two charts that, considered as a whole, forms a fascinating and logically constructed exposition combining Malevich's passionate appeal for an unconditioned art founded on purely creative considerations with an acute analysis of painting and its role in society. The series was designed especially to be used during a trip to Warsaw and Berlin that Malevich undertook in March 1927.4 On chart six is written in German, "The influence of the additional element on the perception of nature” (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1: Analytical chart 6. The influence of the additional element on the perception of nature. Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Fig. 1: Analytical chart 6. The influence of the additional element on the perception of nature. Museum of Modern Art, New York.

The idea was to demonstrate that every phase of painterly development reflects a specific perception of the world—a certain Weltanschauung. In other words, Malevich believed that every style in modern art is the product of a kind of prism, through which the world assumes form, and which is manifested in the forms, lines, and colors on the canvas, as well as in the very application of the paint. Beneath an example of each style on the chart, a characteristic linear trait that conditioned the structure of all paintings of a particular style is illustrated in a small circle, like a bacterium seen through a microscope lens. Malevich referred to it as a "graphic formula of the additional element." As the chart shows, the additional element for Suprematist paintings is a small diagonal plane. The same is also held to be true for the composition shown to its left, Van Doesburg’s Counter-Composition VII in black, white, and grey, from 1924–1925.5Here, this painting, which was originally intended to be on a diagonal axis, has undergone a 90-degree turn—which is precisely what Van Doesburg himself would later do regularly. This shift in orientation (from a diagonal to an upright painting) transforms the balanced orthogonal lines and planes into a more dynamic, transverse composition.6The two identical graphic formulas of the additional element on analytical chart six show at a glance that Malevich's Suprematist works and Van Doesburg's Counter-Compositions are regarded as the result of one and the same artistic perception. Apart from Malevich and Van Doesburg, no other artist’s work is classified under this graphic element (although it is probably meant to include other Suprematists). The fact that this pure artistic perception was arrived at more or less simultaneously, and yet independently, by these two artists may have been understood as further proof of the universal nature of pure plastic language. In the Counter-Compositions, as in Suprematist works, dynamism is created by diagonally oriented elements, and, for this reason, Malevich and his followers may have felt closer to Van Doesburg's Counter-Compositions, which he began in 1924, than to the rectilinear compositions of Mondrian's Neoplasticism. In 1926 Van Doesburg himself characterized Neoplasticism as two-dimensional, and "absolutely static," while he described his new theory of Elementarism—which allowed diagonal elements in the Counter-Compositions—as "a four-dimensional embrace of time and space."7 

It was no coincidence that Russia was the only contact that had eluded De Stijl, as Van Doesburg noted in 1919. In one of the first accounts of modern art in Russia to circulate in Western Europe, art critic Konstantin Umansky characterized Russia in 1920 as an “unwilling Tibet.”8 Because of the First World War, the October Revolution, and the Russian Civil War, the nation’s contact with foreign countries was almost impossible, and not only due to circumstances within Russia itself. In reaction to its unilateral withdrawal from the war, the young Bolshevik state had been isolated by other European countries; as part of the international blockade, no postal parcels destined for, or arriving from, Russia, were delivered. That a package to Malevich containing information about the innovative art and architecture in the Netherlands and a personal letter from Beekman finally arrived is probably due to the Dutch artist Peter Alma, who attended the 3rd Congress of the Comintern in Moscow in the early summer of 1921.9 The letter from Beekman has not survived, and the photos that Malevich received are as yet not identified. In a (unfortunately undated) letter sent from Moscow—or the neighboring town of Nemchinovka, where Malevich owned a dacha—to the UNOVIS committee, Malevich writes, 

Yesterday a delegate from the West [including Peter Alma?] came bringing literature, journals, and letters to me personally from Dutch artists with their work attached. They asked me to evaluate this work and send them my critique […] Lazar Markovich [Khidekel] is translating the letters […] The works are limping as far as planes go, and I can say that the Dutch are better than the rest, they're in front, but they need to learn from us.10

In a second letter, dated April 28, 1921, Malevich writes from Nemchinovka about foreign visitors from Hungary, Germany, and the Netherlands. "They know me from reproductions […] Suprematism is going everywhere." 11 The Russian reply to the Dutch parcel of information must have been delayed. An initial, unsent draft version is dated September 7, 1921. "Dear Comrades," writes Malevich, "I have received your letter and read the article in the Tribune. Everything said in it is indisputably a link connecting me and my comrades to you." The reason for the delayed reply is unknown, but the definitive version of the letter was not written until five months later, on February 12, 1922.12 This letter from Vitebsk reached Chris Beekman at some point in 1922.13 At the time, Malevich headed UNOVIS, a group of mostly young artists who were calling for a non-figurative art and design (Fig. 2). In Vitebsk, Malevich's most active and gifted ally was Lazar Markovich (“El”) Lissitzky, an artist, architect, designer, and member of UNOVIS from its very beginning.

El Lissitzky arrived in Berlin in December 1921 and within four months—in April 1922—he had met Theo van Doesburg.14 Soon a stimulating, although short-lived, friendship developed between them. On April 24 Van Doesburg wrote enthusiastically to a friend in the Netherlands that "all" the younger Russian artists are "working in our spirit, that is, in Neoplasticism."15 It is not long after, in June 1922, that Van Doesburg indignantly writes that he learned from Russian artists in Berlin that "photographs of works by Van 't Hoff, Mondrian, etc., had entered Russia," and had been greatly appreciated there. Van Doesburg considered it "most peculiar” that he had not been informed about the initiative to send information to Russia, and took offense.16 In the same letter, Van Doesburg concludes, “Lissitzky, who has recently arrived from Russia, is a terrific guy who is very consistent. The Germans, on the other hand, are cowards." Undoubtedly, it was due to Lissitzky that modern Russian art was discussed for the first time and at length in the September 1922 issue of De Stijl, and that Malevich was accorded a central role in this essay.

This first, favorable article on contemporary Russian art appeared under the title “Assessment of the New: Plastic Russia.” The first illustration in the text is a drawing of a black square within a white square. The caption reads, "K. Malevich (Moscow) 1913." This anomalously early 1913 date would have surely pleased Malevich. Van Doesburg, the author of the text, seems quite well informed; most likely his information came directly from El Lissitzky. One of the sources mentioned in the article is the trilingual periodical Veshch/Gegenstand/Object, which appeared in Berlin in the spring of 1922 under the editorial direction of El Lissitzky and Ilia Ehrenburg. It is impossible to say how many contemporary Russian artworks Van Doesburg had actually seen at the time. The First Russian Art Exhibition (Erste russische Kunstausstellung) in Berlin, which marked the end of Russia’s cultural isolation, opened on October 15, 1922, too late for Van Doesburg's “Russian issue” of De Stijl.

UNOVIS in Vitebsk, 1921. In the foreground with a black square on his sleeve Nikolai Suetin Behind, next to the black board: Kazimir Malevich.
UNOVIS in Vitebsk, 1921. In the foreground with a black square on his sleeve Nikolai Suetin Behind, next to the black board: Kazimir Malevich.

"In Russia, there are strong indications of a like-minded striving," Van Doesburg wrote in “Plastic Russia.” Like the members of De Stijl, artists such as Malevich, El Lissitzky, Rodchenko, Popova, and Puni strove for clarity and exactitude, and a strict equilibrium between the subjective and the universal. Van Doesburg explained that, formally speaking, Russia was developing in the direction of the quadrilateral. It seems no coincidence that the various parts of the text are interspersed with small black squares. "Plastic Russia is contending under the sign of the quadrilateral," Van Doesburg continued, "In the near future, so will all of plastic Europe."19 Malevich would have surely agreed. 

In this article, Van Doesburg also formulated the essential difference between Suprematism and Neoplasticism. Within Suprematism, he said, a white surface was seen as an illusionary space; it expressed emptiness. For the artists of De Stijl, on the other hand, the white surface functioned as "a means of expression, without any symbolic or underlying meaning." Whereas the spatial, immaterial white in Suprematism neutralized all opposition, according to Van Doesburg, in Neoplasticism this opposition was emphasized. That is why, in the reasoning of Van Doesburg, only Neoplasticism possessed "an effective endurance, and a general ability to extend into art and life." He concluded with satisfaction, "Because of this, Neoplasticism stands above all experiments in expression."20 Nevertheless, Van Doesburg seems to have had high expectations for his new friend Lissitzky’s Prouns, which he describes as a three-dimensional continuation of Suprematism.21

The square had had symbolic value for Van Doesburg prior to 1922, but after making the acquaintance of El Lissitzky, he attributed an almost mystical power to it. He soon became convinced that the battle for a new art would take place under this sign. In letters from Germany to friends in the Netherlands, he repeatedly stressed the metaphorical meaning of the square. In a letter dated June 19, 1922, he related a rather strange story about a square, which obviously impressed him deeply, to his friend Evert Rinsema:

Malevich, one of the most modern of Russians, gave a lecture in Moscow about Cubism (in 1918). After he finished, he produced a red quadrilateral, held it above his head and cried, “And this is the task for the future!” Immediately thereupon he was arrested, and when he asked why, they answered, well, because you just announced the revolution. And indeed, the next day the revolution broke out. Remarkable, isn't it, that what for us here became the sign of the absolute new world expression, was also the same thing for the most modern Russians. I also discussed it at the time with Mondrian, about how the [drawing of a cross] for the first Christians, is for us the [drawing of a square]. Not as a symbol, but as the basic form of the external and internal culture, as a synthesis of the new faith, so to say.22

In a subsequent letter to Rinsema, he added that he had told the "Russian Lissitzky" at the May 1922 International Congress of Progressive Artists in Düsseldorf that this “‘international’ was in fact ‘a compromise’; to mention the child by its name, we should call for an international of the quadrilateral.” To which Lissitzky purportedly responded, "Exactly. That is the new faith.”23 All in all, the year 1922 was a high point in the exchange of information between the progressive Dutch artists and their Russian counterparts. In 1922 Van Doesburg's article on “Plastic Russia” was published and Chris Beekman received the letter from Malevich. “Proun,” the text written by Lissitzky, appeared in the June issue of De Stijl. His Suprematist story, About Two Squares, was published as a special issue of De Stijl. Van Doesburg also designated El Lissitzky as an associate of De Stijl in 1922, the only year this would be the case. However, the grand collaboration of Van Doesburg and Lissitzky did not last long. Differing views on artistic matters—and most likely also feelings of rivalry—soon lead to a split. By the end of 1922, Russian art was no longer a topic in De Stijl.

It was July 1924 when Lissitzky, probably in response to a letter from Van Doesburg, wrote him that respect and esteem in Russia do not depend upon a person’s artistic point of view, and that he was disappointed that such matters had interfered with their personal friendship.24 Lissitzky, in Switzerland recovering from a severe pulmonary infection, was willing to take up corresponding again. He was full of plans and ideas, and asked Van Doesburg to send him photographs of his work so that he, Lissitzky, could forward them to an association of modern architects in Moscow. Again, in a second letter written August 22, 1924, Lissitzky asks for photographs, this time for an illustrated publication about the latest directions in art, for which Hans Arp had found a publisher in Zurich.25 Furthermore, Lissitzky was working on a book for which he was making notes during the long hours he had to spend lying down while recuperating. He had outgrown the traditional “nature – art” opposition, he wrote to Van Doesburg, but the antipodes of “space and time” have given him new insights about which he really would like to learn Van Doesburg's opinion, especially since it would be different from his own. His new views "are to appear in a large almanac," Lissitzky continued enthusiastically. And, in what was no doubt a reference to his friend's temperament, he wrote in conclusion, "I think you will create quite a stir on my behalf, and that pleases me."26 This last remark is prophetic. This is the last letter from Lissitzky to Van Doesburg in the Van Doesburg archives. In December 1924 Lissitzky reverted to his old "system" of cleaning up, as he wrote to his future wife, Sophie Küppers, by throwing “a whole lot of letters in the wastepaper basket, starting with Doesburg’s.”27 

Lissitzky detailed his new insights in his famous 1925 essay “A[rt] and Pangeometry” (“K[unst] und Pangeometrie”), which appeared in the German publication Europa Almanach. Not mincing words, he wrote in a footnote,

Mondrian's solution is the ultimate achievement in the development of Western European painting. He brings the plane back to its original condition, to utter flatness […] It is the ultimate in confinement within the plane. When De Stijl a[rt]ists transpose the Mondrian principle to the three planes of space, they become decorators.28

In the margin of his copy of the Europa Almanach, an indignant Van Doesburg wrote "No, you crook!"29 In late 1926 or early 1927, just when Malevich and his assistants were working on the series of analytical charts in which they stressed the consonance between the work of Malevich and Van Doesburg, De Stijl magazine was making short work of Suprematism. Next to photographs of Malevich's teapot and cup, and another teapot, plate, and two mugs with Suprematist ornament, is written in bold: "Bazar Bazar Bazar Bazar," that is, “Junk Junk Junk Junk.” Beneath it all is the one word, “Malevich” (Fig. 3). The accompanying text reads:

In Westheim and Carl Einstein’s Jewish Almanach “Europa,” Elia Lissitzky stoops to the depths when he states that as soon as the "artists of De Stijl" transpose their principle into three dimensions, they become mere "decorators" […] Of just what kind of artsy-crafty tinkering Malevichian Suprematism (confined to Moscow and Warsaw) is capable, we can see by the little mugs and jugs above, for which the Polish artist Malevich designed the decorations! In a similar way, Kandinsky decorates artistic dinner sets, which makes it evident that Expressionism and Suprematism are expressive forms of one and the same mentality.30

The publication of “A and Pangeometry” brought Van Doesburg and Lissitzky’s friendship to a definite end. "In a world that was divided into two parts, our roads went in different directions," Lissitzky resignedly wrote on March 19, 1931, in a letter of condolence to Theo's wife, Nelly. In Davos on March 7, Van Doesburg had  died at the age of 47. The question that remains is how much Malevich, far away in Russia, knew of all this. In all probability, nothing. There are two indications that point to this conclusion. In 1926 or early 1927—at about the same time that the insulting “Bazar” text appeared in De Stijl—the analytical charts that Malevich took with him on his trip to Poland and Germany were produced. One of the things the charts would demonstrate to the art world was that Suprematism and Van Doesburg's Counter-Compositions were the result of one and the same thing; a “pure,” artistic vision of the world. That Van Doesburg’s reputation was still unimpeachable within Malevich’s circle is also confirmed by a snapshot made in April 1927, during Malevich’s visit to the Bauhaus in Dessau. In two photographs, Malevich poses in the garden with Tadeusz Peiper, a Polish poet and art critic who accompanied Malevich on his trip from Warsaw to Berlin. The text on the back of the first picture claims, in what seems to be Malevich’s handwriting, that he is here immortalized with Le Corbusier (Fig. 4, 5). From the incorrectly spelled—and now damaged—text on the back of the second picture (Fig. 6), one was supposed to conclude that Malevich was in Dessau on April 7, 1927, with "the architect Van Deusburg [sic]" explaining to him "[illegible] Suprematist roof and terrace" (Fig. 7).31

Fig. 3 "Bazar Bazar Bazar Bazar", De Stijl 7, no. 75/76, 1926-1927.
Fig. 3 "Bazar Bazar Bazar Bazar", De Stijl 7, no. 75/76, 1926-1927.
 Fig. 4  Malevich and Tadeusz Peiper in front of the Bauhaus in Dessau, April 7, 1927.
Fig. 4 Malevich and Tadeusz Peiper in front of the Bauhaus in Dessau, April 7, 1927.
Fig. 5  Reverse of image 4: Malevich and Peiper (“Le Corbusier”).
Fig. 5 Reverse of image 4: Malevich and Peiper (“Le Corbusier”).
Fig. 6   Malevich and Tadeusz Peiper in front of the Bauhaus in Dessau, April 7, 1927.
Fig. 6 Malevich and Tadeusz Peiper in front of the Bauhaus in Dessau, April 7, 1927.
Fig. 7 Reverse of image 6: Malevich and Peiper (“Van Doesburg”).
Fig. 7 Reverse of image 6: Malevich and Peiper (“Van Doesburg”).

In a third photo, this time taken indoors, Malevich and Peiper stand next to a balustrade, facing away from us (Fig. 8). A note on the back in Malevich's handwriting reads, "Architect Iod [corrected as Yod] [sic] and I in the main vestibule Dessau [illegible] 1927."32 In light of the jeopardous political situation and overt censure, it was absolutely essential that Malevich's only trip abroad be considered a success. Malevich's act is as understandable as it is sad, yet it obviously does not record the true facts. Neither Jacobus Oud nor Le Corbusier were in Dessau in April 1927. Van Doesburg had left Germany years previously and was then, in fact, in Strasbourg.

It is clear that the way in which Malevich's work was received in De Stijl depended directly on the relationship between Van Doesburg and Lissitzky. I cannot say whether Malevich ever learned about “Plastic Russia,” the favorable article on Suprematism in De Stijl in 1922. But in the spring of 1927, at the time he visited the Bauhaus and deliberately transformed his Polish friend Tadeusz Peiper into Le Corbusier, Oud, and Van Doesburg, respectively, Malevich was clearly not aware of Van Doesburg's insulting and spiteful description of Suprematism in “Bazar, Bazar, Bazar, Bazar.”33 In 1928, when Van Doesburg writes a series of articles  still barely able to contain his anger. He has discovered that, in 1913, there was no trace whatsoever of Malevich’s Suprematism, nor of his painting Black Square, to which Van Doesburg had attached so much symbolic value. In a footnote to the alarmingly negative article “Innovations in art and architecture in Soviet Russia (1),” Van Doesburg offers a meticulous explanation: 

Fig. 8   Malevich and Tadeusz Peiper in the Bauhaus, April 7, 1927.
Fig. 8 Malevich and Tadeusz Peiper in the Bauhaus, April 7, 1927.

The painter-architect Lissitzky was instructed by the invisible leader of Suprematism (Malewitsch) [sic] to take the square to Europe. After having  established when a certain architecture or painting was first created, he simply dated the [Suprematist] works earlier. He claimed that the Suprematist movement […] which, by the way, did not extend beyond Moscow and Warsaw, first began in 1916 and then, according to an article recently published in “Europe,” in 1913. The truth is that this “movement” developed during the revolution.- v.D.34

The “real” truth, of course, is that Suprematism and the painting, Black Square, originated at some point in 1915. It is true that paintings were ante-dated and identities deliberately switched. This, however, detracts nothing from Malevich’s exceptional and monumental achievements in the realms of visual art and art analysis. Rather, it reveals the nature of his ambitions, artistic rivalries, and the extremely unfortunate predicament Malevich encountered when he visited the Bauhaus in Dessau in 1927. The latter did not prevent him from traveling back to Russia. Aware of the threat looming over all avant-garde art and artists under Stalin’s regime, he left his life’s work behind in Germany. 

1. Linda S. Boersma, “Malevich, Lissitzky, Van Doesburg: Suprematism and De Stijl,” in Rethinking Malevich: Proceedings of a Conference in Celebration of the 125th Anniversary of Kazimir Malevich's Birth, eds. C. Douglas and C. Lodder (London: The Pinda Press, 2007).
2. Linda S. Boersma, “Malevich, Lissitzky, Van Doesburg: Suprematism and De Stijl,” in Rethinking Malevich: Proceedings of a Conference in Celebration of the 125th Anniversary of Kazimir Malevich's Birth, eds. C. Douglas and C. Lodder (London: The Pinda Press, 2007).
3. According to Tatiana Goriacheva, mention is made (with no reference to source) that Van Doesburg anticipated events, and that the package was returned, labeled “unauthorized.” See “The package from Holland for Malevich: on the question of possible borrowings” Pinakoteka 24–25, 2007.
4. For information about these charts, see Linda S. Boersma “On Art, Art Analysis, and Art Education: The Theoretical Charts of Kazimir Malevich,” in Kazimir Malevich (Leningrad: Russian Museum, 1988), 206–223.
5. Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.
6. Els Hoek, ed., Theo van Doesburg, Oeuvre catalogus (Utrecht: Centraal Museum, 2000), 407-408.
7. Van Doesburg, “Painting and Plastic Art" (“Schilderkunst en plastiek. Over contra-compositie en contra-plastiek. Elementarisme”), De Stijl 7, no. 75/76 (1926–1927): 35–43.
8. Konstantin Umansky, preface to Neue Kunst in Russland 1914–1919 (Munich, Hans Goltz, 1920), 2.
9. In his diary on May 5, 1921, Chris Beekman records sending a letter with photos to Kazimir Malevich. This entry may actually have referred to Beekman giving a letter to Peter Alma, with whom he was closely acquainted. Beekman's diary is part of the Chris Beekman Archive, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, the Netherlands. Donation from Ger Harmsen, 1998.
10. "Letter to the UNOVIS Creative Committee," in Kazimir Malevich: Letters and Documents Vol. 1, eds. Irina A. Vakar and Tatiana N. Mikhienko (London: Tate Publishing, 2015), 147–148. The letter is not dated, but indicated here as "Early May? 1921, Moscow." Given that Malevich ends the letter with the comment "I'm leaving for Moscow," I believe it is likely that he wrote the letter while in Nemchinovka.
11. Ibid., 143–144. According to the annotations in this source, the visit was organized by El Lissitzky and the Dutch guest was Peter Alma.
12. For an annotated translation of both letters, see Kazimir Malevich: Letters and Documents Vol. 1, 151–155.
13. Malevich's letter was part of the Beekman archives of Ger Harmsen. According to information from Frank van Lamoen, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, it has been in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Munich since 1981. For the full letter, see http://daten.digitale-sammlungen.de/~db/ausgaben/zweiseitenansicht.html?id=00094430&seite=1&image=bsb00094430_00001.jpg&fip= According to his diary (see note 9), after receiving Malevich's answer, Beekman sent a response on October 26, 1922. "donderdag / verzonden brief rechtstreeks / Mallevitch" ("Thursday / sent letter directly / [to] Mallevitch" [sic]).
14. Van Doesburg met Lissitzky before he and his wife went to Weimar, where they arrived on April 29, 1922. See Sjarel Ex, Theo van Doesburg en het Bauhaus: De invloed van De Stijl in Duitsland en Midden-Europa (Utrecht: 2000), 62. In a letter to the Dutch architect C.R. de Boer, dated April 24, 1922, Van Doesburg wrote that he had had a lengthy conversation with both Lissitzky and Kandinsky after the lecture “The Will to Style” (“Wille zum Stil”), which he (Van Doesburg) gave in Berlin earlier that month. Ibid, 62–63.
15. Letter to C.P. de Boer. Ibid. note 14.
16. Letter from Van Doesburg to his friend, the Dutch poet Anthony Kok, June 6, 1922. Theo van Doesburg Archive (Van Moorsel Donation), Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie (RKD), The Hague.
17. Ibid.
18. [Theo van Doesburg], “Assessment of the New: Plastic Russia” ("Balans van het nieuwe: Beeldend Rusland"), De Stijl 5, no. 9 (September 1922): 130–135. "Plastic Russia" was the first in a series of three articles that appeared in De Stijl between 1922 and 1924, under the general title “Assessment of the New.” Van Doesburg is not mentioned as the author of this article, but there is no doubt that the text is from his hand. This is confirmed by a letter from El Lissitzky, written in rigid German, "Received no. 9 ‘Stijl’ yesterday. Read about Russian art from Does… Seems to be good, but understand little Dutch" ("Habe gestern den N.9 'Stijl' bekommen. Gelesen über Russische Kunst von Does… Scheint gut zu sein, aber verstehe wenig Holländisch.").
19. "Assessment of the New: Plastic Russia."
20. Ibid.
21. Lissitzky's article, “Proun,” had already appeared in De Stijl 5, no. 6 (June 1922), 81–85.
22. Evert van Straaten, Theo van Doesburg: Constructor of the New Life. (Otterlo: Kröller-Müller Museum, 1994), 24 [Dutch edition].
23. Ibid., “Letter to Rinsema,” August 20, 1922, 24 [Dutch edition].
24. Letter to Van Doesburg on printed letterhead, "Lissitzky, Villa Croce, Ambri-Sotto," handwritten "Tessin" and dated "A. 7.7.24". Lissitzky writes, "Die gegenseitige Achtung und Schätzung hängt bei uns in Russland nicht von den Künstlerischen verschiedenen Auschauungen der moderne Leute ab sondern nur von der Kraft, selbst des gegenseitiges, Ausdruckes. Darum war ich sehr enteuscht von dir, wenn ungeklärte Einstellungs-verscheidenheit unsere persönliche freundschaftliche Beziehungen beinträhtig haben." Theo van Doesburg Archive (Van Moorsel Donation), Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie (RKD), The Hague.
25. The publication in question is the trilingual book The Isms of Art [Die Kunstismen. Les Ismes de l'Art] (Zurich, Munich, Leipzig: 1925) written in collaboration with Hans Arp. With photographs of exemplary works, key concepts, and short quotations, the book characterizes modern art movements from Expressionism and Cubism to contemporary art of the 1920s.
26. "Ich glaube du wirst mir viell Krach machen zu meiner Freude."
27. Letter written in Lugarno (“Locarno” in the book), Switzerland, dated December 12, 1924. Quoted from Sophie Lissitzky-Küppers, El Lissitzky: Life, Letters, Texts (Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1968), 56. The last letter from Lissitzky in the Van Doesburg Archives is a letter of condolence, dated March 3, 1931, Moscow.
28. El Lissitzky: Life, Letters, Texts, 354.
29. Theo van Doesburg Archive (Van Moorsel Donation), Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie (RKD), The Hague.
30. Theo van Doesburg, "Bazar Bazar Bazar Bazar," De Stijl 7, no. 75/76 (1926–1927): 57–58.
31. K.S. Malevich, The World as Non-Objectivity: Unpublished Writings 1922–1925 ed. Troels Andersen (Copenhagen: 1976), 376 (note 34). Andersen remarks that this photograph was found in Nemchinovka in 1971.
32. For the photo and text on the reverse, see Irina A. Vakar, Tatiana N. Mikhienko, Kazimir Malevich: Memoirs and Criticism Vol. 2 (London: 2015), 472, 616 (note 132). In this source, Peiper (as identified by Malevich) is assumed to be the Dutch architect Jacobus Oud.
33. Van Doesburg used the same five photos that illustrated the infamous "bazar bazar" article in The Stijl (but without commentary) in his article "Kunst en architectuurvernieuwing in Sovjet-Rusland (2)" Het Bouwbedrijf vol. 5, no. 22 (October 1928): 436–44, the caption reads: K. Malevich, Porcelain models. Nikolai Sujetin, Suprematist painting on pottery from the Lomonossow factory, around 1923”.
34. Het Bouwbedrijf vol. 5, no. 20 (September 1928): 5.