Malevich – Red Cavalry Riding

Painting is by Kazimir Malevich, from 1928-1932. Malevich was Russian, the cavalry depicted probably refers to the Red Army. Malevich was at the forefront of the Communist movement in Russia but was one of the early communist idealists, and when Stalin came to power, he was persecuted pretty badly. No one really knows what Malevich thought of Stalinist Russia, but paintings from this period tend to project loneliness, of distant images that are too far to reach. The obvious comparison is to “Red House”, dating from around the same time; he uses the same sort of muted color scheme in that painting. There is just this immense and endless sky above the riders, it seems to stretch all the way up to space. Not sure what the meaning of the striped foreground is, but it’s something that appears in almost all of his late pieces. As far as the cavalry figures, you could probably draw some sort of comparison to earlier suprematist pieces like “Suprematism with Eight Red Triangles”, and a lot of Malevich’s late compositions have some sort of synthesis of his earlier Suprematism. The cavalry seem indomitable and incapable of having their progress slowed. I think Malevich generally portrays these figures in a positive light. The time when the White Army was being vanquished was for him the glory days of the movement, and the red cavalry marching to battle represent that. I think there is a small element of nostalgia for the old imagery of Cossack warriors marching across the steppes; it seems like nostalgia always creeps into the works of Russian modernist painters. At this point, Malevich still feels proud these riders, but he knows that he does not belong; he is an outsider.

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