I found another Fin de siècle  movement. I love the name, Suprematism. It sounds so sure of itself.  It originated with Russian painter Kazamir Malevich, a pioneer of geometric abstract art.   He published what he called the Suprematism Manifesto in 1915 – a rambling and rather boring  declaration of Suprematism as (basically), 

The object in itself is meaningless … the ideas of the conscious mind are worthless”. 

Red Square: Painterly Realism of a Peasant Woman in Two Dimensions (Malevich, 1913)

Come to find out, Art Manifestos are fairly common, usually extreme in their rhetoric and intended for shock value to achieve a revolutionary effect.  They often address wider issues, such as the political system.”

Given that he wrote his manifesto two years before the Bolshevik Revolution, I’ll consider his  contempt for the conscious mind a sign of his times. He goes on to say:

It appears to me that, for the critics and the public, the painting of Raphael, Rubens, Rembrandt, etc., has become nothing more than a conglomeration of countless “things,” which conceal its true value the feeling which gave rise to it. The virtuosity of the objective representation is the only thing admired.

Art Nouveau also rejected formulaic Academic art, which for all intent and purposes, is the classic style of the High Renaissance.  I’m struck that the cause for the two movements to begin is the same, while the outcomes are so contrary.  

………………….  An Englishman in Moscow  

An Englishman in Moscow, Kasimir Malevich (1914)

This piece can not be what Malevich labels Suprematism. The objects themselves are not meaningless … the ideas of the conscious mind are are tangible. Symbolism is more like it, I’d say. There’s even a Symbolist Manifesto:  Art should represent absolute truths which could only be described indirectly.

I am correct. I just found a description of its many different symbols: 

The ladder is known to symbolize the attainment of a higher truth or perspective, while the religious symbols, the candle, the church, and the cross created by the sword could indicate a renewal of faith.  
The writing at the bottom of the canvas is a broken word meaning hourly, a symbol for time.  The fish is often associated with knowledge, and the violent images such as the saw, scissors, and sword, could possibly represent the cutting away of the garbled lies and confused information fed to human kind in order to reveal the knowledge of truth.

Мне больше нечего сказать о Малевича

I don’t know how I want to end this post other than to say I prefer Gustav Klimt’s Vienna Secession to Kasimir Malevich’s Suprematism.  

Update: Yeah, like, why is the grimacing Englishman in Moscow? He’s half-covered by all of the above mentioned symbols, too.  He most likely represents the “garbled lies and confused information” fed to the masses by the ruling classes.

Special to the New York Times 1990 review, Malevich’s Search for a New Reality

Black Circle (Malevich, 1913), State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg