Died on 30 December 1788: Francesco
Zuccarelli, Florentine landscape painter born on 15 August 1702.
Zuccarelli worked principally in Venice and England. He met Richard
Wilson in Venice in 1751 and they exchanged paintings; in 1752 he went to
London and remained until 1762. He returned to London in 1765 and stayed
until 1771, being elected a Founder-Member of the Royal Academy in 1768.
His light and facile style of landscape painting, with picturesque peasantry,
was very popular in England and was preferred to the graver style of Wilson.
An example of Zuccarelli's work is his grand historical landscape, Cadmus
Killing the Dragon (1765).
Bacchanal (1750, 142x210cm) _ The Tuscan painter Francesco Zuccarelli came to Venice in 1732. He was familiar with trends in European painting, having visited London and Paris. His ideal pastoral landscapes are characterized by an arcadian grace in the use of color, by a harmonious rhythm of gesture, a softness of tone and a hazy atmosphere filling the spacious vistas. In the idyllic countryside, pastoral or mythological scenes are set against a brilliant green or water-side background. The paintings are sentimental, sometimes achieving a refined lyricism in keeping with the light-hearted ideals of the time.
The Rape of Europa (1750, 142x208cm) _ Much loved by collectors, Zuccarelli specialized in painting luminous Arcadian landscapes. His Tuscan origins are suggested by the clarity and rationality of his compositions. The figures, drawn from classical myths, enhance the refined aristocratic quality of his paintings.
Died on 30 December 1941: Lazar
Markovich Lisitskii “El Lissitzky”, Russian
painter born on 23 November 1890.
— El Lissitzky was born Lazar Markovich Lisitskii, in Pochinok, in the Russian province of Smolensk, and grew up in Vitebsk. He pursued architectural studies at the Technische Hochschule in Darmstadt, Germany, from 1909 to 1914, when the outbreak of World War I precipitated his return to Russia. In 1916, he received a diploma in engineering and architecture from the Riga Technological University.
Lissitzky and Kazimir Malevich [26 Feb 1878 – 15 May 1935] were invited by Marc Chagall to join the faculty of the Vitebsk Popular Art School in 1919; there Lissitzky taught architecture and graphics. That same year, he executed his first Proun (an acronym in Russian for “project for the affirmation of the new”) and formed part of the Unovis group. In 1920, he became a member of Inkhuk (Institute for Artistic Culture) in Moscow and designed his book Pro dva kvadrata. The following year, he taught at Vkhutemas with Vladimir Tatlin and joined the Constructivist group. The Constructivists exhibited at the Erste russische Kunstausstellung designed by Lissitzky at the Galerie van Diemen in Berlin in 1922. During this period he collaborated with Ilya Ehrenburg on the journal Veshch/Gegenstand/Objet.
In 1923, Lissitzky experimented with new typographic design for a book by Vladimir Mayakovski, Dlya golosa, and visited Hannover, where his work was shown under the auspices of the Kestner-Gesellschaft. Also in 1923, Lissitzky created his Proun environment for the Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung and executed his lithographic suites Proun and Victory over the Sun (illustrating the opera by Alexei Kruchenykh and Mikhail Matiushin), before traveling to Switzerland for medical treatment. In 1924, he worked with Kurt Schwitters on the issue of the periodical Merz called “Nasci,” and with Arp on the book Die Kunstismen. The next year, he returned to Moscow to teach at Vkhutemas-Vkhutein, which he continued to do until 1930. During the mid-1920s, Lissitzky stopped painting in order to concentrate on the design of typography and exhibitions. He created a room for the Internationale Kunstausstellung in Dresden in 1926 and another at the Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum Hannover in 1927. He died at Schodnia, near Moscow.
Abstraction in Black and White, Proun 19D (1922, 97x97cm) Proun G7 (1923, 77x62cm)
— Untitled (1920, 80x50cm) [loosely stacked multicolored rectangles] _ This painting reveals the principles of Suprematism that El Lissitzky absorbed under the influence of Kazimir Malevich in 1919–1920. Trained as an engineer and possessing a more pragmatic temperament than that of his mentor, Lissitzky soon became one of the leading exponents of Constructivism. In the 1920s, while living in Germany, he became an important influence on both the Dutch De Stijl group and the artists of the German Bauhaus.
Like Malevich, Lissitzky believed in a new art that rejected traditional pictorial structure, centralized compositional organization, mimesis, and perspectival consistency. In this work the ladder of vividly colored forms seems to be floating through indeterminate space. Spatial relationships are complicated by the veil of white color that divides these forms from the major gray diagonal. The linkage of elements is not attributable to a mysterious magnetic pull, as in Malevich’s untitled painting of ca. 1916, but is indicated in a literal way by the device of a connecting threadlike line. The winding line changes color as it passes through the various rectangles that may serve as metaphors for different cosmic planes.
— Entwurf zu Proun (1923, 21x30cm) _ Lissitzky was the Russian avant-garde’s unofficial emissary to the West, traveling and lecturing extensively on behalf of Russia’s modern artists who believed that abstraction was a harbinger of utopian social values. Basing himself in Berlin and Hanover in the 1920s, Lissitzky helped produce publications and organize exhibitions promoting both Russian and Western art that shared a common vision of aesthetics steeped in technology, mass production, and social transformation.
While Lissitzky was teaching architecture and graphic design at the Artistic Technical Institute in Vitebsk, his art shifted from figuration to geometric abstraction. Under the tutelage of Suprematist painter Kazimir Malevich, Lissitzky began a body of work he would later call Prouns (an acronym for “Project for the Affirmation of the New” in Russian). These nonobjective compositions broadened Malevich’s Suprematist credo of pure painting as spiritually transcendent into an interdisciplinary system of two-dimensional, architectonic forms rendered in painted collages, drawings, and prints, with both utopian and utilitarian aspirations. Blurring the distinctions between real and abstract space—a zone that Lissitzky called the “interchange station between painting and architecture”—the Prouns dwell upon the formal examination of transparency, opacity, color, shape, line, and materiality, which Lissitzky ultimately extended into three-dimensional installations that transformed our experience of conventional, gravity-based space. Occasionally endowed with cryptic titles reflecting an interest in science and mathematics, these works seem engineered rather than drawn by hand—further evidence of the artist’s growing conviction that art was above all rational rather than intuitive or emotional.
Proun (Entwurf zu Proun S.K.) is exemplary of Lissitzky’s unique enterprise. One of two studies for a larger oil painting, this composition uses different mediums to suggest a range of properties for the otherwise straightforward geometric forms, which become dynamic through their suspension within a precariously balanced visual field. Like all of the Prouns, this work is a highly refined object. Thus, while they parallel certain tenets of the Russian Constructivists, who used a similarly reductive visual vocabulary and sought to merge art and life through mass production and industry, Lissitzky’s Prouns lack the rough-hewn experimental nature of Contructivist objects, remaining more on the side of aesthetics than utility.