Suprematism was a term created in 1915 by Kazimir Malevich. The word Suprematism itself implied the supremacy of this new art in relation to the past. Malevich saw it as aesthetic and was concerned only with form, free from any political or social meaning. He stressed the purity of shape, particularly of the square, and he regarded suprematism as primarily an exploration of visual language comparable to contemporary developments in writing. Suprematist paintings were first displayed at an art exhibition held in St Petersburg in December 1915, they comprised geometric forms which appeared to float against a white background. While suprematism began before the Revolution of 1917, its influence, and the influence of Malevich's approach to art, was very pervasive in the early Soviet period.
We can trace the beginnings of suprematism to his sets and costumes for the Russian Opera. His designs reflected the complex synthesis of Russian and west European art that reached its height on the eve of World War I. From the simplest geometric, monochrome shapes, Malevich built an entire suprematist universe in a series of stunning canvases like this composition painted around 1916. For a production in 1915, Malevich proposed a black square as a backdrop. At the exhibition the Black Square painted on a square canvas surrounded by a margin of white, was hung across the corner of the separate room where works by Malevich and his followers were displayed; it was announced as the essential Suprematist work. On the one hand it was radically nihilistic and could be interpreted as a gesture of rejection, providing no narrative, theme, composition or picture space, apparently rejecting all pictorial conventions and offering a canvas of unprecedented blankness; on the other hand suspension across the corner of a room was a common way to display domestic icons, and by referring to this tradition its rejection of convention.