Ihor Holubizky and Brandi Lee MacDonald



Alexander Mikhailovich Rodchenko (Russian 1891-1956)

Untitled, 1919

oil on spruce panel

25.7 x 21.5 cm

Levy Bequest Purchase, 1995

© Aleksandr Mikhajlivich Rodchenko Estate / SODRAC (2016)


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Museum purchase, Annely Juda Fine Art, London, England, 1995

Alexander Rodchenko[1] is considered among the four most important artists—the others were Kasimir Malevich (1879–1935), Vladimir Tatlin (1885–1953), and El Lissitzky (1890–1941) of the Moscow avant-garde period, which began around 1912 with the publication of the Russian Futurist manifesto A Slap in the Face of Public Taste, and ended in the late 1920s with the increasing “Stalinization” of the Soviet Union and promotion of Social Realism.

Rodchenko’s work was multifaceted: painting, sculpture, graphic design (agitprop), photography, and “pedagogy,” as he was active after 1918 in the Art and Production Department, a subsection of the Bolshevik government’s Museums Office, and in 1920 was an initial member of INKhUK, the Institute of Artistic Culture in Moscow. In the period 1915 to 1919, Rodchenko increasingly moved away from the “subjectivity” of even the radical non-objective painters—Malevich for example, who embraced a form of mysticism—to analytical-objective/non-objective works. These are his so-called “compass and ruler” works, for which he used drafting tools and experimented with a wide range of techniques and media “including metallic and reflective paints and varnishes, as well as gouache and oils, to emphasize…material qualities.”[2] Rodchenko became a member of the First Working Group of Constructivists, formed in the spring of 1921, to “ Joining this group marked Rodchenko’s departure from studio painting entirely.[3] In 1921 he exhibited a three-panel monochrome painting that he declared was the end of painting—although he returned to painting in the late 1930s, working in an “expressionist style”.[4]

At the time of writing, provenance, attribution, and comparative object research continues, but remains inconclusive. [5]


Exhibition History

Ideals and Illusion, McMaster Museum of Art, Tomlinson Gallery, 9 April- 11 June 1995

I Know What I Like! McMaster Museum of Art, Sherman and Panabaker Galleries, 26 May – 18 August 1996

The Levy Legacy, McMaster Museum of Art, Tomlinson Gallery, 1 September- 3 November 1996

Inner Nature, McMaster Museum of Art, Tomlinson Gallery, 14 June – 16 August 1998

Translinear, McMaster Museum of Art, Sherman Gallery, 5 September – 24 October 1999

Markers, McMaster Museum of Art, Tomlinson Gallery, 24 March – 2 June 2002

The Vaults Revealed: Modern European Masters, McMaster Museum of Art, Sherman Gallery, 3 November – 1 December2002

Dada and their Colleagues, McMaster Museum of Art, Togo Salmon Gallery, 10 May – 25 August 2007

A Field Guide To Observing Art, McMaster Museum of Art, Sherman Gallery, 17 September – 31 October 2009

[1] There are variations of spelling for “Alexander”—the Museum of Modern Art uses Aleksandr, for example (see “Aleksandr Rodchenko,” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed May 18, 2015, from http://www.moma.org/collection/artist.php?artist_id=4975)—but these are the consequence of transliterations from the original Russian Cyrillic to English.

[2] John Milner, “Material Values,” in Alexander Rodchenko 1891–1956, ed. David King and David Elliott (Oxford: Museum of Modern Art, 1979), 50.

[3] See “Constructivism, Russian, Formation 1914–21,” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed May 18, 2015, http://www.moma.org/collection/details.php?section_id=T019195&theme_id=10955.

[4] See “The Death of Painting,” the Museum of Modern Art, accessed May 18, 2015, http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/1998/rodchenko/texts/death_of_painting.html.

[5] Attestation of authenticity from Dr. A. [Andrei] B. Nakov, Paris, dated 12 October 1994 on the verso of a photograph provided by Annely Juda Fine Art, and sent to the McMaster Museum of Art, February 15, 1995.