Alekseï Morgunov

Aleksei Morgunov (1884-1935) was a Russian and Soviet painter, an illegitimate child, son of the landscape artist Alexei Savrassov. An eminent representative of the Russian Avant-garde. In his early years he was interested in neo-primitivism but was also strongly influenced by Fauvism. Together with Kasimir Malevich and Ivan Klioune he created a movement called "feverishness" (феврализм). During the Soviet era he returned to neo-classicism and eventually followed the movement imposed on Soviet socialist realism artists. Like his father, he suffered from alcoholism and dipsomania. His mother Catherine Matvéevna Morgounov, after whom he was named, was born around 1856 and died around 1920.

Malevich, Kliun and Aleksei Morgunov (1914).
Malevich, Kliun and Aleksei Morgunov (1914).


In his first avant-garde works, Morgunov combined Fauvism and neo-primitivism in the manner of Michel Larionov, who, like him, was a member of the Queue d'Âne. At the beginning of the 1910s, he had a studio in Moscow, on Ostozhenka Street, known as "Mogrunovka", where left-wing artists met to form a kind of "free academy" oriented towards nature painting.

In 1911, the real shock came from the Moscow exhibition organised by the Valet de Carreau, which was to have repercussions in Russian and universal art and spread his interpretation of the Cézanne, Fauvist, primitivist aesthetic. Morgounov described this impact as follows: "It was a victory over the pale, grey, monotonous exhibitions that had been taking place up to now, a victory over aesthetic clichés, a victory over petit-bougeois taste".

In the years 1914-1915 Morgounov was a close companion of Kasimir Malevitch with Ivan Klioune. They founded the movement "feverishness". At the beginning of this movement an argument broke out at the Polytechnic Museum in Moscow within the Valet de Carreau group on 19 February 1914 (old calendar). Malevich spoke during a discussion on the reversal of ideas, which provoked an argument. Morgunov arrived at the museum with a wooden peasant spoon in his lapel (a personal sign of support for the new painting, and also a symbol of the toutism of the time). The president Pyotr Konchalovsky was obliged to close the session after Morgunov said: "I got stomach pains from Jacob Tugendkhold's speech, the idiot is tiring me out... "

The photo taken on 1 March 1914 of Malevich and Morgunov on the Blacksmiths' Bridge (Kuznetsky Most), with their wooden peasant spoon in their lapel, made the front page of Moscow magazines. The provincial newspapers picked up the photo of the three "fevrialists" with Ivan Kliun taken the same day in their workshop on the Arbat.

Morgunov's attitudes in his life foreshadowed the happenings of the future. In his work, the Russian critic Alexander Shatskikh observes in Morgunov the same taste for scandal, for the alogical, as in the Fevrierists. These are the same sets of planes with regular contours, the silent contemplation of which provokes anxiety about the future of Malevich's Suprematist movement.

The last two exhibitions of Le Valet de Carreau in 1914 and 1916 saw the triumph of Futuro-Cubism, to which Morgounov was attached. It is Alexei Morgunov who best represents the trend of these exhibitions. He was never in the absolute objectless. Suprematism was more of a vocabulary for him. At no time does he separate himself from the object, even in his most abstract works: the object remains discreetly present. Sometimes it is letters that bring us back to reality. Morgunov's colour palette is very fine, so that his oils are as light as watercolours.

After 1916, for two years Morgunov almost completely abandoned painting and only returned to it a little at the beginning of the Soviet period. In the 1920s he turned to neo-classicism, but in the last years of his life he painted in the style of Soviet socialist realism. He also taught in Moscow from 1918 to 1920 and later became a member of the Working and Study Groups on Painting.

Morgunov's most successful works date from the period during which he was closely befriended by Malevich and especially by Febrialism. Some of the works from his Febrialism period are in the collection of George Costakis, itself on display in the State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki, and in another collection; that of the Russian writer Nikolai Khadjiev.


Aleksei Morgunov - Composition #1.
Aleksei Morgunov - Composition #1.


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Alekseï Morgunov
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This page was last changed on 2021-09-21.