El Lissitzky

El Lissitzky, born as Lazar Markovich Lisitsky (Potshinok, Russia, 22 or 23 November 1890 - Moscow, 30 December 1941), was a Russian Jewish artist, painter, graphic artist, architect, typographer and photographer.

Lissitzky was one of the leading artists in the Russian avant-garde at the beginning of the 20th century. Together with his friend and mentor Malevich, he developed suprematism from Cubism and Futurism. His work had a great influence on Constructivism, Bauhaus and De Stijl.

El Lissitzky in a self-portrait from 1914.
El Lissitzky in a self-portrait from 1914.


Start time: until 1919

He was born into a small Jewish community near Smolensk, in the west of Russia. He grew up in Vitebsk, in present-day Belarus. In his teens he was taught by Yehuda Pen, a local Jewish artist. He was a fast learner and soon began teaching himself. In 1909, he was rejected by the St. Petersburg Academy of Art because of the numerus clausus that applied to Jewish students under the Tsarist regime.

In order to still be able to study, Lissitzky left for Germany where he studied architecture at the Technical University in Darmstadt. The breakout of the First World War forced him to return to Russia. In Moscow he graduated in architecture and began working in that field. As a reaction to the fall of the anti-Semitic tsarist regime, he threw himself into Jewish art and studied the traditional Jewish architecture and decorations of the synagogues in the city of Mahilow. In the course of the nineteenth century, the Jewish world was in a state of flux, and the world of art was in a state of flux.


1919 - 1921

In 1919 Marc Chagall invited him to work at the Folk Art School in Vitebsk. Chagall, also back in Russia because of the First World War, also invited other artists, such as Malevich and Yehuda Pen. At that time, Malevich was further developing his ideas about suprematism. He rejected the imitation of natural forms and concentrated on the elaboration of geometric ones. In the midst of the artistic debate between the more traditional Chagall and the radical Malevich, Lissitzky chose the latter. In the end Lissitzky chose the latter; Chagall left the school soon after.


In the same way that the work of the artist has been subjected to the same pressures as those of the other artists, it is also true that the work of the artist has been subjected to the same pressures as those of the other artists. The group ensured the spread of suprematist ideology and made Lissitzky one of the best-known unovists.

In this period Lissitzky also developed his own suprematist style, which he called PROUN. In the first place, it is a question of the way in which the guest's perception of the guest's identity is expressed in the way in which the guest's perception of the guest's environment is expressed in the guest's perception of the guest's environment. It is not the case that the artist's work has to be in the form of a work of art. In the same way as Malevich, Lissitzky contributes to the theoretical underpinnings of suprematism:

Suprematism takes painting from the state of the antique named concrete number to the modern abstract number, which is purely objective, which is a number that by its nature takes its place alongside all objects.

It is the time of the Civil War; an important part of his most famous work is made then, for example the 1919 lithograph Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge. This lithograph is seen as a suprematic interpretation of the military maps. Red stood for the communists, white for the monarchists, conservatives, liberals and socialists who fought against the Bolshevik revolution. Lissitzky was a communist and would later produce the necessary propaganda for the Soviet regime. Lissitzky:

The artist constructs a new symbol with his brush. This symbol is not a recognisable form of something that is already finished, that has already been made, or that is already present in the world. It is a symbol of a new world, built on and existing in the manner of the people.

1921 - 1924

In 1921 Lissitzy left Vitebsk and became a cultural attaché in Berlin. Here he had to establish contacts between the Russian and German artists. He worked as a writer and designer for international journals and helped the avant-garde to gain fame through exhibitions in galleries. In Berlin, he met and became friends with many artists, including Kurt Schwitters, László Moholy-Nagy, Mart Stam and Theo van Doesburg. With Schwitters and Van Doesburg, he worked on the idea of an international artists' movement along the lines of Constructivism. Through Van Doesburg, he bridged the gap with styles such as Bauhaus and De Stijl. With Schwitters he filled an issue of the magazine Merz. Schwitters introduced Lissitzky to the Kestner Gesellschaft gallery in Hanover, where he had his first solo exhibition. The second PROUN series, printed in Hanover in 1923 using new techniques, was a great success. In Hanover, he also met Sophie Kuppers, whom he would marry in 1927.

Later years, after 1924

1924 - 1927

In 1924 Lissitzky went to Switzerland for treatment of his tuberculosis. He financed his stay there by designing advertisements for Pelikan Industries, translating Malevich's articles into German and experimenting with typography and photography. In 1925 he recovered and left for Moscow, where he started teaching interior design and architecture. He also applied himself to designing contributions to exhibitions. His contribution to the Polygraphic Exhibition in Moscow in 1927 was noteworthy, which would earn him a large number of follow-up commissions.

1927 - 1941

Lissitzky continued to design for exhibitions; among other things, he designed the Russian contribution to the 1939 World's Fair in New York. In addition, he experimented a great deal with printing. He was perhaps most influential in this area, designing new techniques for typography and for photomontage. He also continued to design Soviet propaganda material. For a time he worked for the propaganda magazine USSR im Bau. Some of his most remarkable experiments in book design were published there.

In 1941 he fell ill again, and died of tuberculosis on 30 December.


A large part of his PROUN work is on display in the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven. Other works are on display in the Sprengel-Museum in Hannover and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.



  • El Lissitsky (June 1922) 'Proun', De Stijl, 5th volume, number 6, pp. 81-85.
  • Théo van Doesburg, Hans Richter, El Lissitsky, Karel Maes and Max Burchartz (August 1922) 'K.I. Konstruktivistische Internationale schöpferische Arbeitsgemeinschaft/I.C. Union Internationale des Constructeurs néo-plasticistes/K.I. Konstruktivistische Internationale beeldende Arbeitsgemeinschaft', De Stijl, 5th volume, number 8, pp. 113-119.


  • Cover for Wendingen, 4th volume (1921), number 11. Lithograph. 33 × 66,5 cm.

A typface inpired by the work of El Lissitsky; Red Klin, was designed by Gayaneh Bagdasaryan and published by ParaType.

El Lissitzky - Lenin Tribune, 1920. State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
El Lissitzky - Lenin Tribune, 1920. State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
El Lissitzky - Proun Vrashchenia, ca. 1919.
El Lissitzky - Proun Vrashchenia, ca. 1919.


Visit our media section for a complete overview.


De Stijl
Digital Suprematism
El Lissitzky
Kazimir Malevich
Kurt Schwitters
Lazar Markovich Lisitsky
László Moholy-Nagy
Mart Stam
Russian Constructivism
Theo van Doesburg


DeepDove: Style Network (2021-09-21). Suprematism | El Lissitzky. Retrieved , from




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