Eleazar Markovich Lissitzky (El Lissitzky) (1890-1941)
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Lazar Markovich Lissitzky, known by most as El Lissitzky, was a Russian artist and designer. Lissitzky is important for developing the Russian avant garde movement and the style, suprematism. Lissitzky created propaganda pieces for the Soviet Union and influenced the Bauhaus and constructivist artists.
Lissitzky was born in a small Jewish village, Pochinok, formerly part of the Russian Empire. For much of his childhood, Lissitsky lived in the city of Vitebsk (now Belarus), and Smolensk. Lissitsky was interested in art from an early age, and studied under a local Jewish artist, Yehuda Pen.
In 1909 Lissitzky was turned away from an art academy in St. Petersburg, due to a restriction placed on Jewish students by the Tsarist regime. Lissitzky, like many other Russians, moved to Germany to study. Lissitzky enrolled at the Technische Hochschule in Darmstadt, Germany to study architectural engineering. During the summers, Lissitzky travelled Europe learning about art and ancient Jewish culture. Lissitzky was in close contact with Ossip Zadkine, a prominent sculptor and Russian Jew who led a group of artists in Paris.
Lissitzky remained in Germany until the start of World War I, which obligated him to return to his homeland. Lissitzky found work in Moscow, working for architectural firms and studying at the Polytechnic Institute of Riga (based in Moscow during the war). After the fall of the Tsarist regime, Lissitzky was able to freely create Jewish art, without political persecution. Lissitzky travelled to Mahilyow to study synagogue designs and book designs using Hebrew letters.
Over time Lissitzky became more and more versatile, inspiring Russian Constructivists, Neo-Plasticists as well as Bauhaus, De Stijl and Dada artists. Lissitzky also worked with Malevich in forming the suprematist art group, UNOVIS. The suprematists focused on design using geometric forms and typography rather than traditional Jewish subjects. Lissitsky formed his own innovative, suprematist series, Proun. The meaning of the word “Proun” cannot be precisely defined, but refers to the “new” and explores visual poetry.
Lissitzky’s posters, books, paintings and architectural designs define an important era in Russian and Soviet history. His innovative style has inspired numerous movements in twentieth century design. Do you think you own a piece by El Lissitzky? Contact us. We are the experts on El Lissitzky.