El Lissitsky was one of the great Avante-Garde artists of the early twentieth-century. Born on November 23, 1890, in Pochinuk, Russia, Eleazar Lissitsky had an early interest in art. At the age of 13, he began studying at the School of Drawing and Painting run by Yehuda Pen in Vitebsk (where he was a contemporary of Marc Chagall). Two years later, Lissitsky was instructing other young artists.

El Lissitsky was a painter, a typographer, an architect as well as the designer of propaganda and exhibitions. Indeed, the many fields and projects in which he was involved are too many to include in one short Treat. El Lissitsky was best known for his specific style of suprematism, which he called Proun (the Russian acronym for “Project for the Affirmation of the New). A variety of media were used for the Prounen (pl), and the works were multi-dimensional.

El Lissitsky appears to have accepted the Communist regime and even created propagandist art for the Bolsheviks, the most famous of which is titled “Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge.”

He was, however, deeply connected to his Jewish identity. At the outset of his career, when the harsh, anti-Semitic laws of the Czar were being cast aside, El Lissitsky illustrated Yiddish children’s books promoting Jewish culture. He also included Jewish themes and Hebrew letters in his later works.

Throughout the span of his life, Lissitsky found the means to continue his art, as the society around him was being recreated.  He was productive even in the era of Stalin, who persecuted many independent artists. After a long illness and a slow decline, El Lissitsky succumbed to tuberculosis on December 30, 1941.

Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.