Tochil'schik Printsip Mel'kaniia (The Knife Grinder or Principle of Glittering) Artist: Kazimir Malevich (Russian (Ukraine), 1878–1935)


Modern and Contemporary Art

On view, 3rd floor, Modern and Contemporary Art and Design

This painting combines the pictorial vocabulary of Cubism with the dynamism of Futurism and is usually considered one of the finest examples of Russian Cubo-Futurist painting. Kazimir Malevich produced several pictures of peasants working at various tasks, but this is his only surviving machine subject. The painting shows a man operating the simple portable sharpening device by which he earned his living. Although abstractly drawn, the figure of the knife grinder is clearly visible in this painting. A year later, Malevich changed his approach radically and adopted a nonrepresentational type of painting, which he termed Suprematism.


Oil on canvas


31 5/16 × 31 5/16 in. (79.5 × 79.5 cm)
framed: 32 5/8 × 32 3/4 × 2 in. (82.9 × 83.2 × 5.1 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Collection Société Anonyme

Accession Number



20th century


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.

  • Isabel Wünsche, "Katherine S. Dreier’s Promotion of German Modernism and the Russian Avant-Garde," in "The Société Anonyme at 100," special issue, Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2020–21), 51
  • Richard Meyer, "'Big, Middle-Class Modernism'," October 131 (Winter 2010), 71, 105–8, ill
  • Didier Ottinger, Le futurisme a Paris: Une avant-garde explosive, exh. cat. (Paris: Editions du Centre Pompidou, 2008),
  • Maria Helena Frietas, Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso: Avant-Garde Dialogues, exh. cat. (Lisbon: Fundacao Calouste Gulbenkian, 2006),
  • Ruth L. Bohan et al., The Société Anonyme: Modernism for America, ed. Jennifer Gross, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2006), 54, 178, fig. 11
  • Charlotte Douglas, Kazimir Malevich (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1994), 72
  • Robert L. Herbert, Eleanor S. Apter, and Elise K. Kenney, The Société Anonyme and the Dreier Bequest at Yale University: A Catalogue Raisonné (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1984), 429, no. 443, ill
  • Robert McHughes, Shock of the New (New York: Random House, 1981), 57, ill
  • Eleanora Bairate, La Belle Epoque: Fifteen Euphoric Years of European History (New York: Harper-Collins, 1978), 226, ill
  • Alan C. Birnholz, "On the Meaning of Kazimir Malevich's 'White on White'," Art International 21 (January 1977), 12, ill
  • W. Sherwin Simmons, "Kasimir Malevich's 'Black Square,' the Transformed Self: Cubism and the Illusionistic Portrait," Arts Magazine 53 (October 1976), 116–25, ill
  • William S. Lieberman, ed., Modern Masters: Manet to Matisse, exh. cat. (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1975), 265
  • John Golding, "The Black Square," Studio International 189, no. 974 (March–April 1975), 86–106
  • Donald Kuspit, "Malevich's Quest for Unconditioned Creativity," Artforum 12 (June 1974), 54–55
  • Donald Judd, "Malevich: Independent Form, Color, Surface," Art in America 62 (March–April 1974), 52–53
  • Max Kozloff, "Malevich as a Counter-Revolutionary (East and West)," Artforum 12 (January 1974), 37, ill
  • John E. Bowlt, "The Semaphors of Suprematism: Malevich's Journey into the Non-Objective World," Art News (December 1973), 19–20
  • Diane Waldman, "Kasimir Malevich: The Supremacy of Pure Feeling," Arts Magazine 48 (December 1973), 26, ill
  • Douglas Cooper, ed., The Cubist Epoch, exh. cat. (New York: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1971), 161, 298, pl. 165, ill
  • "Los Angeles," Art International 15 (1971), 70, ill
  • Kasimir Malevic, exh. cat. (Milan: Galleria Breton, 1971), 28
  • Hilton Kramer, "The Cubist Epoch," Art in America 59 (1971), ill
  • Plus by Minus: Today's Half-Century, exh. cat. (Buffalo: Buffalo AKG Art Museum, 1968), no. 100
  • "Today's Half-Century in Buffalo: Pure Abstraction from Malevich to Mondrian," Arts Magazine 42 (March 1968), 43–44, ill
  • Pontus Hulten, The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age, exh. cat. (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1968), 69, ill
  • Maurizio Calvezi, "Il Futurismo Russo," L'Arte Moderna 5 (1967), 304–5, ill
  • "Commentary from Houston and New York," Studio International 171 (January 1966), 41, ill
  • Robert Rosenblum, Cubism and Twentieth-Century Art (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1960), 228, ill
  • The Classic Tradition in Contemporary Art, exh. cat. (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1953), 49, no. 73
  • Collection of the Société Anonyme: Museum of Modern Art 1920 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1950), 37-38, ill
  • W. Harley Rudkin, "Art in the News," Springfield Daily News (November 16, 1939), 7
  • "Art Exhibitions of the Week: Suprematism," New York Times (February 24, 1924), 10
  • "Notes and Activities in the World of Art," New York Herald (February 17, 1924),
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

abstract (general art genre)




Signed LR: "KM". Inscribed on reverse in Russian: "(Principle of Glittering) The Grinder"

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