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Modern and Contemporary Art
Artist: Kasimir Malevich, Russian, 1878–1935

Tochil’schik Printsip Mel’kaniia (The Knife Grinder or Principle of Glittering)


Oil on canvas

31 5/16 × 31 5/16 in. (79.5 × 79.5 cm)
framed: 82.9 × 83.2 × 5.1 cm (32 5/8 × 32 3/4 × 2 in.)
Gift of Collection Société Anonyme
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.
On view
20th century

“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).

W. Harley Rudkin, “Art in the News,” Springfield Daily News (November 16, 1939): 7.

Collection of the Société Anonyme: Museum of Modern Art 1920 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1950), 37-38, ill.

The Classic Tradition in Contemporary Art, exh. cat. (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1953), 49, no. 73.

Robert Rosenblum, Cubism and Twentieth-Century Art (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1960), 228, ill.

“Commentary from Houston and New York,” Studio International 171 (January 1966): 41, ill.

Maurizio Calvezi, “Il Futurismo Russo,” L’Arte Moderna 5 (1967): 304–5, ill.

Plus by Minus: Today’s Half-Century, exh. cat. (Buffalo: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1968), no. 100.

Pontus Hulten, The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age, exh. cat. (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1968), 69, ill.

“Today’s Half-Century in Buffalo: Pure Abstraction from Malevich to Mondrian,” Arts Magazine 42 (March 1968): 43–44, ill.

Kasimir Malevic, exh. cat. (Milan: Galleria Breton, 1971), 28.

“Los Angeles,” Art International 15 (1971): 70, ill.

Hilton Kramer, “The Cubist Epoch,” Art in America 59 (1971): ill.

Douglas Cooper, ed., The Cubist Epoch, exh. cat. (New York: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1971), 161, 298, pl. 165, ill.

Diane Waldman, “Kasimir Malevich: The Supremacy of Pure Feeling,” Arts Magazine 48 (December 1973): 26, ill.

John E. Bowlt, “The Semaphors of Suprematism: Malevich’s Journey into the Non-Objective World,” Art News (December 1973): 19–20.

Max Kozloff, “Malevich as a Counter-Revolutionary (East and West),” Artforum 12 (January 1974): 37, ill.

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.

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.

W. Sherwin Simmons, “Kasimir Malevich’s ‘Black Square,’ the Transformed Self: Cubism and the Illusionistic Portrait,” Arts Magazine 53 (October 1976): 116–25, ill.

Alan C. Birnholz, “On the Meaning of Kazimir Malevich’s ‘White on White’,” Art International 21 (January 1977): 12, ill.

Eleanora Bairate, La Belle Epoque: Fifteen Euphoric Years of European History (New York: Harper-Collins, 1978), 226, ill.

Robert McHughes, Shock of the New (New York: Random House, 1981), 57, ill.

Alan Shestack, ed., Yale University Art Gallery Selections (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1983), 74–75, ill.

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.

Charlotte Douglas, Kazimir Malevich (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1994), 72.

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.

Didier Ottinger, Le futurisme a Paris: Une avant-garde explosive, exh. cat. (Paris: Editions du Centre Pompidou, 2008).

Richard Meyer, “ ‘Big, Middle-Class Modernism’,” October 131 (Winter 2010): 71, 105–8, ill.

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 such records is ongoing.