Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Art History and Visual Culture



First Advisor

Trenton Olsen

Second Advisor

James Hutson

Third Advisor

Matthew Bailey


This thesis explores the influence of Silver Age philosophers Vladimir Soloviev, Sergei Bulgakov, and Pavel Florensky on Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square. Malevich was among the first to apply Silver Age philosophy to abstract art, fully rejecting all objective representation in art. The thesis argues that Malevich’s Suprematism was the result of the fundamental antimony of the Russian religious worldview, which understands reality as both immanent and transcendent. This understanding of reality was not unique to Russia but was the result of historic influences, including the Neoplatonic and religious-humanist philosophy that was prevalent in Russian intellectual culture during this period. By recognizing this difference, the thesis aims to provide a better understanding of the cultural forces that helped to shape the avant-garde and Malevich’s Suprematism. It also presents humanism and Neoplatonism as an intellectual middle ground to better understand some of the cultural differences between Russia and the West. Finally, the thesis compares the Black Square with the geometric symbolism of the circle and square as understood through the Christian architectural tradition and the Vitruvian figures of the Renaissance. It shows that applying Vitruvian symbolism to the Black Square clarifies its role as an icon and does not undermine Malevich’s interpretation of the work. The research provides a new perspective on Malevich’s Black Square and its place in the context of Russian intellectual culture and history.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License