PRINT October 1969

El Lissitzky’s “Prouns”, Part I


THE EARLIEST SURVIVING WORKS BY El Lissitzky are two watercolor sketches of the Church of the Trinity in Vitebsk and of the fortification wall surrounding the artist’s native Smolensk. These sketches, dated 1910 when Lissitzky was nearly twenty years old, are customarily interpreted as studies undertaken in conjunction with Lissitzky’s courses in architecture at the Technische Hochschule in Darmstadt, in which Lissitzky had enrolled the preceding year. Indeed the concern for an objective and accurate account of these structures, with comparatively little interest in landscape, atmospheric, or figural detail, supports this interpretation. But when one turns to an analysis of the formal and compositional elements in the sketches, a number of unusual features come to light.

Both the church and the tower have been placed asymmetrically to avoid a static, inert composition. The strong horizontal

to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.