Untitled II (c.1915)
NINA OSIPOVNA KOGAN (1887-1942)
Gouache and watercolour on paper; signed bottom right
In period frame with museum glass
Nina Osipovna Kogan (1887-1942) was a leading Russian painter of the Suprematist School. Born in Moscow, Kogan studied at the St. Ekaterina School in St. Petersburg from 1911-1913. In 1919 she helped to organize the City Museum in Petrograd. She went on to study at the People’s Art School in Vitebsk, Belarus, and soon became a teacher there, together with Marc Chagall, El Lissitsky and Kazimir Malevich. Kogan became a member of Malevich’s UNOVIS art collective. While a member of the group, she created the work Suprematist Ballet in an attempt to animate Suprematist forms and ideas in dance. She also took part designing a new version of the futuristic opera Victory over the Sun. Kogan participated in several exhibitions in the early 1920s, such as “Erste Russisch Kunstausstellung” in Berlin, 1922; “Exhibition of Works by Women Artists” in Leningrad, 1936; the “Sixth Exhibition of Works by Leningrad Artists”, Leningrad, 1940; and the “Seventh Exhibition of Works by Leningrad Artists”, Leningrad, 1941.
In 1922 Kogan married artist Anatoly Borisov. She never revisited Suprematism after the mid 1920s. Kogan died in 1942 in Leningrad during the Siege of Leningrad – it has long been thought of starvation but it now seems likely she was murdered by the NKVD.
Australian poet Clive James (one of the three most erudite men of the 20th century) wrote a poem about Kogan, titled “Nina Kogan’s Geometrical Heaven”:
Two of her little pictures grace my walls:
Suprematism in a special sense,
With all the usual bits and pieces flying
Through space, but carrying a pastel-tinged
Delicacy to lighten the strict forms
Of that hard school and blow them all sky-high,
Splinters and stoppers from the bombing of
An angel’s boudoir.