Pavel Filonov
(1883–1941)

Pavel Filonov, eight works, Collection State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg, installation view, Neue Galerie, Kassel, documenta 14, photo: Mathias Völzke

Pavel Filonov was an art theorist, painter, and poet. Discharged from the St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Art in 1910, Filonov travelled across Europe, during which time he formulated his first theoretical texts. These became the basis of his theory of “Universal Flowering,” according to which the transformation of the human environment could eventually lead to a transgression of the limits of existence, the individual becoming one with the universe. Filonov believed that this transcendence could be attained through meticulous work on the structure of his paintings. In 1923 he was appointed as a professor at the St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Art and made a member of the Institute of Artistic Culture (INKhUK). In 1929, a large retrospective of his works was cancelled by the Soviet regime, an event that marked the beginning of Filonov’s descent into poverty. The artist died of starvation during the Siege of Leningrad in 1941.

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