El Lissitzky

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Photographic self-portrait from 1914

Eliezer "El" Lissitzky ( Russian Эль Лисицкий , scientific transliteration. El 'Lisickij ; actually Лазарь Маркович Лисицкий / Lazar Markovich Lissitzki   listen ? / I ; born November 10 . Jul / 22. November 1890 greg. In Pochinok , Russia , † 30 December 1941 in Moscow ) was an important Russian avant-gardist and, through a wide range of activities in the fields of painting , architecture , graphic design , typography and photography , made a significant theoretical and practical contribution to the realization and dissemination of constructivist ideas. Audio file / audio sample  

life and work

After childhood and youth in Smolensk , El Lissitzky applied to the St. Petersburg School of Art in 1909 , but was rejected as a Jew . Like many other Russians in his position, he then went to Germany and studied architecture and engineering at the Technical University of Darmstadt from 1909 to 1914 ; he graduated from Moscow with a diploma in 1915.

In the October Revolution of 1917, Lissitzky saw an artistic and social new beginning for humanity. The themes of his work are strongly influenced by his political views. In 1918 he became a member of the Department of Fine Arts (ISO, Russian Изобразительный Отдел ) of the NARKOMPROS cultural department in Moscow.

El Lissitzky exercised various teaching activities, including from 1919 at the art college in Vitebsk , where he and Kazimir Malevich arrived in November 1919. Lissitzky was recruited by the then director Marc Chagall . From 1920 to 1921 he was head of the architecture department at WChUTEMAS in Moscow.

The First Russian Art Exhibition in Berlin in 1922 , for the organization and design of which Lissitzky played an active role and whose catalog shaped its front page, showed his paintings Stadt , Proun 2c and Proun 19d as well as book illustrations and other works.

Binding made by Lissitzky for the children's book "Four billy goats" from 1922

He shaped the design of his time with his style. He was a co-founder of constructivism and was heavily influenced by suprematism . Geometric elements have been transformed into a political symbolism that everyone can understand. During this time his experimental designs with the name Proun , an acronym for “Project for the Assertion of the New”, which can be understood as a continuation of Suprematism into the third dimension, were created. With his rejection of Gutenberg's design-restricting lead type , El Lissitzky foresaw the turn to photo typesetting early on . His Proun pictures are compositions of geometrical figures that create a spatial effect on the two-dimensional surface. As a trained architect , El Lissitzky saw his work as an interaction between architecture and painting . His work then influenced the De Stijl movement and the Bauhaus .

In 1923 he fell ill with tuberculosis, which he had treated in a sanatorium in Locarno. In Berlin he edited the trilingual art magazine Weschtsch - Objet - Objekt with Ehrenburg . Together with Kurt Schwitters he worked on the magazine Merz . After a long stay in Germany and Switzerland (1921–1925), he returned to the Soviet Union in 1925 and taught until 1930 at the Moscow Art School Wchutemas in the steel and metals department.

He cultivated artist acquaintances with Hans Arp (joint work on the text Die Kunstismen , published in 1925), Kasimir Malewitsch , Jan Tschichold and Willi Baumeister . 1927–1928 he was commissioned to design the abstract cabinet in the Lower Saxony State Gallery in Hanover . In 1928 he was the artistic director of the design of the Soviet pavilion at the international press exhibition Pressa in Cologne.

Lissitzky's poster - advertising for Pelikan AG in Hanover , 1929

In 1922 he met the art historian Sophie Küppers in Hanover, and in 1927 the couple married and lived in Moscow. In the 1930s he was a member of the Abstraction-Création artist movement in Paris . From 1931 he was the leading artist-architect of the permanent building exhibition in the Gorki Cultural Park in Moscow and from 1932 a permanent employee as a book artist for the magazine USSR in Bau .

From 1909, the year he started studying in Darmstadt, and until his death on December 30, 1941 (due to tuberculosis), El Lissitzky commuted between Germany and Russia, which is why part of his work tends to be with the western, especially the German and Dutch avant-garde connected, but another part - and that is v. a. for theory - closer to the eastern Russian avant-garde.

Work (selection)

Lissitzky dealt with a variety of different methods and ideas; this had a major impact on contemporary art, particularly in the areas of graphic design , exhibition design and architecture. Some of his works were shown posthumously at documenta III in Kassel in 1964 .

In October 2013 it became known that the private estate of El Lissitzky and his wife Sophie Lissitzky-Küppers will be donated to the Sprengel Museum Hannover by their son Jen Lissitzky .


the latter two were created at the invitation and with the support of the Kestner Society in Hanover.

Graphic work

  • Layout of the cover picture of the American culture magazine Broom
  • Advertising campaigns for Pelikan AG Hanover
  • Collaboration on the Merz magazine by Kurt Schwitters (No. 8/9, 1924)
  • Leib Kwitko : Vaysrussische folksmayses , drawings L. Lissitzky, Kniga, Berlin 1923
  • Leib Kwitko: Ukraynishe folksmayses , drawings L. Lissitzky, Kniga, Berlin 1922


  • Die Kunstismen , (with Hans Arp ) Zurich 1925
  • SSSR's Architektur in Das Kunstblatt , year 1925, issue 2, pp. 49–53.
  • Proun and Wolkenbügel. Writings, letters, documents. Verlag der Kunst, Dresden 1977 ( Fundus series 46)
  • Proun, c.1922, MoMA

  • Kestner folder Proun, Rob. Levnis and Chapman GmbH Hannover # 5, 1923

  • Anxious, 1923

  • Poster for an exhibition, 1929

  • Propaganda poster

Architecture, drafts

Lenin Tribune, 1920. State Tretyakov Gallery , Moscow
Lenin Tribune
The idea of ​​a speaker's platform arose in 1920 in Vitebsk, where Lissitzky had been working with Marc Chagall as a professor of the higher art workshops since 1919. There he gave his students the task of designing a speaker's platform. The design by Ilja Grigoryevich Tschaschnik is the basis for the grandstand, which was further developed by Lissitzky in 1924. The design shows a dynamic arrangement of colored areas that are oriented horizontally and diagonally. This linear scheme is connected by a crane-like iron construction, which rests on a cuboid as a base. A sliding surface element makes the grandstand appear open or closed depending on the position. A spatial impression is only created by the superposition of lines and areas. The main idea that determines the concept of the grandstand is the spatial organization of movement sequences, which culminates in the body language of the agitator . The structural or technical features of the grandstand remained of secondary importance. Lissitzky himself calls the 12 m high stand “speaker's platform for public spaces”. The temporary nature of the design is documented by the construction - the grandstand can be almost completely dismantled so that it can later be rebuilt elsewhere. The diagonally extendable, ladder-like construction with two platforms (waiting room for guests and speaker's pulpit) had a glass elevator that carried the speakers and guests to the respective platforms. The cube on which the iron structure rests contains the engine room and the cockpit, which should also be completely glazed. A screen to be attached to the end of the iron structure, which could be unfolded quickly, served to spread daily slogans and was to be used as a cinema projection surface at night. It is to be understood as a hint by Lissitzky that the wearer should point beyond himself. In his perspective, Lissitzky lets the word proletarian appear.
Cloud bar
Lissitzky devises in the 1924 project designed Wolkenbügel a completely new form of office building. Fascinated by American engineering achievements, he criticized the contradiction between modern construction and historical design in the “Skyscraper”. In addition, he rejects the American skyscraper as a symbol of capitalism. In this area of ​​tension, the cloud bow project emerges as the antithesis of the skyscraper. He is concerned with a national form of expression for a high-rise building integrated into the structure, which should be clearly differentiated from the “skyscraper” in the emphasis on the horizontal.
Spatial organization: In the vertical elements, the pillars, the access should be accommodated in the form of stairwells and elevators, which should have a direct connection to the tram network and the metro station. Offices were to be accommodated in the horizontal areas as the actual usable space, which should symbolize a certain dynamic because they followed the course of the street.
The cloud bar is integrated into urban planning by absorbing the city's traffic. Arranged in a semicircle around the Moscow Ring , the eight cloud bars provide an image of symbolic city gates with the meaning of triumphal arches of a new era.
However, like many designs with extreme load-bearing structures , the project was never implemented and is mainly in the field of architectural theory.
Druckerei the magazine Ogonyok
Lissitzky designed the building for the Ogonyok printing plant in Moscow. After the arrest of the editor-in-chief Kolzow , the plans were confiscated by the NKVD and are still in the possession of the FSB today .


El-Lissitzky-Allee in Schwalbach
  • In 1990 a street on the Lichtwiese campus of the TU Darmstadt was named after him.
  • In 2005, Darmstadt artist Gerhard Schweizer designed El-Lissitzky-Allee in Schwalbach am Taunus from 3 by 5 concrete steles. As you pass by, the text on the 3.60 - 5.10 m high pillars is gradually revealed.



  • Sophie Lissitzky-Küppers: El Lissitzky. Dresden 1967
  • Schweizerischer Typographenbund (Ed.): EL Lissitzky - Works and essays by El Lissitzky , compiled and introduced by Jan Tschichold , Typografische Monatsblätter No. 12, December 1970, 89th year, St. Gallen.
  • Sophie Lissitzky-Küppers: El Lissitzky, painter, architect, typographer, photographer; Memories, letters, writings. Dresden 1976
  • Exhibition catalog El Lissitzky , Galerie Gmurzynska, Cologne 1976.
  • Jürgen Scharfe (Ed.): El Lissitzky - painter, architect, typographer, photographer. Catalog for the exhibition Staatliche Galerie Halle and Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst, Leipzig, 1982.
  • Exhibition catalog El Lissitzky 1890-1941 . Modifications made by Norbert Nobis. Sprengel Museum Hannover 1988, ISBN 3-549-06680-5
  • J. Christoph Bürkle: El Lissitzky The dream of the cloud bar. gta, Zurich o. J.
  • Exhibition catalog El Lissitzky, architect, painter, photographer, typographer. Eindhoven / Madrid / Paris 1990.
  • Victor Malsy (Ed.): Colleague L. was great. El Lissitzky - designer, thinker, pipe smoker. Communist . Verlag Hermann Schmidt, Mainz 1990, ISBN 3-87439-224-4 .
  • Kai-Uwe Hemken: El Lissitzky. Revolution and avant-garde. DuMont Buchverlag, Cologne 1990, ISBN 3-7701-2613-0 .
  • Margarita Tupitsyn: El Lissitzky - experiments in photography . Houk Friedman, New York 1991.
  • Wilma Ruth Albrecht: EL - like Lissitzky. The artist portrait . In: liberal , 35 (1993) 4, pp. 50-60 ( ISSN  0459-1992 )
  • Inge Münz-Koenen: The children's book architect El Lissitzky. In: Petra Josting, Walter Fähnders (Eds.): “Laboratory Versatility”. On the literature of the Weimar Republic. Bielefeld 2005, ISBN 3-89528-546-3 , pp. 89–112
  • J. Christoph Bürkle: El Lissitzky. The dream of the cloud bar . gta Verlag, Zurich 1991, ISBN 978-3-85676-034-2 .
  • Book for the exhibition 16. Russian Avantgarde 1910–1930 Collection Ludwig, Cologne in the Kunsthalle Cologne, April 16–11. May 1986 (edited and with an introduction by Evelyn Weiss ).
  • Margarita Tupitsyn : El Lissitzky: Beyond the Abstract Cabinet, Yale University Press and Schirmer / Mosel Verlag, 1999.
  • Maria Kühn-Ludewig: Yiddish books from Berlin (1918–1936): title, people, publishers , Kirsch, Nümbrecht, 2008 ISBN 978-3-933586-56-8 .
  • Julian Rothenstein and Olga Budashevskaya (eds.): Treasury of the revolution. Russian children's books from 1920-1935: books from turbulent times . Lars Müller Publishers, Zurich 2013, ISBN 978-3-03778-343-6 .

Web links

Commons : El Lissitzky  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ZeitZeichen: December 30th, 1941 - anniversary of the death of El Lissitzky , Anke Rebbert, WDR.
  2. Hans-Peter Riese Between design and cloud bar. Page 81 in From the avant-garde to the underground. Texts on Russian art 1968–2006 . Wienand Verlag, Cologne 2009, ISBN 978-3-86832-017-6 .
  3. Hanover receives an estate from El Lissitzky , Weser-Kurier of October 12, 2013
  4. Arte ( Memento of the original from November 24, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Away from all suns, November 22, 2016, 1:45 a.m., 77 min., Accessed on November 24, 2016  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.arte.tv