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El Lissitzky

Lazar Mikhailovitch Lissitsky (also known as El) (November 23, 1890 - December 30, 1941) was one of the main disciples of Kazimir Malevich. Initially following the work of Marc Chagall that tried to recover the Jewish tradition in the city of Vitebsk, Lissitsky felt himself attracted by the artistic procedures of Suprematism and started to experiment with his PROUNs (an acronym for new perspectives on art). Later he was commissioned as a cultural representative in Germany from 1921 on. In Germany he developed his career as a graphic designer with some historically very important works such as the book Dlia Golossa (For the Voice) a collection of poems from Vladimir Mayakovsky, designed with facilities to be read in various situations (the model was a phone index); the book "Die Kunstismen" (The Artisms), together with Jean Arp, an "abbregé" of what were the most important artistic movements at the time.

Lissitsky, together with the German poet and artist Kurt Schwitters, and the also poet and artist Dutchman Theo van Doesburg, pioneered the idea of an international artistic movement under the guidelines of constructivism. He also created institutional design for the Pelikan industries (as well as Schwitters) and made even child books (History of 2 squares; one version, in dutch, was printed at the de stijl magazine).

During all the '20s Lissitsky was able to keep his international links, with some episodes of retire to treat his tuberculosis in Switzerland sanatoriums. Back in the USSR, Lissitsky felt that the political climate had changed. Until the end of his short life he tried to keep his principles, working mainly in exhibitions design (Pressa Cologne, 1929) and photomontage. Some of his late works seem to be very official despite of a remaining avant-garde flavour. His "Proun Cabinet" can be viewed in a reconstruction in the Van Abbemuseum, Holland. His "abstract cabinet" is reconstructed in Sprengel Museum in Hannover, which also covers the life and works of his most important son, Kurt Schwitters.