Suprematist Teapot Redux

A brief history of Kazimir Malevich’s foray into tableware design.

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Factory Manager: “Mr. Malevich, the water does not flow from your teapot.”
Kazimir Malevich: “It’s not a teapot, but the idea of a teapot.”

Founder of the artistic and philosophical school of suprematism, Kazimir Malevich is best known for his exploration of pure geometric forms: squares, triangles, circles. Although his 1915 painting “Black Square” is perhaps his most iconic, Malevich was constantly seeking innovative ways to bring his suprematist ideology to the masses. One such project was a series of tableware that embodied the “principle of utilitarian perfection.”

Founded in 1744, the St. Petersburg Imperial Porcelain Factory came under the control of the People’s Commissariat for Education following the 1917 October Revolution. While “propaganda porcelain” was designed by leading artists of the Russian avant-garde, suprematists like Malevich and Chashnik experimented with radical designs in 1922-1924. Such unconventionality failed to thrill consumers and the artists were soon fired.

Today, most originals can be found in museum collections, but the St. Petersburg Imperial Porcelain Factory sells a reproduction of Malevich’s “Suprematist Teapot” – and two cups – for about 50,000 rubles. A slightly sized-down replica of the teapot is also being produced using ceramic 3D printing.