Antoine Pevsner Russian, 1884-1962

Antoine Pevsner was born in 1884, in Orel, Russia. After leaving the Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg in 1911, he travelled to Paris where he first saw the work of Robert Delaunay, Albert Gleizes, Fernand Léger, and Jean Metzinger. On a second visit to Paris in 1913 he met Amedeo Modigliani and Alexander Archipenko, who encouraged his interest in Cubism. Pevsner spent the war years 1915–17 in Oslo with his brother Naum Gabo. On his return to Russia in 1917 Pevsner began teaching at the Moscow Academy of Fine Arts with Vasily Kandinsky and Kasimir Malevich.

In 1920 he and Gabo published the Realistic Manifesto. Their work was included in the Erste russische Kunstausstellung at the Galerie van Diemen in Berlin in 1922, held under the auspices of the Soviet government. The following year Pevsner visited Berlin where he met Marcel Duchamp and Katherine Dreier. He then travelled on to Paris, where he settled permanently; in 1930. His work was included in an exhibition at the Little Review Gallery in New York in 1926. He and Gabo designed sets for the ballet La Chatte, produced by Sergei Diaghilev in 1927. In Paris the two brothers were leaders of the Constructivist members of Abstraction-Création, an alliance of artists who embraced a variety of abstract styles.

Constructivism, an artistic movement born during the onset of the Bolshevik Revolution, embraced abstraction as a means to represent intangible attributes of the universe at large. Amid social and political upheaval, Russian artists like Naum Gabo and Antoine Pevsner interpreted abstraction as the highest form of creative expression, a bridge to a more genuine reality based on scientific aspiration and spiritual transcendence. Pevsner, in particular, sought to employ a formal language that examined the visual relationship between positive and negative space, as well as movement and time. Originally a painter, Pevsner began experimenting with sculpture as early as 1917 under Gabo’s guidance. He started small, creating bas-reliefs that combined planar geometries in overlapping layers, eventually progressing to free-standing sculpture by the 1920s. Like Gabo, he examined the visual effects of transparent plastics by creating abstract portraits and figures. But Pevsner abandoned these materials after a few years in favor of the solidity and permanence afforded by metal.


During the 1930s Pevsner’s work was shown in Amsterdam, Basel, London, New York, and Chicago. In 1946 he, Gleizes, Auguste Herbin, and others formed the group Réalités Nouvelles; their first exhibition was held at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles in Paris in 1947. That same year Pevsner’s first solo show opened at the Galerie René Drouin in Paris. The Museum of Modern Art in New York presented the exhibition Gabo-Pevsner in 1948, and in 1952 Pevsner participated in Chefs-d’oeuvre du XXe siècle at the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris. The same museum organized a solo exhibition of his work in 1957. In 1958 he was represented in the French Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Antoine Pevsner died in Paris 1962 aged 78.