Davaite pobolshe tankov! (Give us more tanks!) This was the last work by one of the greatest and one of the most prominent Russian avant-gardists and innovators of the nonobjective art of the early twentieth century, Lazar Markovich Lissitzky. The artist died in 1941, however, it wasn’t the Second World War that caused his death. The artist died of tuberculosis—the disease that took lives of millions of people and still continues to cut off the lives of many of us.
It was at the age of thirteen that the boy’s painting talent was revealed and he entered the art school of Yehuda (Yury) Pen, a local Jewish artist, who was also a teacher of several famous artists, including Marc Chagall. Lissitzky then tried to enroll at Saint Petersburg art academy in 1909 but had no success with it because of the Tsarist law which restricted the quantity of Jewish students in Russian educational institutions.
The same year, the artist moved to Germany, where he entered the Darmstadt University of Technology where he had studied for five years. During the training, Lissitzky travelled to France, Italy, and Belgium, where he explored fine art, architecture and landscapes.
At the outbreak of World War I, the artist came back to Russia and entered the Riga Technical University (Riga Polytechnical Institute by the time), evacuated to Moscow because of the war, where he studied from 1915 to 1916 and received a degree in engineering and architecture.
So, as you can see, Lazar Lissitzky paid much attention to his education and never missed the chance to improve his knowledge and skills. For instance, in the 1920s, Lazar Lissitzky received an invitation from Marc Chagall, director of the People’s Art School in Vitebsk at the time, to teach architecture and graphics. There, he met Kazimir Malevich, who became his principal mentor, colleague and friend through the lifetime. Lissitzky assumed a pseudonym El Lissitzky and took interest in Suprematism, the art style founded by Malevich.
Lissitzky encouraged the Bauhaus and De Stijl growth, as well as the evolution of Suprematism by creating the new form of suprematist style dubbed Proun.
As for his last project, Lissitzky‘s work on the USSR im Bau (USSR in construction) magazine, it took his experimentation and innovation with book design to an extreme. Each issue focused on a particular aspect of that time—the building of a new bridge, constitutional reforms, Red Army progress and so on. And the propaganda poster Davaite pobolshe tankov! (Give us more tanks!) put an end to his brilliant career.