Ivan Timofeevich Gavris (1890-after 1940) – a famous Russian and Belarusian painter, a representative of the avant-garde of the early XX century. He graduated from the Pedagogical Institute. He participated in the First World War. In the period from 1919 to 1922. he studies at the Vitebsk Folk Art School (since 1920 – the Vitebsk Art and Practical Institute), graduated with the title of “master of fine arts in painting and drawing.” During his studies, I. Gavris became a member of UNOVIS (“Hardeners of the new art”), and was included in the creative committee of the organization. The UNOVIS association was an avant-garde art association created by K. Malevich in Vitebsk. It was an early example of a new type of artistic association created on the basis of a government agency. Participants of UNOVIS organized exhibitions and discussions of the work of teachers and students, philosophical debates, actively participated in the design of the city for revolutionary holidays. However, the loyalty and even “revolutionism” of the “unis” was the political facade of their Suprematist-constructivist program, full of an independent aesthetic movement aimed at “creating a clean pictorial image” (as the embodiment of a “new consciousness”), rather than “utilitarian necessities”. In 1920, a branch of Unovisa was opened in Smolensk (under the leadership of Polish artists, spouses V. Strzheminsky and E. Kobro), as well as branches in Moscow, Perm, Saratov and some other cities.
In 1922, after the departure of the first and then the second rectors of the Art and Practical Institute, Kazimir Malevich and Vera Ermolaeva from Vitebsk, Ivan Gavris takes over the leadership of the institute.
Under the direction of K.S. Malevich I. Gavris studied the systems of cubism, futurism, suprematism. The artist believed that “the picturesque achievements of Cubism did not go down the drain, but were used by capable artists and students in medium-sized painting – realism, impressionism and neo-impressionism. Objectivity cast a beam of light on graphic, decorative, ornamental work.” An example of the objectless suprematist searches of the artist can be called the work “Composition with a treble clef.” It was in the Suprematist compositions that the avant-garde artists of the beginning of the 20th century saw the highest stage of Art, the essence of which is non-objectiveness, understood as a pure sensation and feeling, without any connection of the mind. In their opinion, art, having parted with the world of images and ideas, was associated with a desert filled with “waves of objectless sensations,” and tried to capture it in suprematist signs.
It is to the fate of the artist I. Gavris that the most difficult part of the history of the closure of UNOVIS, the famous educational institution in Vitebsk, will fall. In the second half of the 1920s – and in the early 1930s, I. Gavris became an active figure in the Belarusian Renaissance, striving to create modern national art on ethnographic foundations. This side of the activity of I. Gavris will become fatal for the artist: in 1937 he was repressed on charges of nationalist activity.
The artist’s artistic heritage is widely represented in private and museum collections not only in Russia, but also in Europe, the USA and other countries.