Born in Russia, El Lissitsky studied engineering and architecture in Germany from 1909 to 1914, returning to Russia at the outbreak of war. In 1919 he became Professor of Architecture and Graphic Art at art school in Vitebsk, working alongside Marc Chagall and the suprematist artist Kasimir Malevich. Malevich advocated the use of pure geometrical shapes, reducing painting to simple but dynamic squares and rectangles. This was highly influential on Lissitsky, who adopted this approach in his architectural projects. The clarity, precision and formal strength of his art were intended as metaphors for the new socialist order.