David Davidovich Burliuk, Ukrainian/Russian (1882 - 1967)

David Burliuk

David Burliuk was a central figure in the history of the Russian avant-garde movement as an accomplished poet, art critic, and exhibition organizer. "He was one of the world's first hippies, and painted the words 'I Burliuk' on his forehead and stood on street corners reciting poetry."

He was born into a privileged class of Russian society. His wife was educated with the Czar's children, and he was well positioned to become an artistic leader. Burliuk studied at the Kazan School of Fine Arts in 1898 and then studied in Odessa, Moscow, Munich, and in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. His early works were fauve-like, "violent in color and heavy with paint" and were exhibited with the Blue Riders in Munich.

In Russia, as a breaker of artistic tradition, he was expelled in 1911 from the Moscow Institute. With other futurists, he undertook a public campaign with lectures, journals and films--all focused on the craziness of modern, industrial life.

With the advent of World War I, he left Russia and traveled for four years including to Siberia, Japan, and the South Seas. To start all over again, he moved to America in 1922 and settled on Long Island where he continued to paint until his death there in 1967. After his arrival in New York in 1922, he struggled to survive, but he would eventually gain a significant following in American would end up widely exhibiting his paintings up until two years before his death in 1967. The 1965 introductory note for Burliuk's final exhibition, Farewell Exhibition of New Paintings which was held at the ACA Gallery in New York, poignantly summarizes the artist's career: "Through the years, Burliuk has traveled the world over, painting in many countries and returning with the fruits of his labors to give many memorable exhibitions. Today, a Burliuk evokes a glowing and vibrant recollection of his early years, as well as his enduring love of nature. His brilliantly colored canvases are ablaze with vitality and the joy of living."

His subjects range from neo-primitive paintings to peasant life in Russia to futurist depictions of South Sea fishermen. Much of his painting in Russia vanished in the Russian Revolution. Throughout his life, Burliuk was innovative, energetic and upbeat. In the United States, he developed his "radio style", a style that involved symbolism, neo-primitivism, and expressionism. "But Burliuk's early work in pre-revolutionary experimental art was his most creative."

Source: Michael David Zellman, "300 Years of American Art"


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