David Burliuk was a pivotal avant-garde artist, whose career traversed Russia, Japan, and the United States. His work was vital to the development of Russian Futurism. Burliuk experimented with a range of aesthetic and conceptual influences, including Fauvism, Cubism, German Expressionism, and the folk art of Russian and the Ukraine.
Born in 1882 in the Ukrainian city of Kharkov, Burliuk was first educated in art schools in Kazan and Odessa. He studied at the Munich Royal Academy of Arts with Willi Ditz and Anton Azhbe, the latter a teacher of Wassily Kandinsky. He also trained under Fernard Cormon at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. Though he entered the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, he was expelled due to his participation in avant-garde activities. He exhibited with the influential “Jack of Diamonds” group beginning in 1910, and his work was included in the 1911-1912 Der Blaue Reiter exhibition held in Munich. A burgeoning writer, Burliuk contributed to the Blaue Reiter group’s Almanac publication, and co-authored the 1912 Russian Futurist manifesto, A Slap in the Face of Public Taste. Between 1913 and 1914, Burliuk traveled to seventeen cities in the Russian empire alongside Futurists Vladimir Maiakovsky and Vasily Kamensky, publicizing their works and ideas.
With the Bolshevik revolution underway, Burliuk left Russia in 1918. The next several years were spent in Siberia, Vladivostok, and Japan, lecturing and exhibiting his works. Burliuk arrived in New York in 1922, and within a year made a major showing at the Brooklyn Museum. A solo show at the Société Anonyme followed shortly. He termed his paintings from this time as being in a “Radio” style, referring to his interest in energy fields and his ongoing visual experimentations.
In 1939 he moved to Long Island, and in the ensuing years made lengthy trips to Mexico and Europe. Together with his wife Marussia, he amassed a collection of modern art, and published the magazine Color and Rhyme for nearly thirty years. He also served as an art editor and proofreader for the Russian Voice. Following his death in 1967, he was posthumously inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His unorthodox career was characterized by dexterous stylistic fluctuations, and ranged from pictures of Ukrainian village life, pleasing Japanese landscapes, and scenes of everyday life in New York.
Written by Zenobia Grant Wingate