Known by the appellation, 'the Father of Russian Futurism', David Burliuk was a prolific artist, poet and author, who adopted a variety of creative media in order to promote the Russian avant-garde.
His early academic training took place in Kazan and Odessa, and following an unsuccessful attempt to enroll in the St. Petersburg Academy, Burliuk continued his studies in Paris and Munich under Anton Azbé. Returning to Russia in 1910, Burliuk later enrolled at the Moscow Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in 1911. There, for the next three years, he was influenced as much by his tutors Leonid Pasternak and Abram Arkhipov as he was by his peers, the Russian Futurist poets and theoreticians, Benedikt Livshits and Vladimir Mayakovskii. In 1914, Burliuk was expelled from the Academy with his peers for promoting the avant-garde, and later emerged as one of its most dynamic figureheads and mouthpieces.
Through organizing numerous exhibitions, including The Knave of Diamonds (1910-17) in Moscow, and writing polemical articles and manifestos, Burliuk became acquainted with Mikhail Larionov, Natal'ia Goncharova and Alexandra Exter. His reputation in Western Europe was further heightened when, at the request of Vasilii Kandinskii, one of Burliuk's essays promoting Russian folk art and the 'barbaric' art of the Scythians and Egypt, Die 'Wilden' Russlands, was sent to the almanac Der Blaue Reiter in 1912.
As early as 1908, in his article The Voice of an Impressionist: In defence of painting, Burliuk rejected the realism of the Peredvizhniki (The Wanderers) and the retrospectivism of Mir Iskusstva (World of Art) in favour of the post-impressionism of artists such as Paul Cézanne and Vincent van Gogh. This artistic impulse remained with the artist, in some form, throughout his career and his travels which took him to Siberia, Japan and eventually to the United States where he became a citizen in 1930.
The present painting, executed in 1949, illustrates Burliuk's debt to van Gogh and alludes to his The Gleize Bridge over the Vigneyret Canal, near Arles of 1888. Synthesising key elements of van Gogh's canvas, Burliuk's image juxtaposes bucolic life with industrialisation, represented by the telegraph poles. His view of Arles projects van Gogh's landscape into the 20th Century, while preserving the rusticity found in Burliuk's trademark thick impasto and coarse brushstroke.
In addition to examples held in the St. Petersburg State Russian Museum and The Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, Burliuk's work is represented in The Metropolitan and the Whitney Museums in New York today.