Born in Ukraine to a family of artists, David Burliuk was a key figure of the Russian avant-garde. Dubbed the 'Father of Russian Futurism', he fervently contributed to the development and promotion of the movement to the Russian public, whether exhibiting with the leading avant-garde group of Bubnovyi Valet [Jack of Diamonds] or contributing to the publication of the Russian Futurist manifesto Poshchenina obshchestvennomu vkusu [A Slap in the Face of Public Taste] in 1912.
Burliuk’s Kozak Batyi is a powerful example of his Futurist compositions that were inspired by a popular Ukrainian folkloric character of Cossack as well as primitive and popular imagery, such as the lubok and icon. The subject of the present painting, the Cossack playing a traditional bandura, draws on Burliuk’s ties with his ancestors, who were important Cossack leaders in seventeenth-century Ukraine. Burliuk associated the figure of the Cossack with strength and vitality, which is expressed through the dynamism and repetition of form within the composition, drawing on Futurism’s development of Cubism. The multiple viewpoints of the painting are an adaptation of a technique in Scythian art, which Burliuk is likely to have studied during archaeological excavations in Crimea between 1907 and 1912.
Painted in 1965, Flowers in the Snow (lot 90) is a fine example of Burliuk’s later oeuvre, painted forty years after his emigration to the USA. The snow scene and flowers, rendered using a bright colour palette comparable to that used by fellow émigré Marc Chagall (1887-1985), is perhaps reminiscent of his Ukrainian homeland. The thick impasto provides texture and adds depth to the composition. Despite his age, Burliuk’s energetic yet delicate rendering of the composition reveals his vigour and artistic productivity.