Path among Trees, signed and dated “IV.I. 1909” on the reverse.
Oil on canvas, 60 by 67 cm.
Provenance: Acquired by the art critic and artist Franco Miele in the 1970s. Thence by descent. Private collection, Italy.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert G. Pospelov.
Exhibited:Avanguardia e ritorno. Arte russa 1900–1940, Fonte d’Abisso Arte, Milan, 17 March–11 June 1994.
Literature: F. Miele, L’avanguardia tradita. Arte russa dal XIX al XX sec., Rome, Carte Segrete, 1973, p. 184, illustrated in black and white. Exhibition catalogue, Avanguardia e ritorno. Arte russa 1900–1940, Mazzotta, Milan, 1994, illustrated on the cover, as well as p. 23 and p. 39.
Path among Trees is an outstanding and extremely rare example of David Burliuk’s early work. Pieces from this period are hardly ever found in private collections in Russia, and of the art museums only the State Tretyakov Gallery and the Russian Museum can boast Burliuk paintings from the first decade of the 20th century.
In 1908 St Petersburg, the first seeds of the avant-garde had only just begun to sprout, and there were as yet no radical innovators on the artistic horizon. At the exhibition Contemporary Trends in Art, which opened that April, World of Art Symbolism and Style Moderne were in opposition to academicism, and in opposition to everything was the new, youthful Neo-impressionism, represented by 40 year-old Nikolai Kulbin and 24 year-old David Burliuk. The exhibition was the talk of the town. The liberal press noted that “the critics were most interested in D. Burliuk, who has developed a technique combining the discontinuous approach of Pointillism with broad, decorative brushstrokes. His landscapes, soft and delicate in tone, are deeply poetic. His striving for an original technique has not destroyed his sincere love of nature.”
Path among Trees is also executed in this Pointillist style, though a little later and with clear references to Mikhail Larionov’s artistic experiments of the same period. David and Vladimir Burliuk did, in fact, spend the summer of 1908 with Larionov at their home village of Chernianka, at the mouth of the Dniepr in Taurida province. In his memoirs, Burliuk wrote of this time that “I was, in 1908-1909, already a Neo-impressionist”. And Path among Trees is a clear demonstration of this.
The background to this painting is just as exciting for the Russian art market as the work itself. It comes from the collection of the celebrated Italian art critic and painter Franco Miele. He was an avid follower of the Russian avant-garde and, like many left-wing intellectuals of the 1960s, dedicated a series of works to the research and propagation of Soviet art.
Today this painting, which not only boasts magnificent artistic qualities but also impeccable provenance, is offered for the first time at auction.