Ivan Puni is a distinguished Russian avant-garde artist of the XX century, who spent most of his life abroad. Puni's early work can be attributed to Suprematism, Cubism and Futurism. Puni was one of the creators of Lettrism. He was extensively using this art movement characterised by the introduction of letters, words and text fragments into visual works of art such as, for example, paintings. Later, the artist turned to the intimate, lyrical primitivism, which has similarities with the one that was used by French artists of the group "Nabi", and especially can be seen in Pierre Bonnard's and Jean-Edouard Vuillard's works. Puni was born on March 4, 1892, in Kuokkala (now Repino, a suburb of St. Petersburg), in the Russian Empire, in a family of famous musicians of Italian origin. The artist's grandfather, Caesar Puni, was a renowned Italian composer who settled in Russia in 1851 and wrote music for ballet, while his father, Albert Puni, was a cellist with the Mariinsky orchestra. Puni spent his childhood at a family cottage in Kuokkala among the many artists who came to rest in this resort and were friends of Puni's family. So, as a child, Ivan began to take drawing lessons from the great I. Repin, who lived nearby. Ivan's parents hoped that he would choose a military career, as the young man was trained at the Nikolaev Military Academy from 1900 to 1908. However, in 1909, he decided to devote his life to art and opened a private workshop in the building that belonged to his father. In 1910, to develop his artistic skills, Puni first went to Paris, where he studied at the Académie Julian for two years, as well as in other several art studios and academies. The young artist was exploring recent dominant tendencies in modern art such as Fauvism, Cubism, Futurism and also has discovered the fascination with Japanese art, which had been so popular among Western artists for decades. Paul Cézanne's ideas were introduced to Puni and greatly influenced his art. The artist visited his homeland every summer, creating landscapes, portraits of family and friends, still lifes, influenced by Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard, Yuri Annenkov, with whom Puni had got acquainted in Paris.
Puni was visiting Italy, and then, in 1912, he returned to Russia, to St. Petersburg, where he joined the avant-garde movement and were enthusiastically participating in various communities and exhibitions with Goncharova, Tatlin, Malevich, Burliuk and other eminent figures of Russian modernism. Puni's work was shown at the exhibitions of avant-garde artistic groups such as "Jack of Diamonds" and "Union of Youth". In 1914, the artist went to Paris again and presented his works at the salon Des Indépendents. During that period of time, Puni used to create illustrations for children's books, collaborated with the "Niva" magazine, exhibited his works in the "Art Bureau" gallery. In addition to artistic talent, Puni has shown great organisational skills, and in 1915, he produced two of the most iconic avant-garde Futurist exhibitions, "Tram B" and "0.10", where he also exhibited his works. At this stage of his career, Puni has moved away from Cubo-Futurism in his art, and counter-reliefs with application of real objects were introduced into his work. During the artist's stay in St. Petersburg, his apartment on Gatchina street has become a popular meeting place for the most famous Bohemian artistic characters: Khlebnikov, Mayakovsky, Severyanin, Matyushin, Burliuk, and many others. During the same period, the artist has been part of the Malevich's group "Supremus" and has created covers of the infamous almanac with programme introductory texts for avant-garde artists. Puni was also involved in the design of Petrograd in honour of the anniversary of the October Revolution. He was engaged in the creation of campaign posters since the October events of 1917. Puni has been awarded the title of Professor of State Free Art Workshops. In January 1919, at the invitation of Marc Chagall, Puni began teaching at the national art school in Vitebsk. However, Puni's teaching career did not last long. Disappointed with the new government and its regime, the artist with his wife, K. Bogouslavskaya, emigrated to Germany in late 1919. In 1921, the gallery Der Sturm in Berlin held a highly successful solo exhibition of Puni's work. The exhibition itself, thanks to the way Puni designed it, was an innovative synthetic work, and also expressed the features of the future performance and Actionism because of its marketing campaign. The artist has continued to exhibit at group exhibitions, created theatrical costumes and decorations, taken part in artistic conferences. In 1923, Puni published the book "Contemporary painting", which publicly disavows his former avant-garde style and harshly criticizes all that he had worshipped for more than ten years, and as a result, his art has diverted from Cubo-Futurism and Suprematism. The artist has come to more traditional realistic style in a free painterly manner.
In 1924, Puni and his wife relocated to France, where the artist has changed his name to Jean Pougny. In Paris, Puni created more than 1200 works - it was the most prolific period in his career. Radical avant-garde forms have gradually transformed themselves into the figurative-impressionistic manner of painting and more realistic representation of the world. The artist has become friends with F. Leger, A. Ozenfant, L. Marcoussis. His works were shown at nine solo exhibitions and a variety of group exhibitions in Paris. Other cities, where galleries successfully exhibited Puni's works, include London, Tokyo, New York, Vienna, Brussels, Rome and Moscow. The artist received French citizenship in 1946 and was awarded the title of Knight of the Legion of Honour in 1952. Ivan Puni died on December 28, 1956, in Paris.
Berninger, H., & Cartier, J-A. (1972) Pougny. Jean Pougny (Iwan Puni) 1892 - 1956. Catalogue de l` oeuvre. Tome 1: Les Années d`avant-garde, Russie - Berlin, 1910 - 1923. Tübingen: Éditions Ernst Wasmuth.
Berninger, H. (1992) Pougny. Jean Pougny (Iwan Puni) 1892 - 1956. Catalogue de l` oeuvre. Tome 2: Paris-Cote d'Azur, 1924 - 1956, Peintures. Tübingen: Éditions Ernst Wasmuth.
Pougny, J. (1923) Современная живопись. Берлин: Л.Д. Френкель.
Сарабьянов, Д., В. (2007) Иван Пуни, 1892-1956. Москва: Искусство-XXI век.
Северюхин, Д., Я., Махров, К., В., Лейкинд, О., Л. (2012) "Пуни Иван (Жан) Альбертович" [online] Искусство и Архитектура Русского Зарубежья. Available at: http://www.artrz.ru/articles/1804785986/index.html
(n.d) "Пуни Иван Альбертович" [online] Русская Живопись. Available at: http://www.artsait.ru/art/p/puni/main.htm