Iwan Puni (Jean Pougny)



Not on display

Iwan Puni (Jean Pougny) 1892–1956
Oil paint, wood, cardboard and zinc on wood
Object: 368 × 241 × 73 mm
Purchased 1972

Display caption

Inspired by the introduction of real materials in Cubist collage, Puni created relief constructions that combined found elements into abstract painterly compositions. He was closely associated with Kazimir Malevich and was a co-author and signatory of the Suprematist Manifesto of 1916, which proclaimed a new type of abstract art for a new era in history: ‘…it is absurd to force our age into the old forms of a bygone age. The hollow of the past cannot contain the gigantic constructions and movement of our life.’

Gallery label, January 2016

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Catalogue entry

Iwan Puni (Jean Pougny) 1894-1956

T01528 Relief c.1915-16

Not inscribed
Oil paint, wood, cardboard and zinc on wooden backing, 14 1/4 x 9 1/2 x 2 7/8 (36 x 24 x 7.5)
Purchased at Sotheby's (Grant-in-Aid) 1972
Prov: Mme Xana Pougny, Paris; with Galerie Jean Chauvelin, Paris, 1969 or 1970; Sotheby's, London, 12 April 1972, lot 68 repr. in colour
Repr: Philip Wilson and Annamaria Macdonald (ed.), Art at Auction 1971-72 (London 1972), p.160 in colour; Studio International, CLXXXIV, 1972, p.137

This relief was not included in the catalogue raisonné by Herman Berninger and Jean-Albert Cartier, Pougny: Catalogue de l'Oeuvre, Tome 1: Les Années d'Avant-garde, Russie-Berlin, 1910-1923 (Tübingen 1972). Herr Berninger writes (letter of 25 October 1972): 'Your Relief is one of a small number of models, for larger scale executions, which the Pougnys brought along with them when they left Russia in 1919. When Mrs Pougny established, during the sixties, the archives of her husband's works, some of these models stored away 'en vrac' escaped her attention. This is the reason why they were not included in the first volume of the Oeuvre Catalogue, which only lists two models, i.e. No.107, owned by Prof. Guido Rossi, Milan, and No.113 now owned by the Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart. To my knowledge, your Relief which remained in Mrs Pougny's possession until about 1970, was never publicly exhibited before.

'Pougny told me back in 1951, that he started working on Reliefs in 1913, inspired by his friend Archipenko (not Tatlin, although he and Alexandra Exter bought each a construction from Tatlin in 1914-15, no doubt to extend to him some pecuniary help - see reproductions on page 54). However, the majority of Pougny's reliefs were conceived during 1915 and early 1916. Most of the related drawings are actually dated 1916, but according to Mrs Pougny they were made rather as memorandum records, whereas the models, including yours, preceded the larger Reliefs, some of which are known to us by later reconstructions. I ignore whether your model was executed by Pougny in Petrograd on a larger scale. I consider it quite probable, although practically all his constructions perished during the revolution.

'In conclusion, I would say that the Tate Gallery is fortunate to own a rare and interesting work, relating to drawing No.130 of 1915-16, which I feel you may safely date 1916. I will be happy to include it in the second volume of Pougny's Oeuvre Catalogue.'

Jean Chauvelin, who bought this relief from Mme Pougny, adds (letter of 25 January 1973): 'This construction was never exhibited for the following reason: in the course of a move, Madame Pougny rediscovered in a shoe box the pieces of two small constructions, which she reassembled herself, after the drawings of the period which were then still in her possession (see No.130 in the Berninger Catalogue).'

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.620-1, reproduced p.620


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