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  ABSTRACT DRAWINGS РУ DE EN

Puni's period of enthusiasm for abstract painting was relatively short - from 1913 to 1916; during this time he made objectless compositions along with figurative ones. Having returned in the spring of 1912 from Paris, Puni perfectly mastered the technique of cubism, he deeply understood and felt this method. In 1914-1915 he had many contacts with Malevich, and together they worked on the organisation of the "first" and "last" futurist exhibitions ("Tramway V" and "0.10"). Following Malevich, Puni preached alogism, then suprematism. However, in the middle of 1916 their roads diverged, and Puni began to look for his own development ways, began to look for a "way out of suprematism".
Most of Puni's abstract drawings have been lost, as he saw them more as working material, sketches for serious works.
A dozen illustrations sketches for the third part of Evreinov's "Theatre for Itself", executed by Puni in 1915-1916, have survived in the Costakis collection (now in the State Tretyakov Gallery). These illustrations were not published in their time, and the Yevreinov's book was published in 1917 with illustrations by Kulbin. For more on these drawings by Puni, see: Zhukova, Elena. Punis Zeichnungen für das Buch von Nikolai Jewreinow "Das Theater für sich" // Iwan Puni. 1892—1956. Katalog zur Ausstellung des Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris und der Berlinischen Galerie. Stuttgart, Hatje, 1993. S. 163-171.

1915-1916. Illustrations sketches for Evreinov's "Theatre for Itself". State Tretyakov Gallery, previously in the Costakis collection

A large block of abstract drawings owes its appearance to Puni's solo exhibition at Galerie Der Sturm (February 1921). The owner of the gallery, Hervart Walden, was keen to show the most radical art, and by agreement with him, Puni undertook to fill one of the gallery's three rooms with his non-objective drawings and sketches for non-objective sculpture, 52 sheets in all. Most of these sheets he had to draw just before the exhibition, see А. Родионов. Иван Пуни в галерее «Штурм» (1921). Состав выставки. // Искусствознание, №4, 2023, с. 244-257. These abstract drawings (almost all of them) have at the bottom the German signature "Iw. Puni" and the title "Variante". Some of these drawings are also signed in Russian. Only 29 of the 52 non-objective catalogue numbers were subsequently entered by Xana in the catalogue raisonné, the rest were lost in the 20s/30s due to moves and poor storage conditions. The artist himself did not attach much importance to this part of his oeuvre (this follows from the text of his brochure "Modern Painting" published in 1923), and the commercial value of suprematist drawings was not great in those years. However, for Walden, a champion of radical art, the abstract drawings and sketches were clearly more important than anything else; he had organised the exhibition primarily for their sake. The abstract pieces are the first numbers in the catalogue; they were hung in the first room. There was not much time to create 52 abstract drawings based on the suprematist works of 1916, and it is difficult to imagine that Xana did not help Ivan in this painstaking labour. In 1916 he hardly had such a large number of compositions - it seems that Puni had to invent a number of them as he went along by rearranging simple geometric figures - rectangle, triangle, circle and "sticks", as he called them. This variation is apparently what gave rise to the title "Variante".

1916-1921. Some of the drawings and sketches shown at Puni's solo exhibition at Galerie Der Sturm (February 1921)