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  FIGURATIVE DRAWINGS РУ DE EN

Puni was fascinated by drawing as a child. During his studies at the Nicholas Cadet Corps, when he drew funny caricatures of his comrades and teachers, he first felt the approval of the public, which apparently influenced his decision after graduation to concentrate on fine arts.
Puni drew constantly, for which he had small sketchbooks. One of such notebooks is kept in the Russian Museum and dates back to about the middle of 1917. There are practically no sketches from life in it, but the compositions of future paintings, primarily still lifes in the manner of "constructive naturalism", are worked out with enviable methodicality - from the imagination.

1914-1916. White Night in Petrograd. Indian ink, paper 1914-1916. Houses. Indian ink, paper 1915. Staircase. Indian ink, paper 1916-1918. Staircase. Indian ink, paper. State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, inv. Р-4209 1917. Revolution. Indian ink, paper 1917. Night. Indian ink, paper
1916. Reading on the Balcony. Indian ink, paper 1916. Interior. Indian ink, paper 1914-1915. Chair and Cello Case. Indian ink, paper 1916. Pianist. Indian ink, paper 1915. Interior with Mannequin. Indian ink, paper. Musée national d'art moderne, Paris 1914. Khlebnikov Reads Poetry to Xana. Indian ink, paper

In addition to sketches, Puni also made finished graphic works, which he showed at exhibitions. This applies primarily to the indian ink drawings. For example, in 1918 for the "Exhibition of Modern Painting and Drawing" in the Dobychina's Art Bureau Puni gave 9 indian ink drawings, united by the common title "Petrogradskaya Side". Working in ink, Puni used as a pictorial medium not only and not so much a line as a spot, which brings this graphic technique in his execution closer to painting. Puni did not stop making figurative drawings even when he plunged into experiments with objectlessness (1914-1916). In his figurative drawings, he uses the achievements of Cubism, which he mastered perfectly, in synthesis with realism to obtain peculiar artistic effects.
Puni created his last series of marvellous drawings in this synthetic manner in 1919 - with views of Vitebsk and the Vitebsk Railway Station in Petrograd.

1919. Snow. Indian ink, paper 1919. Church. Indian ink, paper 1919. Snowy Street. Indian ink, paper 1919. Staircase. Indian ink, paper 1919. Passage. Indian ink, paper 1919. Vitebsk. Indian ink, paper. Musée national d'art moderne, Paris

In his highly formalised pieces, Puni tried to retain a connection to the visible world, as he was convinced that recognisable objects enriched the work with additional associations and meanings; he also discussed this in his theoretical articles, notably in the "Modern Painting" (1923).
Shortly after moving to Berlin, Puni showed his drawings, both figurative and non-objective, at his solo exhibition at Galerie Der Sturm (February 1921). According to the catalogue, about 160 figurative drawings, which the artist had brought from Russia in his meagre luggage, were shown at this exhibition. After 40 years, Xana listed 68 of them in the catalogue raisonné, this means that more than half of the drawings had been lost due to poor storage and moves in the 20s and 30s.

Puni's Berlin period (1921-1923) was full of both creative endeavours and work for a living. To earn a living, he and Xana took on the design of theatre productions and book illustrations; Puni did it reluctantly, because he had to compromise with customers. Among the successful projects the design of a collection of his own fairy tales can be mentioned: Пуни, Иван. Сказки-минутки. Изд. Русское творчество, Берлин, 1922.

1922. Illustrations of his own fairy tales, drawings by Puny and Boguslavskaya (Пуни, Иван. Сказки-минутки. Изд. Русское творчество, Берлин, 1922)

After his final relocation to Paris (autumn 1923), Puni (now - Pougny) continued his search for his own visual language. He showed his painting in a new - cheerful and life-affirming manner in a solo exhibition at the Galerie Barbazanges (1925), but this was only an intermediate result, a short stop on a long journey. Pougny moved on, and gradually came to an increasingly visible primitivisation of the subjects he depicted. His next solo exhibition of large-scale pencil drawings at the Galerie Jacques Bernheim (April 1928) puzzled many. These drawings were made in a very peculiar aesthetic key and drawn so childishly inept that it was not even clear whether it was done intentionally, or the artist simply does not know how to draw. The fascination with this drawing style lasted for about two years, and after 1931 he did not return to it. However, the stylisation of the object world, peculiar simplified signs of objects and figures firmly entered into the arsenal of his visual means when working on painting.

1928-1930. Primitivised pencil drawings