HOME 
 
 BIOGRAPHY 
 MYTHS & FACTS 
 
 PAINTINGS 1912-1913 
 PAINTINGS 1914-1915 
 PAINTINGS 1916-1920 
 PAINTINGS 1921-1923 
 PAINTINGS 1924-1926 
 PAINTINGS 1926-1929 
 PAINTINGS 1928-1935 
 PAINTINGS 1933-1942 
 PAINTINGS 1942-1956 
 HARLEQUINS 
 
 FIGURATIVE DRAWINGS 
 ABSTRACT DRAWINGS 
 WATERCOLOR, GOUACHE 
 RELIEFS 
 LINOCUTS 
 LITHOGRAPHS 
 
 TEXTS by IVAN PUNI 
 EXHIBITIONS
 
 CATALOGUE RAISONNÉ 
 FORGERIES 
 ROLE OF XANA 
 
 CONTACTS 

 

 

 

 

 

  MYTHS & FACTS ABOUT JEAN POUGNY РУ DE EN

The vast literature about Jean Pougny sometimes contains unreliable information. Once published by someone, either by mistake or deliberately, the myths are circulated in copies and copies of copies. Realising their vitality and inexorability, we nevertheless consider it our duty to list them together with respective refutations. The enumeration goes in chronological order.

Myth: Ivan Puni's date of birth is given as 1892 or 1894; birthplace is Kuokkala. The most authoritative publication on Puni to date, the two-volume catalogue raisonné (1972 and 1992, ed. Berninger), gives Ivan Puni's date of birth as 22 February 1892, while publishing his passport book, issued in 1912, in which the date of birth is different - 22 February 1890. Berninger notes, referring to the artist's widow, that the year 1890 was allegedly entered instead of 1892 because of some formal necessity connected with the inheritance registration. Xana herself gave for the catalogues and posters of the numerous posthumous exhibitions of Puni his year of birth as 1894, and this began with the lifetime publication (В. Антонов. "По студиям русских художников. И.А. Пуни". Русские новости, 7 ноября 1952). Fact: Ivan Albertovich Puni was born on 22 March 1890 and baptised on 4 April 1890 in the Matveevskaya Church - the parish church of St. Matthew the Apostle, corner of Matveevsky Lane and Bolshaya Pushkarskaya Street in St. Petersburg. Puni's house - Bolshoy Prospekt, 56 - belonged to its parish. Ivan Puni's certificate of birth was found in October 2019 (ЦГИА 19-125-1092) and published in: А. Родионов. Расшифровывая Пуни. Часть 1. Ранние годы. Вестник истории, литературы, искусства, т. XV, 2022, с. 144-162.
As a rule, the place of birth was not specified in Russian documents, including passport books, and if it was required, it was determined by the location of the church where the baptism took place. St. Petersburg is listed as his birthplace in the documents of the Nicholas Cadet Corps, where Ivan entered in 1902 (РГВИА, 317-1-856), as well as in the catalogue of the 30th Salon des Indépendants (Paris, 1914). In the documents of the Nicholas Cadet Corps the date of his birth is given as 22 February 1890 (in the birth certificate - 22 March 1890) - obviously, when making an extract from the metric book the clerk mixed up the month. This date - 22 February 1890 - then passed to the passport book, issued to him in St. Petersburg on 2 March 1912, and in all subsequent official documents, and appears, in particular, in the diploma of awarding Jean Pougny the Legion of Honour in 1952.
Entry of 1902 in the Puni's Attestation book of the Nicholas Cadet Corps
(РГВИА, 317-1-856)
From the catalogue of the 30th Salon des Indépendants, 1914

In his French documents after 1923, his birthplace was given as Kuokkala. This holiday village, 40 km from St. Petersburg, is first mentioned in Ivan Puni's documents in his temporary passport issued on 31 August 1920 in Helsinki, after he had fled Russia. Perhaps the reference to Kuokkala could somehow facilitate the Finnish authorities to issue new documents. Kuokkala (from 1917 to 1940 this territory belonged to independent Finland) was indeed important in Ivan's life: here, in his parents' house, he spent every summer until 1918. However, no evidence that Ivan was born there has been found; it seems more likely that his mother gave birth in the city rather than at the dacha. Anyway, the uncertainty with the place of birth is cleared up by the fact that Kuokkala (today called Repino) is now within the limits of St. Petersburg. It should be noted that Ivan himself knew his date of birth (22 March 1890) and correctly stated it - for example, in 1915 in the questionnaire when he entered the Post Office. (see А. Родионов. Новое о выставке «0,10» и о ее организаторе Иване Пуни // Искусствознание, №1-2, 2020, с. 232-271).
Myth: It is widely believed that the correct pronunciation of the surname Puni/Pougny is with the stress on the second syllable. Fact: Before 1923, the artist's surname was pronounced with the stress on the first syllable; after 1923 it was pronounced with the stress on the second one. In the Italian surname Pugni, the accent is placed at the beginning; this is how it has been pronounced in Russia since the composer Cesare Pugni in 1851 moved to St. Petersburg. The emphasis on the first syllable was also recalled by Academician Likhachev, who as a child socialised with the Puni family in Kuokkala. After Ivan Puni's final move to Paris (1923), the accent went to the last syllable, and the signature, after "Puni" in Berlin, first turned into "Pougni", and from 1925 onwards to "Pougny".
Myth: Puni's friendship with Victor Kerber (1894-1970) in Kuokkala. Electronic publications made by Kerber's descendants show photographs allegedly with Ivan Puni, dated 1910-1911. Fact: The photos with Kerber do not actually show Ivan Puni, but someone else. Since Kerber wrote Puni's surname on the back, it is possible that it was some other Puni, one of Ivan's cousins.
Myth: Ivan Puni took drawing lessons from Repin, a neighbour of Kuokkala. Fact: Repin did maintain a neighbourly relationship with Puni's father, Albert. But no evidence of Repin's painting classes with Ivan Puni has been found.
Myth: Xenia Boguslavskaya was poetess and publisher of "Roaring Parnassus". Fact: To call Xana a poetess would be a great exaggeration: none of her poems have been published. Nevertheless, three poems are known to have been written by her, which she recited after the famous lecture by Malevich and Puni on 12 January 1916; the texts have not survived.
The publisher of the collection "Roaring Parnassus" (printed in early 1914 and banned by the censor) were Mikhail Matyushin and Ivan Puni. The latter provided four of his own drawings and some funding for it. Xana, as always, actively helped him. The meetings of the Futurists and the work on the collection took place in Puni's flat (in 1913 they lived in his parents' house on the corner of Gatchinskaya and Bolshoy), and Xana's role was vividly described by Benedikt Livshits in "The One and a Half-Eyed Archer". After the Puni couple left for Paris beginning of 1914, Matyushin dealed (also in court) with the censor who had withdrawn the print run of the collection.
Myth: Before 1920 Puni must have created many more paintings than listed in the catalogue raisonné, as he was a professional artist and had to work constantly. Fact: This thesis is used to justify the introduction of "recently found" works (forgeries) into the art market, in particular, it appears in the catalogue of the notorious 2003 Basel exhibition of the Berninger collection. From February 1915 to July 1918 Puni worked as a postal official. Civil service offered a reprieve from mobilisation but was full-time, leaving little time for creative work. For details see: А. Родионов. Новое о выставке «0,10» и о ее организаторе Иване Пуни // Искусствознание, №1-2, 2020, с. 232-271.
Myth: To leave Finland in 1920, Xana obtained Greek visas for herself and Ivan thanks to her Greek mother or grandmother. Fact: Xana did manage to get visas from the Greek consulate which they used to come in transit to Germany, and as for the Greek mother/grandmother, that was a typical Xana's fantasy. She was very enterprising and easily resorted to hoaxes to achieve her goals. A similar case occurred in 1922 in Berlin when it was time to move on to Paris. It was difficult to obtain a French visa, but a Portuguese one was suitable. Xana had a spectacular appearance and was popular in Berlin. She charmed the Portuguese envoy (Veiga Simões), and told him a story full of drama, that she had been born in China, to the family of a Russian ambassador, and grew up in this aristocratic house, like a small museum, where she was surrounded by ancient Chinese art. A Portuguese diplomat published a complimentary article about Xana in a Lisbon journal, full of these tall tales (Veiga Simões. Sobre uma artista e a arte russa no exilio. Contemporanea, No.3, 1922), and managed a Portuguese visa for her and Ivan, in order to organise an exhibition. On this visa the Puni couple moved to Paris in the autumn of 1923. In reality, Xana's father, Lieutenant Colonel Leonid Ivanovich Bogoslovsky (01.01.1854 - 04.07.1902, "from the clerical children of Yaroslavl province") served in Odessa (where Xana was born). He really had some relation to China: in 1898 he arrived (his family followed him) in the 12th East Siberian Rifle Regiment first as a commander of the 7th company, then as the regiment's storekeeper to the Kwantung region and died there four years later from disinfection. Xana's mother, Vera Fedorovna (1859 - 16.08.1921; maiden name Aladugina, daughter of a lieutenant) after her husband's death moved with the children (Xana and her older brother Leonid) to St. Petersburg to live on her husband's military pension.
Myth: In art criticism reviews one often encounters the statement that in his "Modern Painting" (1923, Berlin, published by Frenkel) Puni criticised non-objective art and broke with it, quoting his passage "we ourselves once said that 2x2 is anything but four, but now only this 2x2=4 and keep saying". Fact: Upon thoughtful reading, it is clear that Puni does not deny his past position here, but on the contrary, in this phrase he uses the technique of psychologically joining those criticized (“we”) - as if the teacher was scolding the kids, for example, “we agreed that we would eat in silence, but we ourselves chat incessantly.” In general, in the brochure “Modern Painting” Puni gives it (painting) a deep and witty analysis, explaining in detail his credo and not at all denying non-objectivity. This book contains all the keys to understanding the art of Puni, including its further evolution.
Myth: Vera Lurie (1901, St. Petersburg - 1998, Berlin) wrote in her memoirs, on which she worked in the last years of her life, the phrase "The cubist Ivan Puni was a handsome man, but he was not interested in women at all, although he was married." This phrase, breathing personal resentment, provides stuff for misinterpretation. Fact: Pougny's masculine beauty has been noted by many memoirists. In these memoirs one can find mentions of Pougny's affairs, which is not surprising for the free mores of the 1920s. For example, Lyudmila Miklashevskaya tells in detail about her affair with him in 1925 (Л. Миклашевская. Повторение пройденного. СПб: Изд. Журнал "Звезда", 2012). She also notes, that before her, in 1924, Puni had an affair with Elsa Triolet.
Myth: Pougny's awarding of the French Legion of Honour in 1947. Fact: Jean Pougny was made a Knight of the Legion of Honour in 1952. The award diploma and the order itself are kept in a private collection, St. Petersburg. In 1947 he and Xana were granted French citizenship, the decree was published on 24 August 1947 in Journal officiel de la République française.
Myth: The authenticity of some reliefs, gouaches and linocuts. Fact: The delicate question of the authenticity of a number of works attributed to Puni is addressed in the section FORGERIES.