The State Tretyakov Gallery
The outstanding character of David Burliuk was formed largely due to his close-knit family. “Bonds of unusual love connected all members of the family” - wrote Benedict Livshits, a contemporary art critic. The Burliuks’ family was big: three sons and three daughters. Everybody was interested in art: but only three of them began to be engaged in painting seriously: the eldest son David, his brother Vladimir and their sister Lyudmila. They inherited their interest in painting from their mother, Lyudmila Iosifovna, who had some artistic abilities. Later, David Burliuk even exhibited the work of his mother with her maiden name on the labels - "Mikhnevich". And the artist's father, David Fedorovich, under the influence of his wife gathered a large library in the house, in which the whole family spent evenings during the autumn rains. "She read to him Chernyshevsky, Belinsky, Dobrolyubov, Herzen and especially was fond of Nekrasov, Pomyalovsky and so called raznochintsy writers (literally "men of different ranks"), whose contemporary she was" — remembered Lyudmila Burlyuk about her parents.
It was thanks to the mother that all the children in the family were fond of poetry. Burliuk himself tried to write poems at the age of 15. Approximately at the same time, Lyudmila Iosifovna noticed her son's predisposition to painting. And despite the fact that the first teacher of painting asked for 5 rubles for his lessons, and the salary of David Fedorovich was seventy-five rubles a month at that time, she decided to engage David in art education.
"Portrait of a Mother" refers to the early period of David Burliuk’s oeuvre. By this time he had already left the Odessa art school, studied for several months at the famous school of Anton Azhbe in Munich. There he learned about the method of decomposition of colour – when the paint was applied in short strokes on the canvas. It was thought, that the mixing should occur not on canvas, but on the retina of viewer’s eyes, which thus became a unique co-author of the artwork. The portrait of David Burliuk’s mother was painted in this technique.